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White House pushes back over Trump N. Korea quote

US President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he boards Air Force One upon departure from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland January 12, 2018. — Reuters pic
US President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he boards Air Force One upon departure from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland January 12, 2018. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Jan 14 — The White House yesterday denied and corrected a quote attributed to President Donald Trump that suggested he had a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” Trump was quoted as telling the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Thursday.

But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted that Trump said “I'd,” not “I” as the newspaper reported.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the White House posted audio recordings of Trump's remarks on Twitter. These, while not completely clear, appeared to support Sanders' account.

Sanders had earlier tweeted a written message disputing the newspaper's article.

“President Trump said, I'D probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I'D — I'D — I'D. NOT I!” the message read, with “I'D” in red ink, under a red banner reading “FAKE NEWS.”

Mockingly mimicking the newspaper's front page, it then reads “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL — FAKE NEWS IS AT IT AGAIN! — FALSELY QUOTING PRESIDENT TRUMP.”

Washington and Pyongyang are in a standoff over North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes, which could be used to target the United States and its allies.

Trump has repeatedly insulted the North Korean leader, describing him as mad and a “rocket man.”

Asked if by the Wall Street Journal if he had spoken to Kim, Trump said: “I don't want to comment on it. I'm not saying I have or haven't. I just don't want to comment.”

Trump suggested his variable position on individuals was part of a broader strategy.

But it was not clear how his remarks fitted with his self-described policy of “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.

In the coming week the United States and Canada are to host a meeting in Vancouver on the nuclear standoff with North Korea, bringing together friendly powers from around the world. — AFP

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