President Trump emerged from his historic summit with Kim Jong Un on Tuesday heaping praise on the North Korean leader for his intelligence, sense of humor, negotiating skills — and the “love” Kim supposedly has for his people, when he’s not starving them to death.
“He’s got a great personality,” Trump told Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren. “He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I’m surprised by that.”
Most human rights observers and global watchdog groups would be.
A 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council report found that North Korea’s human rights abuses include “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
A 2011 study by demographic experts from the U.S. Census Bureau calculated that 500,000 to 600,000 people in North Korea died of famine in the 1990s. Other estimates have ranged as high as several million.
Up to 120,000 people imprisoned in the rogue nuclear nation’s four major political prisons were subjected to “arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps, violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion, discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class, gender, and disability,” the U.N. report said.
And Kim has used executions to consolidate his power. According to a 2016 report by South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy, Kim had ordered 340 executions since assuming his role as leader in 2011. Of those killed, 140 were senior government officials.
“Kim Yong-jin, the deputy premier for education, was killed in front of a firing squad after showing ‘disrespectful posture’ in a meeting,” the New York Times noted. “Hyon Yong-chol, a general over the armed forces, fell asleep in a meeting. He was executed with an antiaircraft gun.”
And Kim’s uncle Jang Song-thaek was convicted of treason. He was also killed with “antiaircraft machine guns,” his body “incinerated with flamethrowers.”
In his State of the Union address in January, Trump said that “no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.”
But in his post-summit interview, Trump suggested such behavior is behind Kim.
“I understand the past and, you know, nobody has to tell me, he’s a rough guy,” the president told Van Susteren. “He has to be a rough guy or he has been a rough person.”
The pair, who met for several hours in Singapore on Tuesday, spent “90 percent” of the time discussing denuclearization, according to Trump. Human rights, the president said, “were mentioned.”
Trump added: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things and that’s why he’s doing this.”
“But he’s starved them. He’s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?” Van Susteren asked.
“Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it,” Trump replied. “But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago because that’s really when this whole thing started.”
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