Trump ‘praises’ Kim as S. Kore­ans doubt US ties

New Straits Times - - World -

WASH­ING­TON: United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­fered some back­handed praise for North Korean leader Kim JongUn, call­ing him “a pretty smart cookie” in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view that aired Sun­day.

The al­most ad­mir­ing re­marks came amid soar­ing ten­sions with North Korea over its mis­sile and nu­clear pro­grammes, with an alarmed Wash­ing­ton look­ing to China for help in rein­ing in Kim.

Trump said he had “no idea” whether Kim was sane or not, but said the North Korean leader had faced a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge in tak­ing over the coun­try at age 27 af­ter his fa­ther’s death in 2011.

“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,” Trump said in an in­ter­view with CBS’s Face the Na­tion.

“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,” he said.

“But we have a sit­u­a­tion that we just can­not let — we can­not let what’s been go­ing on for a long pe­riod of years con­tinue.”

In Seoul, South Korean me­dia yes­ter­day warned of a “Trump risk” threat­en­ing the al­liance be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Seoul amid high ten­sions over the North’s weapons am­bi­tions.

The coun­tries have a de­fence pact and 28,500 US troops are sta­tioned in South Korea.

But, Trump had said Seoul should pay for a “bil­lion-dol­lar” US mis­sile de­fence sys­tem be­ing de­ployed in South Korea to guard against threats from the North.

He also pushed for rene­go­ti­a­tion of what he called a “hor­ri­ble” bi­lat­eral free trade pact that went into ef­fect five years ago, call­ing it an “un­ac­cept­able... deal made by Hil­lary”, re­fer­ring to for­mer US sec­re­tary of state Hil­lary Clin­ton.

The re­marks stunned Seoul, with South Korean politi­cians im­me­di­ately re­ject­ing his push for pay­ment for the Ter­mi­nal High Alti­tude Area De­fence (THAAD) mis­sile bat­tery.

“Trump’s mouth rat­tling Korea-US al­liance” said a front-page head­line in South Korea’s topselling Cho­sun daily yes­ter­day.

“There are is­sues that are far more im­por­tant than just money,” it said in an ed­i­to­rial.

“If ei­ther coun­try keeps re­duc­ing the al­liance to the mat­ter of money or the econ­omy, it is bound to un­der­mine ba­sic trust.”

Another ma­jor daily, Dong-A Ilbo, de­clared on its front-page yes­ter­day: “Trump Risk... we need to come up with new strat­egy for Korea-US al­liance.”

“We hope that Trump will be more care­ful with his words,” it said in an ed­i­to­rial. “Who’s go­ing to smile if our al­liance is shaken? It will be North Korea’s Kim Jongun and China’s Xi Jin­ping.”

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