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(LEAD) Trump says if not for him, U.S. would be at war with N. Korea

North Korea 06:42 August 21, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with Trump's remarks on South Korea in last 3 paras)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump boasted of his good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Thursday, saying that if it were not for him, the United States would be at war with the communist state "right now."

"It would have been a war if you had Hillary Clinton. It would have been a war if Obama were allowed to stay any longer," he said, referring to his 2016 Democratic rival and former U.S. President Barack Obama.

In this photo, taken June 30, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are seen holding a meeting at the Freedom House on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas. The meeting marked the third of its kind between the two leaders that followed their two bilateral summits, held June 2018 and February 2019. (Yonhap)

Trump's remarks apparently came in response to an accusation from the Democratic Party that he has embraced dictators or "thugs" like the North Korean leader.

Trump and Kim have met three times, including two bilateral summits in June 2018 and February 2019.

Efforts to denuclearize Pyongyang have stalled since the latest U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam ended without a deal.

Trump said if it were not for him, the U.S. would have had a bigger problem with North Korea.

"President Obama said when I sat down that first meeting ... he said it was the biggest problem we had, North Korea. And we would have had a big problem, would have been a hell of a war. Tell you right now. You'd probably be in that war right now," he said while visiting Pennsylvania, the birthplace of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, on the day when the former vice president was expected to accept his party's presidential nomination for the November election.

"When I say that we got along and we've met, everyone says, 'Oh, that's so terrible.' No, it's a good thing. It's a good thing, not a bad thing. It's a good thing. Doesn't mean bad things don't happen, but it's a good thing," said Trump.

The U.S. president again claimed success in his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying countries that were often reported to be doing better than the United States have recently seen a resurgence in cases.

"South Korea, it's over," he said, after mentioning New Zealand. "It's over. Big breakout yesterday."

South Korea has reported triple-digit new cases each day for the past week.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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