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Donald Trump says Kim Jong-un ‘kept his word,’ downplays North Korea missile testing as minor

President Trump defended his “very warm” relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday, saying he would not have let U.S. intelligence officials use the dictator’s slain half-brother as a source.

“I would tell [Mr. Kim] that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump was responding to a report in the Wall Street Journal that said Kim Jong-nam met with a CIA contact in Malaysia before he was killed there by two women with a nerve agent in 2017.

It’s believed that Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, ordered the assassination, though Mr. Trump praised the strongman leader outside the White House, citing a “beautiful” and “very warm” letter he just received from him.

Mr. Trump has come under criticism for his coziness with Mr. Kim, particularly from the 2020 Democratic field.

“You will not see me exchanging love letters on White House letterhead with a brutal dictator who starves and murders his own people,” Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said Tuesday in an address to Indiana University.

Mr. Trump said his approach has resulted in progress, despite reports that North Korea recently conducted short-range missile tests.

“No nuclear testing, no major missile testing. Nothing like when I first got here,” Mr. Trump told White House reporters as he headed to Iowa. “When I first got here, it was a bad mess.”

The president also responded to reports that Mr. Kim’s late half brother was a CIA informant, suggesting espionage wouldn’t have been necessary if previous presidents had a similar relationship with Mr. Kim.

“I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim were unable to strike a deal on the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The president has stood by Mr. Kim since their first meeting in Singapore in 2018, despite the North Korean’s authoritarian tactics and unverified reports he punished his top nuclear negotiators with harsh labor or even death in the wake of failed talks.

Mr. Trump insists there’s been progress, pointing the return of American remains and hostages.

“He’s kept his word to me, that’s really important,” Mr. Trump said.

During a recent trip to Japan, Mr. Trump said North Korea’s recent, short-range missile tests didn’t bother him much, breaking with National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and his hosts, who saw the testing as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Mr. Trump is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul later this month to discuss the next steps on North Korea after another visit to Japan, this time for the G-20 summit in Osaka.

The president said another meeting with Mr. Kim, himself, could happen again soon.

“I think that North Korea has tremendous potential,” Mr. Trump said. “The one that feels that more than anyone is Kim Jong-un. He gets it.”

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