When President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore, Trump gave the leader of North Korea a strange compliment. Trump told Kim he’d known many people who had grown up wealthy with powerful families. Many of those people were messed up by their upbringing, but Trump told Kim he wasn’t one of them.
His compliment reflects the president’s efforts to “flatter his way to nuclear peace in Asia,” CNN reports.
Trump’s critics were shocked by his compliment. Susan Hennessey tweeted in response, “Kim Jong Un is a murderous tyrant who, in addition to assassinating his own family members and starving his own people, tortured an America citizen to death not so long ago. This, coming from an American president, is actually sick.”
In response to Hennessey’s tweet, Mona Charen tweeted, “Calling conservatives: Any queasiness about this at all?”
The two leaders are set to meet for their second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam this week. Formal talks will begin on Thursday, but before then, Trump and Kim will meet for an intimate dinner with select aides.
Before leaving for Hanoi, Trump told governors, "It's a very interesting thing to say, but I've developed a very, very good relationship. We'll see what that means. But he's never had a relationship with anybody from this country, and hasn't had lots of relationships anywhere."
Trump and Kim’s “Very, very good relationship” was built on large amounts of praise which appealed to the large egos of both men. Over the past seven months, they have sent letters back and forth complimenting each other profusely.
Several of Trump’s aides are concerned about what concessions Trump may make during the summit. When they met for a summit in Singapore last year, Trump told Kim he would suspend US-South Korea war exercises. This major concessions surprised both South Korea and the U.S. Some experts worry that Trump may have promised Kim even more than he publicly announced, such as a promise to eventually pull all US troops out of South Korea.
In Hanoi, Trump and Kim will be received favorably, with signs asking for peace and t-shirts adorned with the leaders’ faces for sale around the city.
Trump and Kim have been pen pals for several months. Trump often carries his most recent letter from Kim around with him in his pocket, which he frequently withdraws to show friends and foes alike. He brags to his friends about his relationship with the dictator.
"We have a terrific relationship, and we'll see where it goes. Who knows where it goes. But we'll see," Trump said in a video recorded this weekend.
Victor Chen, a veteran North Korea advisor and former ambassador in Seoul for the Trump administration, said "The personal relationship between the leaders is important in sort of setting an overall tenor to the negotiations. But having said that, when that really works is when you have two sides that are tough -- you know, negotiating very hard, and trying to align their positions."
"The gap between the US and the North Korean positions is so wide between the two sides. I mean, we can't even agree on what denuclearization is," Cha added, referencing Trump administration officials who reported that there was not yet a common goal for the negotiation. "The gap is so wide that simply having a good relationship is not going to do it."