President Donald Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – a man who leads a government that outside observers say brutalizes and starves its own citizens – as someone who “loves his people.”
Speaking with Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren following his historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, Trump called Kim “funny” and “smart.”
“He’s got a great personality. He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I’m surprised by that,” Trump said. “I think that we have the start of an amazing deal. We’re going to denuke North Korea.”
North Korea has perpetuated human rights abuses for decades, according to watchdog agencies, human rights groups and the US government. A 2014 report from a United Nations Human Rights Council commission found the country had committed violations including “arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps, violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion, (and) discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class, gender, and disability.”
Trump relayed that Kim reacted to discussing human rights “very well” but said they “were talking about the denuclearization 90% of the time.”
“I understand the past and, you know, nobody has to tell me, he’s a rough guy. He has to be a rough guy or he has been a rough person,” Trump said. “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things and that’s why he’s doing this.”
“But he’s starved them. He’s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?” Van Susteren asked.
“Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it,” Trump answered. “But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago because that’s really when this whole thing started.”
Asked if he had a message for the North Korean people, Trump said, “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well. We had a great chemistry.”
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.