Former United States President Donald Trump has told associates since leaving the White House he has remained in contact with North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Un amid raised tensions over recent his country’s missile tests, according to a report on Thursday.
“As we know, he had a fixation on this relationship,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman told CNN. The revelation is contained in her upcoming book on Trump, “The Confidence Man”.
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Trump famously declared in 2018 that he and Kim “fell in love” after exchanging letters, but three meetings with the North Korean leader failed to persuade him to give up his nuclear bombs and missiles.
Trump’s claims could not be verified and may not be true, Haberman said.
“What he says and what’s actually happening are not always in concert, but he has been telling people that he has maintained some kind of a correspondence or discussion with Kim Jong Un,” she said.
Kim is the only foreign leader Trump has said he remains in contact with, she added.
The US State Department declined to comment on the report when asked if it was aware of such contact, and the White House did not immediately respond. A representative for Trump did not return a request for comment.
The US’s 1799 Logan Act bars private US citizens from negotiating with foreign governments without authorisation.
Jenny Town, director of the Washington-based North Korea project 38 North, said Trump had been known to exaggerate and any messages he had sent might only have been greetings and might not have been reciprocated.
“But if it’s true, and there is communication taking place on anything of substance without coordination or consultation with the White House, it could be highly problematic and potentially counterproductive to US interests,” she said.
President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly urged a return to dialogue with North Korea but has avoided pushing for summit diplomacy, favouring detailed lower-level engagement first, an approach that has been rebuffed.
Biden called Kim a “thug” during his 2020 presidential campaign but has said he would be willing to meet Kim if he agreed to discuss his nuclear program and their advisers met first to lay the groundwork.
Despite Trump’s direct personal engagement with Kim, US-North Korea relations grew frosty after the breakdown of their 2019 summit in Hanoi, and Pyongyang said it would not engage further unless Washington dropped “hostile policies”.
The Washington Post has reported that correspondence with Kim was among the presidential records in 15 boxes the National Archives retrieved last month from Trump’s Florida residence.
North Korea’s recent missile tests, including its first since 2017 of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, have raised fears it may be preparing for a return to tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.
North Korea boasted on Tuesday it is one of only a handful of countries to field nuclear weapons and advanced missiles and the only one standing up to the US by “shaking the world” with missile tests.