House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued on Thursday that Kim Jong Un was “a big winner” in the latest negotiations between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader since he once again had the opportunity to “sit face to face” with the President of the United States, but she said that Trump did the right thing by ultimately walking away from the talks.
The President has been in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a summit that ended with no joint agreement between the US and North Korea after Kim insisted all US sanctions be lifted on his country.
“What we want is denuclearization,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, referring to the US goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. “They didn’t agree to it in the first meeting. They didn’t agree to it in the second meeting. They wanted lifting sanctions without denuclearization. I’m glad that the President walked away from that.”
Trump said that Kim offered to take some steps toward dismantling his nuclear arsenal, but not enough to warrant ending sanctions imposed on the country.
“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said during a news conference following the conclusion of the summit, which broke up earlier than planned. “This was just one of those times.”
But despite saying she was glad the President walked away from the talks, Pelosi sounded a skeptical note over Trump’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea, saying that “Kim Jong Un is not on the level” and suggesting that he benefited the most from being elevated on the world stage by the talks.
“The President is returning from Vietnam, from his meeting with Kim Jong Un. I guess it took two meetings for him to realize that Kim Jong Un is not on the level,” she said. “He was a big winner, Kim Jong Un, in getting to sit face to face with the most powerful person in the world, the President of the United States. And really it’s good that the President did not give him anything for the little that he was proposing.”
Pelosi was also critical of comments by the President that seemed to defend Kim over the treatment of Otto Warmbier, an American student who spent 17 months in North Korean detention before being returned to the US in a vegetative state and subsequently dying.
Trump denied that Kim had been aware of the incident when asked about Warmbier.
“He felt badly about it. He felt very badly,” Trump said. “He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
“I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it,” Trump added. “I don’t believe that he (Kim) would have allowed that to happen.”
Pelosi initially she said she wasn’t aware of what Trump had said when asked about it at her weekly news conference, but when a reporter summarized the comments, she called it “strange.”
“I don’t think Kim Jong Un is on the level and the President has believed Putin as opposed to believing his own intelligence leadership on subjects. So again, I didn’t know the President had said that, but it’s strange,” she said, referencing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has previously sided with Putin over the conclusion of US intelligence agencies, which have assessed that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
“There’s something wrong with Putin, Kim Jong Un, in my view, thugs, that the President chooses to believe,” Pelosi said.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.