WASHINGTON — Barely more than a week after boasting that he has a bigger nuclear button than Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, President Trump portrayed himself on Thursday as having good relations with the autocratic leader of the rogue nation.
“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”
Mr. Trump declined to say whether he had directly spoken with his North Korean counterpart. “I’m not saying I have or haven’t,” he said.
But the rosy description of his relationship with the North Korean leader was another jarring reversal in tone from a president who has spoken admiringly of Mr. Kim in some moments and mocked him in others, referring to him as a fat “Little Rocket Man.”
In September, the president called Mr. Kim the leader of a “band of criminals” and later said he was a “madman.” Two months later, he called Mr. Kim “a sick puppy.” Mr. Kim has sometimes responded to the taunts, at one point calling Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.”
The current, more positive, state of the president’s relationship with Mr. Kim, according to Mr. Trump, comes in the midst of a modest thaw in relations between North Korea and South Korea, whose officials met, face-to-face, for talks for the first time in recent days. Those talks have not included Mr. Trump, who said in Thursday’s interview that his shifting commentary about the North Korean leader was part of a broader strategy.