HANOI — US President Donald Trump unleashed a twitter storm from his Asia tour on Sunday, slamming “haters and fools” who question his efforts to improve ties with Russia and taking a sarcastic dig at North Korea’s “short and fat” leader Kim Jong-Un.
Currently on the Vietnam leg of a five-nation sweep through the region, the US president, who has been relatively quiet on Twitter since leaving Washington, put out half a dozen tweets in quick succession ahead of his official welcoming ceremony in Hanoi.
The missives covered a range of targets and subjects — from the critics of his desire for a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to China’s efforts to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
And they ended with a tongue-in-cheek tweet about his efforts to make “a friend” of North Korea’s Mr. Kim.
“When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” wrote the US president, who met with Putin several times on the margins of the just concluded APEC summit in the Vietnamese resort of Danang.
“There (sic) always playing politics — bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!” he added.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One while flying to Hanoi on Saturday, Mr. Trump had said he believed Putin was being sincere when he denied meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Mr. Trump, whose key former aides are under US investigation for possible collaboration with the Kremlin, said he had repeatedly asked Putin about the claims during their chats in Danang.
“He (Putin) said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again,” Mr. Trump said. “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”
In May, US intelligence chiefs told Congress they agreed with their analysts’ conclusion that Russia had meddled in the election. And in January, 17 US intelligence agencies took the extraordinary step of stating publicly that they believed Russia did try to interfere. In a statement to CNN after Mr. Trump’s remarks on Air Force One, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, said he still believed in that evaluation.
Immediately after his Twitter tirade on Sunday, Mr. Trump was greeted by a guard of honor and flag-waving schoolchildren at a damp welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi’s historic French quarter.
The US leader was meeting the top communist leadership Sunday for talks that could touch on Vietnam’s gaping trade deficit and beefing up military support in the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims most of.
Mr. Trump’s Sunday tweets also focused on North Korea and its nuclear weapons ambitions that have been a dominant theme on each leg of his Asia tour.
Taking exception to descriptions by North Korean officials and state media of him as an “old” man, Mr. Trump suggested he was disappointed by what he took to be a personal attack from the North’s young leader.
“Why would Mr. Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’” Mr. Trump said.
“Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!”
North Korea is extremely sensitive to any remarks — even when not meant seriously — that might appear disrespectful of the country’ ruling Mr. Kim dynasty, whose members are revered as near deities. Since becoming president, Mr. Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with Mr. Kim, trading personal insults and threats of military strikes. Over the past week, Mr. Trump has urged Asian leaders to take a united front against the threat posed by the isolated North, warning at APEC that the region “must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies.”
Late Saturday, Pyongyang hit back, calling his Asia trip “a warmonger’s visit for confrontation” and saying it would only serve to accelerate Pyongyang’s push for nuclear statehood.
In another tweet Sunday, Mr. Trump said Chinese leader Xi Jinping had agreed to toughen sanctions against North Korea, whose impoverished economy is hugely reliant on trade with its giant neighbor. “President Xi of China has stated that he is upping the sanctions against (North Korea). Said he wants them to denuclearize. Progress is being made,” he wrote. — AFP