President Donald Trump credited his personal connection with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for preventing a war, according to a new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward.
According to extracts published by CNN and others of Woodward's book, "Rage," Trump gave fresh details of his unconventional relationship with Kim, one of the world's most oppressive rulers, telling Woodward how the pair exchanged personal letters and photographs.
"He was totally prepared to go," Trump told Woodward in December 2019 of Kim's willingness to strike, according to the extracts published this week. "And he expected to go. But we met."
Trump said if he wasn't president "we would've been in a major war," the book quotes him as saying, according to CNN.While an extract published by The Washington Post quoted Trump accusing the CIA of having "no idea" how to handle North Korea, whose nuclear arsenal is growing and increasingly sophisticated.
Although heavily criticized at the time, Trump said he "gave up nothing" to meet Kim, saying it only cost him two days. "Big f---ing deal," he told Woodward.
Many experts disagree, saying Trump damaged global efforts to restrain the North Korean government by meeting Kim but gained few concessions. Before his relationship with Kim warmed, Trump was accused of inflaming tensions himself by promising "fire and fury" on North Korea and belittling its leader on Twitter.
Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis believes these taunts were "unproductive, childish and dangerous," according to Woodward's book in an extract published by CNN.
U.S. officials and most experts agree North Korea is unlikely to ever give up its nuclear arsenal. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment about details in the book relating to foreign policy. Trump described the book Wednesday as "another political hit job."
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Across 18 interviews Trump gave Woodward, the president told him of how his relationship with Kim developed over the past three years.
"Do you ever do anything other than send rockets up to the air?" Trump asked Kim during their failed February 2019 summit in Vietnam, according an extract published by CNN. "Let's go to a movie together. Let's go play a round of golf."
Later last year, after Trump proudly showed Woodward images of him becoming the first sitting president to step into North Korea.
"That's the line, right? Then I walked over the line. Pretty cool. You know? Pretty cool. Right?" the book quotes Trump as saying, according to CNN and The Washington Post. "Nobody's ever done that."
Afterward, Trump sent Kim a copy of The New York Times.
"Chairman, great picture of you, big time," he wrote in marker, according to the book, incorrectly telling Woodward that Kim "never smiled before. I'm the only one he smiles with."
Kim "tells me everything," including a graphic account of how he had his uncle killed, according to Trump as quoted in the book. By comparison, he claimed Kim thought former President Barack Obama was "an a--hole."
Trump recalled thinking "holy s---" before meeting Kim and how he was "far beyond smart." Kim reciprocated, calling Trump "Your Excellency" in letters, the book said.
According to another extract published by The New York Times, Trump described their chemistry: "You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it's going to happen."