WASHINGTON: Donald Trump has disputed a newspaper’s account of an interview with him last week in which he was quoted as saying he probably had a “very good relationship” with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
Accusing the Wall Street Journal of misquoting him, Trump said in tweets that he told the newspaper on Thursday “I’d probably” have a good relationship with Kim using a conditional tense which he insisted was a “big difference”.
The White House released a portion of the audio from the interview that it said showed Trump said: “I’d”.
The Wall Street Journal released its own audio that it said backed up its version of the events.
Any hint that there had been direct contacts between the two leaders, who have exchanged threats and insults, would suggest a major shift in US-led pressure campaign against Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump has derided the North Korean leader as a “maniac” and referred to him disparagingly as “little rocket man”. Kim has responded by calling the president a “mentally deranged US dotard”.
Fears of war have eased somewhat after the first round of talks between North and South Korea in more than two years last week, which Trump welcomed, ahead of February’s Winter Olympics in the South. North Korea has said it will participate in the Games.
But a false emergency alert of an impending missile attack issued by Hawaii state authorities on Saturday underscored the threat from North Korea, which is developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters in Florida on Sunday when asked what he would do to resolve the North Korea standoff.
He cited upcoming meetings, possibly a reference to further talks planned between North and South Korea.
“Hopefully it’s all gonna work out,” Trump added. “We have great talks going on, the Olympics you know about, a lot of things can happen.”
In the Wall Street Journal interview, Trump was asked whether he had spoken with the North Korean leader.
“I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment,” he said.
Trump, who was spending a long weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, tweeted on Sunday: “Obviously I didn’t say that. I said ‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference. Fortunately, we now record conversations with reporters … and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!“
A White House official said the delay in publicly disputing the Journal’s account was the result of a failed attempt to get the paper to correct the record.
“The reason there was a delay is that we had several calls and emails with WSJ, starting Friday morning, asking them to issue a correction. They refused and so we pushed out our own clarification,” the official said.