Trump congratulated Kim on Truth Social on Friday after the country was elected to the executive board of the World Health Organization.
Trump met with the dictator three times during his time in the White House, a landmark move by an American president that drew fierce condemnation from critics who said the effort gave credibility to Kim’s outlaw regime.
Trump’s latest comments were lashed by 2024 competitors hoping to unseat the former president from his perch at the top of national polling averages for the Republican nomination.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly plans to announce his own bid for the White House any day, didn’t speak of Trump by name, but told Fox News this weekend: “No one should be praising the dictator in North Korea or praising the leader of Russia who has launched an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.”
“This is a time when we ought to make it clear to the world that we stand for freedom and we stand with those who stand for freedom,” Pence said on Saturday while in Iowa.
In this June 30, 2019, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and U.S. President Donald Trump prepare to shake hands at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) went a step further, calling Kim a “thug” and saying there was “no reason we should ever congratulate” the country’s inclusion in the U.N. body.
“I mean Kim Jong Un is a thug, and if you see what he has done to his own people in North Korea — when money went to North Korea, it didn’t go to feed their people, it went to feed their nuclear program,” she said during a CNN town hall-style event on Sunday.
“Congratulate our friends,” she added. “Don’t congratulate our enemies. It emboldens them when we do that.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) also fired off a jab at Trump, saying he was “surprised” to see the former president’s missive.
“Kim Jong Un is a murderous dictator,” DeSantis told reporters.
Pence, DeSantis and Haley were all in Iowa on Saturday for an annual fundraiser hosted by Sen. Joni Ernst (R).