U.S. President Donald Trump called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-un, whom he plans to meet in May or early June, a "very open" and "very honorable" person while continuing to strike an optimistic tone on the planned summit.
In a major shift from his previous bellicose and insulting rhetoric against Kim, Trump said on Tuesday: "Kim Jong-un, he really has been very open, and I think, very honorable, from everything we're seeing."
Following improvement in inter-Korean relations and his offer for direct talks with the U.S., Kim made headlines last week again when he announced that the DPRK will suspend nuclear and missile tests and close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where all of Pyongyang's six nuclear detonations were conducted.
Trump, while hosting French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House, said, "We have been told directly that they would like to have the meeting as soon as possible. We think that's a great thing for the world."
Trump later told a joint press conference with Macron that he hoped the U.S. will be able to deal "in a very open and honorable fashion" with the DPRK.
"And I think it's going to be very positive. And I hope it's going to be very positive for North Korea and for South Korea, and Japan, and the rest of the world," Trump said.
Trump's heaping of praise on Kim sparked spirited discussions in Washington and beyond. The Washington Post published an opinion piece Tuesday afternoon with the headline "Trump is already getting played by Kim Jong-un".
On Twitter, some users tweeted that Trump is giving higher praise for Kim than he ever has for past U.S. presidents.
On Tuesday, Trump also said that if negotiations with the DPRK are not going to be "fair and reasonable and good", he will leave the table. But he added, "I think we have a chance of doing something very special with respect to North Korea. Good for them, good for us, good for everybody."
Trump suggested that a lot of concessions already have been made, but not from the U.S. side.
"We have made no concessions, despite some of the media saying that I've made concessions. I don't — I haven't even discussed a concession other than the fact that meeting is a great thing," he said.
When asked what is meant by his goal of "denuclearization", Trump said, "it means they get rid of their nukes. Very simple."
While again crediting his administration's tough steps, such as the "strongest sanctions" ever put on any country, Trump said China's role and his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping are important in the process.
"China, President Xi, has been very strong in helping us to solve this problem," Trump said. "I have a very excellent, as you know, relationship with President Xi. And I think that relationship is very important as to what's happening with North Korea."