President Donald Trump is defending North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, despite worldwide criticism of the country’s human rights offenses.
“He’s a tough guy,” the president said during a Fox News interview that aired Wednesday. “When you take over a country, a tough country, tough people and you take it over from your father — I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have — if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”
Trump made his comments Tuesday aboard Air Force One on his return from Singapore, where he’d met with Kim and hailed the North Korean leader as a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.”
Kim inherited his father’s and grandfather’s repressive which is believed to keep as many as 100,000 people in gulags and other detention sites. Kim has also been accused of consolidating his power by having his uncle executed and ordering his half-brother’s murder.
Last year, North Korea also sent a 22-year-old American, Otto Warmbier, back to the United States in a coma. Warmbier had been imprisoned for more than a year. He died a few days after his return. Trump at the time condemned the North Korean government and its lack of “basic human decency.”
Trump has also been slow to condemn other authoritarian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
During an interview with Bill O’Reilly last year, Trump said that he respected Putin. When pressed that Putin was a killer, the president replied: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
Trump took a similar approach in his Tuesday interview after Fox host Bret Baier pressed the him about how Kim had “done some really bad things.”
“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things,” he said. “I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”
At the same time, Trump has been quick to criticize U.S. allies, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, with whom he’d met at the G-7 summit just before departing for Singapore. Trump has labeled Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest” after the Canadian leader pushed back on U.S. tariffs. The president also criticized the other G-7 countries as taking advantage of the U.S.