US President Donald Trump elevated his praise for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, saying the two leaders have “fallen in love” after a string of “beautiful letters” Washington received from Pyongyang.
Trump’s professed affection for Kim came after earlier praises at United Nations General Assembly last Monday in which Trump applauded the North Korean strongman as “terrific”, despite accusations of widespread human rights abuses by the UN and other groups.
“I was really being tough – and so was he. And we would go back and forth,” Trump told a rally in West Virginia.
“And then we fell in love, okay? No, really – he wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters,” he said.
His supporters laughed and applauded. Trump grumbled that commentators would cast him as “unpresidential” for describing Kim in such glowing terms, according to Reuters.
In recent months since meeting in Singapore to discuss North Korea’s denuclearisation in Singapore, Trump has made an about turn in his posturing toward’s Kim.
At the previous UN General Assembly last year, Trump had traded insults and threats against Kim amid of North Korea’s nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile development programme.
Despite the warmer relationship and pledges to work towards denuclearisation, North Korea has shown little progress in living up to its promises to the US as negotiations on the matter have stalled on numerous occasions.
In early September, Kim assured his country’s commitment to the deal, setting a timeline to do away with the weapons before the end of Trump’s first term in office.
Kim’s assurance marks the first time North Korea has provided a timeline for dismantling its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programme since the historic meeting with Trump in June.
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Since the summit, State Secretary Mike Pompeo has flown to Pyongyang to iron out details of the agreement but North Korean officials accused him of “gangster-like” behaviour.
US intelligence agencies and the United Nations have collected evidence suggesting that North Korea was still pursuing its nuclear programmes despite the deal.
Before completely getting rid of its nuclear weapons stockpile and testing grounds, the North had demanded the removal of United States military personnel from South Korea and the withdrawal of a so-called nuclear umbrella protecting South Korea and Japan.
Kim also insisted on the need for the US to reciprocate North Korea’s initial moves, which have included dismantling a nuclear test site and a missile engine facility.