Trump says he won't allow U.S. to use Kim's family as spies

Kim Jong Nam

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would not approve of U.S. intelligence agencies using family members of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to spy on him.

His comments came a day after a report that Kim's half-brother had traveled to Malaysia to meet his CIA contact before being assassinated there in 2017.

Trump said he was aware of the report on Kim Jong Nam's alleged contacts with U.S. intelligence published Monday by the Wall Street Journal, which cited a "person knowledgeable about the matter." Trump said his message to the North Korean leader would be: "I wouldn't let that happen under my auspices."

Trump's comments came as he continued to lavish praise on Kim Jong Un, a global pariah due to his reclusive country's nuclear program and abysmal human rights record, even after a breakdown in their nuclear talks in February in Vietnam.

Trump, who said he had "just received a beautiful letter" from Kim, said Kim had kept his word in halting tests of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

"I can't show you the letter obviously, but it was a very personal, very warm, very nice letter," Trump said.

"I think that North Korea has tremendous potential, and he'll be there. ... And the one that feels that more than anybody is (Kim). He gets it. He totally gets it."

On Tuesday, officials at South Korea's National Intelligence Service and Unification Ministry, which oversees ties with North Korea, said they couldn't confirm the report on Kim Jong Nam.

While Kim Jong Nam spent much of his life abroad after falling out of favor with his family, he knew North Korea was monitoring him. He obsessed over fears that he would get assassinated, South Korean officials have said. Following his death, the South Korean security agency told South Korean lawmakers that North Korea had tried for several years to kill him and that he sent a letter to Kim Jong Un in 2012 begging for the lives of himself and his family.

Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea's ruling family and could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule. The Journal said that Kim Jong Nam met on several occasions with CIA operatives but that many details of his relationship with the agency remain unclear.

The CIA did not immediately comment Tuesday.

Kim Jong Nam was killed on Feb. 13, 2017, when two young women smeared VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Lawyers for the women have said they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The U.S. and South Korea also have blamed North Korea.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.