Trump says North Korea's Kim is smart, knows that only 'bad' can happen with nuclear weapons

US President Donald Trump shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following a meeting in Hanoi on Feb 27, 2019.
US President Donald Trump shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following a meeting in Hanoi on Feb 27, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - US President Donald Trump on Monday praised North Korean leader as a “very smart” man who is aware that he has to give up nuclear weapons to develop his country. 

“He knows that with nuclear... only bad can happen. He is a very smart man, he gets it well,” said Mr Trump, who repeated that North Korea has “tremendous economic potential”.

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump said there is "great respect" between the United States and North Korea, predicting "lots of good things" despite recent missile launches by Pyongyang.

"Lots of good things will come with North Korea... We've come a long way," Mr Trump said at the start of bilateral talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"There's a good respect built, maybe a great respect built between certainly the United States and North Korea."

The comments come despite short-range missile launches by Pyongyang in May that Mr Trump’s own National Security Adviser John Bolton said over the weekend were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. 

Mr Trump appeared to dispute Mr Bolton’s assessment in a tweet on Sunday, in which he called the missiles “small weapons” that “disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me”.

The US president is in Tokyo for a state visit that included a meeting with the newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito on Monday morning, the first time the monarch has met a foreign leader since taking the throne.

Mr Trump’s bilateral talks with Mr Abe are expected to focus on trade, North Korea and military issues, as well as other diplomatic crises, including the tensions between Washington and Teheran.