President Donald Trump has sided with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the wake of reports that the dictator’s brother, Kim Jong Nam, was a CIA informant. Jong Nam was killed in a chemical-weapons attack in the Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017.
Trump’s comments, considered part of a broader break with long-standing American policy towards North Korea, were particularly jarring. In response to a question about the news of Jong Nam, Trump answered, “I see that, and I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un,” Trump said. “I think the relationship is very well, but I appreciated the letter. I saw the information about the CIA with regard to his brother or half brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices. I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un.”
That an American president would not only court a dictator such as Kim but also insist he would not allow the CIA to cultivate an asset like the North Korean's brother shows Trump's loyalty does not lie with the United States, nor his own intelligence community.
Trump’s strategy towards Kim Jong Un so far has been characterized by flattery, and while it may have opened negotiations in the past, it also risks letting heinous acts from North Korea slide. Meanwhile, these remarks show that flattery also works extremely well on Trump, which suggests that a “beautiful letter” might be all it takes to get Trump to come out against the U.S.’s own intelligence community.