Read the 'Love Letters' Donald Trump Traded with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un
"You will be the one to lead," the president once wrote to Kim. "It will be historic!"
Amid other revelations — including the president's candid thoughts about the true threat of the COVID-19 pandemic — journalist Bob Woodward’s latest Donald Trump book also reveals details about the 27 letters between him and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump, 74, has a noted (and controversial) friendliness with the authoritarian leader, who is believed to be about 36 years old.
He was not allowed to copy or photograph the letters.
Trump agreed to 18 interviews with Woodward over the course of months, late last year and this year, for Rage.
The Trump-Kim letters — two of which Trump has already tweeted, one from him and one from Kim — further detail what the North Korean leader reportedly described as “a special friendship” that has grown between them since they held a historic face-to-face meeting in Singapore in June 2018.
Woodward's notes and Trump's tweets show the letters mix the diplomatic formalities with highfalutin praise, especially from Kim to Trump, whom Kim referred to as "Your Excellency."
The pair met in person for a second time on Feb. 28, 2019, in Vietnam, and a third time inside the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea on June 30 later that year. At their third meeting, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step foot into North Korea when he took 20 steps into the country, according to The New York Times.
On Christmas night in 2018, according to CNN, Kim wrote a letter to Trump reminiscing about their Singapore meeting. He wrote: "Even now I cannot forget that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency's hand at the beautiful and sacred location as the whole world watched with great interest and hope to relive the honor of that day."
"As we enter the new year the whole world will certainly once again come to see, not so far in the future, another historic meeting between myself and Your Excellency reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy film," Kim continued.
Trump replied three days later, in a more standard response: "Like you, I have no doubt that a great result will be accomplished between our two countries, and that the only two leaders who can do it are you and me."
In a letter from Trump to Kim in May 2018, before the Singapore summit, the president wrote then that he "felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me" but he nonetheless cautioned Kim against "open hostility."
In June 2019, according to CNN, Trump wrote to Kim that they "have a unique style and a special friendship" and that only their partnership "can resolve the issues between our two counties and end nearly 70 years of hostility, bringing an era of prosperity to the Korean Peninsula that will exceed all our greatest expectations."
"You will be the one to lead," Trump wrote. "It will be historic!"
In a June 10, 2019, letter, Kim wrote that he believes the two leaders have a “deep and special friendship between us will work as a magical force,” according to transcripts of two of the letters published by CNN. Kim also wished Trump a happy 73rd birthday.
It wasn't always so friendly, as Trump had repeatedly referred to Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and invoked the power of America's nuclear arsenal.
In 2017, while speaking with reporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, the New York Times reported that Trump threatened Kim, saying, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States” or else “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
During their second meeting in Vietnam in February 2019, Trump reportedly told Woodward that he amended his approach on denuclearization once he realized the dictator was unswayed.
"Do you ever do anything other than send rockets up to the air?" Trump told Woodward that he said to Kim. "Let's go to a movie together. Let's go play a round of golf."
Trump embraced an unorthodox style of face-to-face engagement with Kim, reversing his predecessors' policy, in order to try to curb the threat of North Korea.
But Trump's open affection for Kim has also drawn rebuke, given North Korea's poor human rights record, and some experts question its effectiveness.
Trump’s three meetings with Kim, and his continued correspondence with the dictator, has also long worried some security experts who believe the president mingling with Kim gives him a level of credibility on the global stage that North Korea lacked while the country makes minimal military concessions in return.
Trump has touted certain achievements, such as the release of American detainees in North Korea and the returns of remains from the Korean War.
The Washington Post reports that Trump reportedly bragged to Woodward about his ability to connect with Kim, saying the CIA has “no idea” how to negotiate with the North Korean leader and that Kim “tells me everything.”
Trump told Woodward, per the Post, that Kim once described in detail how he killed his uncle.
CNN reports that Woodward writes in Rage that CIA analysts were impressed by the letters sent to Trump, written by Kim or otherwise:
"The analysts marveled at the skill someone brought to finding the exact mixture of flattery while appealing to Trump's sense of grandiosity and being center stage in history."