President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would not let his administration use Kim Jong Un’s family members to spy on the North Korean ruler.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump responded to questions about a Wall Street Journal report that Kim’s late half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was a CIA source.
“I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure,” Trump said. “I would not let that happen under my auspices.”
Kim Jong Nam met with CIA operatives “on several occasions” since defecting from North Korea two decades ago, WSJ reported. He was slated to meet in February 2017 with a CIA operative in Malaysia he was killed by two female assassins, according to the report. (RELATED: Kim Jong-un’s Half Brother Was A CIA Source: Report)
Trump did not expand on his remarks, but he did offer praise for Kim Jong Un despite the dictator’s abysmal human rights record.
“I think that North Korea has tremendous potential, and he’ll be there,” Trump said of Kim Jong Un, adding that the North Korean leader had recently sent him a “very nice letter.”
Trump and Kim Jong Un have had a hot-and-cold relationship as Washington and Pyongyang have negotiated over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons.
Trump told the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017 that the U.S. was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy North Korea” if Kim Jong Un escalated nuclear tests.
“But hopefully this will not be necessary,” he said.
The pair have since met for negotiations in Singapore and Vietnam. Trump claimed Tuesday that his negotiations have been a success.
“No major missile testing, nothing like when I first got here. When I first got here, it was a bad mess. We have a very good relationship together,” Trump said.
Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer and CNN analyst, said that it is not a surprise that Trump would deny the U.S. has used spies to collect intelligence on North Korea.
“First of all, he would have to deny it,” Baer said on CNN Tuesday. “Admitting that he met the half brother would be a compromise, so he’s obligated to just lie about it. That’s what happens in the intelligence business.”
He went on to say that the CIA would be “completely negligent” not to develop a relationship with Kim Jong Nam.
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