USA President Donald Trump labeled North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a private phone conversation with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last month, just days before stating publicly that he would be “honored” to meet with Kim.
Earlier in a phone call Trump sought Duterte’s input on whether Kim is “stable or not stable” and expressed some satisfaction in North Korea’s recent failed missile tests, noting that “all his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news,” according to a transcript of the conversation made by the Philippines government on May 2 and obtained Tuesday by The Washington Post.
Duterte responded that Kim is “playing with his bombs, his toys” and offered that “his mind is not working well and he just might go crazy one moment.” That prompted Trump to point out that the United States has “a lot of firepower over there,” including “two nuclear submarines” sent by the Pentagon to the region last month.
Later Trump raised the stakes of the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula when he observed: “We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 – but we don’t want to use it.”
The focus between Trump and Duterte on North Korea comports with a brief public readout of the call from the White House on the day it took place.
But the details of their conversation, first reported here, offer a deeper view of the urgency with which Trump is attempting to enlist foreign leaders to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.