President Donald Trump this weekend called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “smart cookie” in his latest praise of a controversial dictator.
“He was a young man of 26 or 27 when he took over from his father, when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people,” Trump told CBS’ John Dickerson in an interview that aired on Sunday’s episode of “Face the Nation.”
“A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else,” Trump continued. “And he was able to do it, so obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”
Kim isn’t the only strongman Trump has praised. He called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to congratulate him on his recent electoral win, despite concerns that it may have been rigged. He also on Saturday invited Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House. Duterte, who has said he doesn’t care about human rights, is accused of ordering extrajudicial killings on thousands of people.
Most prominently, Trump is often criticized over his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is said to have ordered hackers to interfere in the U.S. election in order to help Trump win. Several members of the Trump campaign, included Secretary of State Jeff Sessions and embattled former national security adviser Michael Flynn, are accused of having improper contact with the Kremlin.
Trump’s praise of Kim Jong Un is a stark contrast to the president’s usual threats against the vicious dictator. In the same interview, he also left the door open for military action against North Korea in response to its nuclear weapons program as well as its repeated missile tests.