In a new interview with Reuters, President Donald Trump had surprisingly harsh words regarding Russia’s relationship with North Korea — lauding China’s efforts to help cease advancements in North Korea's nuclear program, but condemning Russia’s.
“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump told Reuters. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”
Reuters says the Russian embassy in Washington didn’t have an immediate response to Trump’s comment.
Both China and Russia have signed on to the most recent round of sanctions against North Korea, led by the United Nations Security Council.
Trump again commented that he would gladly speak with Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un, although he didn’t say he was confident a discussion could avert the persistent threat — not because Trump's previous public threats and insults poisoned relations, but rather because discussions between North Korea and previous presidents hadn't worked either.
“I’d sit down, but I‘m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” he said. “They’ve talked for 25 years and they’ve taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents.”
When asked if he had engaged in any communications with Kim Jong-un, Trump declined to comment.
Trump's comments come to light just as North Korea and South Korea engage in the most significant talks they’ve had in years. Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that Russia is allegedly providing economic and/or infrastructure aid to North Korea.
Specifically, one Reuters report alleges Russia is providing oil to North Korea — which North Korea relies on for building out its nuclear and missile programs. According to Reuters, European security sources told them in late December that “Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea in violation of international sanctions."
When asked if the U.S. were planning a secret attack, Trump declined to answer. “We’re playing a very, very hard game of poker and you don’t want to reveal your hand,” he said.
As is Trump's wont, his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin is inconsistent, to say the least.
“He can do a lot,” Trump said of Putin in the Reuters report. “But unfortunately we don’t have much of a relationship with Russia, and in some cases it’s probable that what China takes back, Russia gives. So the net result is not as good as it could be.”
Contrast this with Trump's comments in 2013, when he publicly posed the question: "Will [Putin] become my new best friend?"