Kim Jong-un is a brutal, murderous dictator who starves his own people and once blew up one of his generals with an anti-aircraft gun for falling asleep in a meeting. But as the saying goes, love is blind, and President Trump has done nothing but heap praise on North Korea’s supreme leader since the two first locked eyes last summer in Singapore. Sure, there’s been no indication Kim plans to denuclearize North Korea, as Trump promised, and the nation recently resumed testing missiles, but Trump’s faith in his friend hasn’t wavered. Reality is trivial when stacked up against the “special bond” shared by the two autocrats.
Trump will likely be asked to reassess his fondness for Kim in the wake of the news that five North Korean officials were recently executed, including Kim Hyok-chol, a special envoy to the United States who participated in Trump and Kim’s failed summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. Hyok-chol was killed by a firing squad in March, the South Korean paper Chosun Ilbo reported on Friday. The paper also reported that two other officials, Kim Yong-chol and Kim Song-hye, both of whom visited the White House last year, were banished to do forced labor at a prison camp in one of North Korea’s northern provinces.
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked to respond earlier this month to reports that some of the officials he negotiated with in Hanoi may have been executed, he didn’t seem to take it very seriously.
Remember when Pompeo kinda laughed about this a few weeks ago, saying "It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else." https://t.co/g7Ul5ejNcU https://t.co/0tkyYwvezM
— Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) May 30, 2019
When Pompeo was asked about the reported executions on Friday, he said the United States was looking into it. “We’re doing our best to check it out,” he told reporters in Berlin. “I don’t have anything else to add to that today.”
Trump has yet to respond to the news. While we wait, here’s a small smattering of what he’s said about Kim since they first met in Sinapore last summer.
- June 2018: “Really, he’s got a great personality. He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people.”
- June 2018: “He is very talented.”
- June 2018: “His county does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”
- June 2018: “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
- July 2018: “I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake.”
- August 2018: “…thank you for your nice letter.”
- August 2018: “I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim.”
- September 2018: “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”
- October 2018: “And then we fell in love. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters.”
- February 2019: “I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is.”
- February 2019: “…my friend…”
- February 2019: “He’s real smart. He’s sharp as you can be. He’s a real leader.”
- March 2019: “Again, the relationship is very good. He likes me. I like him. Some people say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t like him.’ I said, ‘Why shouldn’t I like him?'”
- May 2019: “I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse.”
Despite Trump’s confidence that Kim will denuclearize North Korea, there hasn’t been any indication this will happen, as the U.S. intelligence community has made clear on several occasions. “We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told Congress in January.
“Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” Trump tweeted the following morning before reiterating that “North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S.”
“Decent chance of denuclearization,” he added.