Former United States President Donald Trump has responded forcefully to criticism that his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “failed” to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula.
In an extraordinary outburst, Mr Trump slammed the leader of close US ally South Korea and warmly praised the leader of long-time adversary North Korea.
Mr Trump shot back that South Korean President Moon Jae-in was “weak” and ungrateful for his work to pacify Kim Jong-un.
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It comes after a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times published Wednesday, in which President Moon Jae-in criticised Mr Trump, saying he, “beat around the bush and failed” to make progress with North Korea.
Despite his much-hyped meetings with Mr Kim, President Trump left office without removing a single North Korean nuclear warhead.
North Korea has also resumed weapons tests.
Mr Moon, who is due to meet US President Joe Biden next month, is hoping the new president can make headway.
“The most important starting point for both governments is to have the will for dialogue and to sit down face to face at an early date,” he said.
However, Mr Trump shot back, saying that Mr Moon was “weak” and ungrateful for his work to pacify Mr Kim.
He accused his South Korean counterpart of ripping off the United States, while continuing to highlight his supposed friendship with Mr Kim.
“Kim Jong-un of North Korea, who I have gotten to know (and like) under the most trying of circumstances, never respected the current President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in,” Mr Trump said in a statement.
“President Moon was weak as a leader and as a negotiator, except when it came to the continued, long term military ripoff of the USA … We were treated like fools for decades, however, I got them to pay billions of dollars more for the military protection and services we render.
“The Biden Administration is not even going to ask for the additional billions South Korea agreed to pay us,” Mr Trump added, referring to current President Joe Biden.
During his presidency, Mr Trump positioned himself as a lead negotiator in peace talks on the Korean peninsula.
He first met in June 2018 with Kim in Singapore, the first-ever summit between the countries still technically at war, and later said the two leaders “fell in love.”
The pair met twice more during Trump’s time in office, and North Korea held off on nuclear and missile tests — but analysts say Pyongyang has kept advancing its weapons programs.
In March, South Korea agreed to pay 13.9 per cent more toward the cost of the US troop presence on the peninsula, in a six-year deal resolving an issue that festered under the Trump administration.
The financial dispute had bedevilled the two allies’ security alliance after Trump — who took a transactional approach to foreign policy — repeatedly accused South Korea of freeloading.
Washington stations around 28,500 troops in South Korea to defend it from the nuclear-armed North Korea, as well as to protect US interests in northeast Asia.
Under the new deal, Seoul has agreed to pay 1.18 trillion won (US$1.03 billion) for 2021, with annual increases thereafter linked to its defence budget.
The sum represents a 13.9 per cent increase on the roughly $920 million Seoul was paying under the previous agreement, which expired in 2019 — but is a far cry from the Trump administration’s initial demand of US$5 billion a year.
– with AFP