US President Donald Trump has drawn criticism by praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “a pretty smart cookie,” as Washington and Pyongyang position themselves for a possible military confrontation.
Speaking to CBS News in an interview that was aired on Sunday, Trump said the North Korean leader was not to be underestimated.
“'I can tell you this, and a lot of people don't like when I say it, but he was a young man of 26 or 27 when he took over from his father, when his father died. He's dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others,” Trump said.
“And at a very young age, he was able to assume power,' Trump continued. '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 added.
Washington has become furious over Pyongyang’s unwillingness to drop its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
The Trump administration has on many occasions threatened Kim with a military response to new tests of missiles and nuclear warheads, sending warships and a nuclear submarine to Korean waters. Trump even ordered two major attacks in Syria and Afghanistan earlier this month, both of them viewed as stern warnings to the North.
North Korean leaders, in response, have increased their missile tests and even hinted at a new nuclear test in the coming weeks. They have also warned the US and its regional allies like South Korea, Australia and Japan of a strong military response in case of any invasion.
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The North has so far conducted five confirmed nuclear tests and numerous missile test-launches, with the latest being on Saturday.
Trump said in his interview that he “will not be happy” if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test.
He also blamed the situation on previous administrations of former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, saying they should have “taken care” of the North.
Trump leaving allies ‘uncertain’
Trump’s remarks drew fire from Susan Rice, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration, who said Sunday that his “mixed messages” on foreign policy was confusing US allies.
“[A] number of our closest friends and allies are feeling uncertain, off-balance, unclear as to where we stand and what we mean,” Rice told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.