Trump: I defend North Korea's human rights record to help avoid nuclear attack

Trump: I defend North Korea's human rights record to help avoid nuclear attack

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE said Friday he has not gone after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the country's abysmal human rights record because he has been prioritizing avoiding a nuclear war.

Speaking with reporters outside the White House, Trump was asked how he can defend Kim on human rights while still denouncing the circumstances that led to the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was detained while visiting North Korea.

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“You know why?" Trump responded. "Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family."

“I want to have a good relationship with North Korea. I want to have a good relationship with many other countries,” the president added. 

Human Rights Watch last year called North Korea “one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world.”

Kim is accused by the United Nations Human Rights Council and other watchdog groups of various human rights abuses, including torture and executions.

Earlier this week, Trump traveled to Singapore to meet with Kim and, following the first summit between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader, downplayed concerns over how Kim treats his people.

“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things,” Trump told Fox News’ Brett Bair when pressed on the matter.

Trump lavished praise on Kim following the meeting, saying the North Korean leader is both "very smart" and "very talented."

The White House said Thursday that Trump did mention human rights abuses when he met with Kim to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

“I'm not going to get into all of the details of their private conversation, but I can tell you, as the president has already publicly stated, that he did bring up human rights abuses of the North Korean regime,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the press briefing.

Trump said Friday that “millions” of people would be killed if the United States went to war with North Korea. 

“Who knows what would have happened?” the president asked.