WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Donald Trump on Thursday (Friday in Manila) suggested he could have a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but refused to say if the two had spoken.
“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-Un,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.
“I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”
The paper reported that Trump would not say whether contacts had already been initiated between the two foes.
Washington and Pyongyang are in a standoff over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, which could be used to target the United States and her allies.
Trump has repeatedly insulted the North Korean leader, describing him as mad and a “rocket man.”
Asked if he had spoken to Kim, Trump said “I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.”
Trump suggested his variable position on individuals was part of a broader strategy.
But it was not clear how his remarks fit with his self-described policy of “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.
US, Canada host talks next week
Next week, the United States and Canada are to host a meeting on the nuclear standoff with North Korea in Vancouver, bringing together friendly powers from around the world.
Washington plans to use Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the idea of stopping and inspecting suspect ships bound for North Korea, a senior official said.
State Department director of policy planning Brian Hook said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be looking for help developing “practical mechanisms” to pressure Pyongyang.
“We will be discussing maritime interdiction,” Hook said, raising the idea of an naval embargo to help enforce the already draconian UN sanctions on Kim’s regime.
Some countries, even friends of the United States, may be concerned that such methods could increase military tensions or be interpreted as an act of war by the isolated North.
But Hook said the idea was one of many being explored, and that the allies invited to Vancouver would be consulted.
“We will be discussing with our partners and allies the kind of steps that we can take on maritime interdiction and also to be cutting, disrupting funding and disrupting resources,” he said.
“And maritime interdiction helps us to disrupt resources.”
The countries invited to send representatives to Vancouver are the so-called “Sending Powers,” those that contributed troops or aid to the UN war effort in 1950s Korea.
As such, North Korea’s neighbors China and Russia are not invited, and many have questioned the utility of a conference where such influential regional players are absent.
But Hook said Washington remained in contact with China about enforcing the sanctions and pressuring Kim, and that both Beijing and Moscow would be briefed after the talks.
“China is working with us,” he said. “This is not an alternative to everything that we are doing. This ministerial will enhance and strengthen all of the efforts under way.
“China has the same policy goal, in terms of ensuring that North Korea does not become a nuclear weapon state and acquire the means to deliver a nuclear warhead.”