Trump says he doesn’t know if North Korea Is building nuclear weapons: ‘I hope not’

President Donald Trump said he doesn’t know if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still building nuclear weapons — but, the U.S. leader noted, “I hope not.”

Speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last week about the potential nuclear threat still posed by Pyongyang, Trump waxed lyrical about the “very strong relationship” he’d forged with the “very smart” Kim, who he described as someone who “understands” and “respects me.”

“He’s a very tough guy. He’s a very smart person. He doesn’t treat a lot of people very well, but he’s been treating me well,” the president told Stephanopoulos in a wide-ranging interview that aired Sunday night.

“Now, at some point that may change. And then I’ll have to change, too,” Trump continued. “But right now, we have a very good, you know, relationship. We have a really very strong relationship.”

Asked whether he thought Kim could be “playing” him, Trump told Stephanopoulos that U.S. sanctions were still in place against North Korea and pointed to the return of hostages and war remains as evidence of his administration’s success in dealing with Kim’s regime.

I put on sanctions. The sanctions are on. We’ve gotten our hostages back. We’ve gotten ― the remains. And they continue to come back,” Trump said.

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U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to board Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts during a news conference after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves a news conference at the JW Marriott Hanoi in Hanoi, following talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. President Donald Trump accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the JW Marriott Hanoi, following talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
A view of the table in the room which was supposed to host a working lunch between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, that was cancelled, during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the extended bilateral meeting in the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
White House national security adviser John Bolton reacts beside U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the extended bilateral meeting in the Metropole hotel with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk in the garden at the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A customer watches a set of TV's broadcasting a news report on a Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, in Seoul, South Korea, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands before their one-on-one chat during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
People read the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showing coverage of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visiting Vietnam for a summit in Hanoi with US President Donald Trump, on Kim Il Sung square Pyongyang on February 28, 2019. - The US-North Korea nuclear summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal, with President Donald Trump saying he had decided to 'walk' in the face of Kim Jong Un's demands to drop sanctions. (Photo by Kim Won Jin / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean students read the Rodong Sinmun newspaper coverage of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visiting Vietnam for a summit in Hanoi with US President Donald Trump, on Kim Il Sung square Pyongyang on February 28, 2019. - The US-North Korea nuclear summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal, with President Donald Trump saying he had decided to 'walk' in the face of Kim Jong Un's demands to drop sanctions. (Photo by Kim Won Jin / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
The motorcade of North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un arrives at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim sounded an optimistic note at the start of their second set of face-to-face meetings, as the U.S. leader sought to advance nuclear talks that have largely stalled since their first summit in June. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Police outriders lead U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade to the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sounded an optimistic note at the start of their second set of face-to-face meetings, as the U.S. leader sought to advance nuclear talks that have largely stalled since their first summit in June. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade arrives at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sounded an optimistic note at the start of their second set of face-to-face meetings, as the U.S. leader sought to advance nuclear talks that have largely stalled since their first summit in June. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The president’s assertion contradicted a statement made by the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency last month saying efforts to retrieve American remains from North Korea had been suspended because of the country hasn’t responded.

“DPRK officials have not communicated with DPAA since the Hanoi Summit” between Trump and Kim earlier this year, a spokesman for the agency told CNN. “As a result, our efforts to communicate with the Korean People’s Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operations for 2019 has been suspended.”

Pressed to answer whether Kim was “still building nuclear weapons,” Trump said he didn’t know but that the North Korean leader had “promised ... me he wouldn’t be testing.”  

From the interview:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think he’s still building nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: I don’t know. I hope not. He promised me he wouldn’t be. He promised me he wouldn’t be testing. I think he’d like to meet again. And I think he likes me a lot. And I think ― you know, I think that we have a chance to do something.

The president also reiterated his belief that North Korea could be “so rich” ― something Kim “knows” and “wants.” 

“He’s a very smart person. And that country has ― almost of any undeveloped country anywhere in the world, that country has the chance to be economically a behemoth,” Trump said. “It’s a phenomenal location. That country can be so rich. And he knows that. And I think he really wants to do that,” Trump said, adding that Kim “has to do it in a non-nuclear way.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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