As Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea reach a boiling point, president Donald Trump said during an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office that a major conflict with North Korea is likely in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump, sipping a Coke delivered by an aide after the president ordered it by pressing a button on his desk, told Reuters:
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”
Trump’s remarks signal an odd departure from diplomatic protocol. Presidents don’t usually advertise military confrontation while diplomatic efforts are being made by U.S. top diplomats and allies.
His comments, as U.S. ships arrive in the Koran peninsula, run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among U.S. forces in both countries.
Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to resolve the crisis peacefully. “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he told the news agency.
Trump also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese assistance in trying to rein in North Korea. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month.
“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.
Asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, Trump said he was operating under the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.
“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.
“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said, according to the report.