President Donald Trump appeared to commend North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s ability to control his country.
“Not many 27-year-old men could go in and take over a regime,” Trump said in a Reuters interview published Thursday night. “Say what you want, but that’s not easy — especially at that age.”
“I’m just telling you, and I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit — I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do.”
Trump has praised the North Korean dictator’s unmerciful rule in the past . During a campaign stop in Iowa in 2016, he was reported to have said, “You gotta give him credit.”
“How many young guys — he was, like, 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss,” said Trump, according to ABC News. “It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.”
As the youngest son of Kim Jong Il — the previous leader who died from a heart attack in 2011 — Jong Un seceded his father’s place after being heralded as “a great person born of heaven,” according to North Korea’s state-run media.
Trump’s latest comments come at a time when the US and North Korea delivered a salvo of verbal threats, and amid the controversial deployment of a naval strike group in the Korean peninsula.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump said to Reuters . “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”