PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday disputed a newspaper’s account of an interview with him last week in which he was quoted as saying he probably has a very good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump said in tweets that in the Wall Street Journal interview on Thursday, he said “I’d probably” have a good relationship with Kim, using a conditional tense.
The White House released a portion of the audio from the interview that it said showed Trump said “I’d.” The Wall Street Journal released its own audio that it said backed up its version of the events.
The Trump comment was key because it suggested he feels he has a good relationship with Kim, who has resisted global pressure to stand down from a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Trump has derided the North Korean leader as a “maniac” and referred to him as “little rocket man.” Kim has responded by calling the U.S. president a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”
Kim has warned the United States that he intends to build a nuclear arsenal capable of hitting the United States, prompting threats of military action by Washington.
In the Wall Street Journal interview, Trump was asked whether he has spoken with the North Korean leader.
“I don’t want to comment on it. I‘m not saying I have or haven‘t. I just don’t want to comment,” he had said.
Trump is spending a long weekend at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
“Obviously I didn’t say that,” tweeted Trump. “I said ‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters … and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!”
A White House official said the delay in publicly disputing the Journal’s account was the result of a failed attempt to get the paper to correct the record.
“The reason there was a delay is because we had several calls and emails with WSJ, starting Friday morning, asking them to issue a correction. They refused and so we pushed out our own clarification,” the official said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)