President Donald Trump, in an interview with Sharyl Attkisson published on Sunday, said, “I would sit with anybody I feel,” responding to a question about whether he would engage in dialogue with “dictators.”
While Attkisson did not name any modern dictator specifically, she asked the question in the context of relations with North Korea and its tyrannical leader Kim Jong-un. Trump referred to North Korea as a “big, big problem” but stated he did not think it was “somewhat likely” that Pyongyang would launch a nuclear weapon at America.
Attkisson asked Trump whether he would “ever consider sitting down with a dictator” on her program, Full Measure, noting that President Richard Nixon met with Chinese dictator Mao Zedong, who killed at least 65 million people during his tenure.
“I would sit with anybody I feel. I don’t think it’s strength or weakness. I think sitting down with people is not a bad thing. So I would certainly be open to doing that,” Trump responded, noting that he would soon meet the heads of state of China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines. “But we’ll see where it goes. I think we’re far too early.”Trump appeared to be referring to a potential sit-down with Kim in noting it is “far too early” to discuss personal meetings. The South Korean news service Yonhap headlined their story to make the comments about Kim: “Trump Says ‘Open’ to Meeting with N.K. Leader.”
Trump has previously referred to North Korea as a “rogue nation” and Kim as a “madman.”
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said in August.
Attkisson’s question came as the interview pivoted to North Korea after she asked the president whether he agreed with the half of Americans who responded “yes” to a recent poll asking whether they believed it was “somewhat likely” that Pyongyang would attack America with a nuclear weapon.
“Well I think that’s a shame that it’s so many. No, I don’t agree,” Trump replied. “I actually don’t. I hope that something’s going to be worked out. If it’s not, it’s not.”
Trump complimented Chinese President Xi Jinping, telling Attkisson, “President Xi has been working. I really feel this. He’s been working very hard to see if he can do something but we’re going to see.”
Trump also complimented himself. “I’ve done more than the previous administration done during the entire two terms of the administration, and we are going to have to solve problems like North Korea and North Korea is a big, big problem,” he said. “Hopefully, it can be worked out. Maybe it won’t be able to but hopefully, it can be work[ed out].”
Trump is currently in Japan, where he held a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday. At that conference, Abe appeared to reject the idea of direct dialogue with the communist Kim regime. “There is no point in the dialogue for the sake of dialogue with North Korea,” Abe told reporters. “Now is the time not for dialogue but for applying maximum level of pressure on North Korea.”
At that press conference, Trump reiterated what has become something of a mantra for his administration regarding North Korea: “The era of strategic patience is over.” He repeated that North Korea’s nuclear program was a “threat to the civilized world and international peace and stability.”
Trump arrives in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, where dialogue regarding containing the North Korean threat is expected to continue.