30th April, 2017
US President Donald Trump has described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “pretty smart cookie”.
Speaking to CBS, he noted Mr Kim had assumed power at a young age, despite dealing with “some very tough people”.
Amid escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme, he said he had “no idea” whether Mr Kim is sane.
The North Korean leader had his uncle executed two years after he came to power, and is suspected of ordering the recent killing of his half-brother.
President Trump, asked what he made of the North Korean leader, answered:
“People are saying, ‘Is he sane?’ I have no idea…. but he was a young man of 26 or 27… when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others.
“And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie,” Mr Trump said.
The interview follows North Korea’s second failed ballistic missile test in two weeks, in which a missile exploded shortly after it was launched on Saturday.
When asked why the missiles “keep blowing up”, Mr Trump said “I’d rather not discuss it”.
He referred to previous comments he has made about other military issues, such as the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from so-called Islamic State.
“We shouldn’t be announcing all our moves,” he said.
“It is a chess game. I just don’t want people to know what my thinking is”.
North Korea is believed to be continuing efforts to miniaturise nuclear warheads and fit them on long-range missiles capable of reaching the US.
Mr Trump said the Chinese President Xi Jinping, an ally of North Korea, was “putting pressure” on Mr Kim to scale back his nuclear and military activities.
“But so far, perhaps nothing’s happened and perhaps it has,” he said.
He again hailed the ties he has been developing with China, which he criticised heavily during his election campaign.
“The relationship I have with China, it’s been already acclaimed as being something very special, something very different than we’ve ever had,” Mr Trump said.
In February, China banned coal imports from North Korea – one of the country’s key exports – and is reportedly also considering restricting oil shipments if Pyongyang continues to behave belligerently.