Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday President Trump deserves credit for engaging diplomatically with North Korea, a decision which he said shows Trump's “courage and ability to take outside-the-box steps,” and opens the door to a peaceful settlement on the Korean peninsula.
Speaking at the annual Valdai Forum in Sochi, Putin praised Trump for breaking with his predecessors by meeting with Kim Jong Un.
“For many decades, U.S. presidents ignored the DPRK and saw it as an outcast,” he said, using the abbreviation for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the nation’s formal name.
“Mr. Trump was able to take a historic step, overcome the ‘demarcation line’ of misunderstanding and alienation, meet with Kim Jong Un and begin the negotiating process.”
Putin contended that Trump’s decision to speak directly with Kim, “without preliminary formalities and conventions, abandoning the usual, sometimes very rude, even insulting rhetoric” immediately brought about hopes for a peaceful settlement of the long conflict.
While Putin suggested in his remarks that the insulting rhetoric had emanated from Trump, the reality was somewhat different.
After Trump in his September 2017 speech at the U.N. mockingly called Kim “rocket man” and his regime “depraved,” Kim in response called Trump “mentally deranged” and a “dotard,” while his foreign minister, in his own U.N. speech, called Trump “Commander in Grief” and “President Evil.”
Putin’s remarks come as North Korean and U.S. officials prepare to meet in Sweden this weekend to resume talks on the denuclearization effort, after an eight-month halt.
Trump met with Kim in Singapore in June 2018, and in Hanoi last February, a summit that ended prematurely and without agreement.
Although neither side provided details on what happened, Reuters reported that Trump had pressed Kim to surrender his nuclear weapons and bomb fuel, a position long advocated by Trump’s then-National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Trump met with Kim again briefly at the DMZ in Korea in June, and became the first U.S. president to set foot in North Korea.
After he fired Bolton last month, Trump said that Bolton had set back the diplomatic effort by suggesting North Korea’s denuclearization follow the “Libya model” – a reference to Muammar Gaddafi’s agreement in 2003 to hand over his WMD programs in return for an end to U.S. sanctions and restoration of diplomatic ties.
North Korea repudiated talk of the “Libya model,” pointing to the fact Gaddafi was brought down eight years later by NATO-backed rebels. Pyongyang characterized the episode as a cautionary tale against fully denuclearizing without first getting security guarantees from the U.S.
Putin has long tried to position Russia as a peacemaker on the Korean peninsula. The Kremlin offered to mediate between the U.S. and North Korea in December 2017, when tensions were at all-time high due to months of heated public exchanges between Trump and Kim.
Putin held his first meeting with Kim last April, just two months after the Hanoi summit. He said after that meeting that Kim had asked Moscow to serve as an intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang.
“Chairman Kim Jong Un himself asked us to inform the American side about his position. There are no secrets here. We will discuss this with the Americans and our Chinese partners,” Putin said at the time.
Trump welcomed Putin’s offer, saying the Russian leader shared the U.S.’ interest in seeing North Korea give up its nuclear weapons.
The Valdai Forum is an annual session at the Valdai Discussion Club, an international dialogue forum backed by the Kremlin.