Trump Says 'Weak' U.S. Leaders Would Have Started Nuclear War with North Korea

President Donald Trump boasted on air Thursday about his handling of a nuclear crisis with North Korea, saying it may have ended in catastrophe had a leader of less caliber been in the White House.

Trump made the remarks while calling in live to Fox News's Fox & Friends, a show that the president often cites on Twitter. He discussed his upcoming summit with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, whose recent diplomatic overtures toward rival U.S.-backed South Korea and Washington came after a tense feud with Trump.

Trump shared one of his favorite nicknames for Kim and recalled when the two spoke of their nuclear launch buttons at the beginning of the year. The exchange, in which Trump claimed his button was "bigger and more powerful," raised international concerns that have since been replaced by a cautious hope for peace.

"Look, it was very, very nasty, you know, with Little Rocket Man and with the buttons and you know my button's bigger than—everybody said this guy's going to get us into nuclear war! Let me tell you. The nuclear war would've happened if you had weak people," Trump said via telephone. "We had weak people. This should have been settled long before I came into office. This is a much different ball game than if they did it five or 10 or even 20 years ago, this is a much more dangerous ball game now, but I will tell you it's going very well now."

Trump has often criticized his predecessors' handling of foreign relations, including North Korea. In the decades following a violent three-year war with South Korea and a U.S.-led coalition in the 1950s, communist-backed North Korea began to develop nuclear weapons as a means to deter any foreign invasion. A number of U.S. administrations attempted to resolve the issue, but they ultimately failed to make any significant breakthrough with any of the three generations of the ruling Kim dynasty.

When Trump came to office in early 2017, he quickly took a hardline stance, sending extra military assets to the Pacific. Kim went on to launch his country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles and conduct its sixth and by far most powerful nuclear weapons test. In the same New Year's speech in which Kim first brought up the nuclear button on his desk, he also reached out for peace and, since then, the two have engaged in a gradual, but promising dialogue. Kim was set to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in Friday during a summit at the world's most heavily fortified border that separates the two Koreas.

Related: Will Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un Make Peace? History Says No, Photos Say Maybe

Following this, an even more highly anticipated meeting was set to take place. In March, Trump agreed to become the first sitting U.S. president to meet a North Korean supreme leader, initially saying he would do so by May and later suggesting it could happen sometime in early June. During his call-in to Fox & Friends on Thursday, he said there were three or four potential dates for the unprecedented talks, but also suggested they could possibly not happen at all.

"It could be that I walk out quickly, with respect, but it could be. It could be that maybe the meeting doesn't even take place. Who knows?" he said during the program.

Trump told reporters last week that he would walk away from the meeting if it did not appear to be "fruitful." However, as of Tuesday, the Republican leader regarded Kim as "very open" and "very honorable," especially after the supreme leader announced Friday he would freeze tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, as well as close down his only known nuclear testing site.

The Trump administration has hailed its "maximum pressure" campaign of intense economic sanctions and military pressure against Pyongyang. Nevertheless, China and Russia demand that Washington respond to Kim's suspension of tests by halting U.S. military drills. North Korea has always argued its nuclear weapons are meant for defensive purposes and that it seeks global denuclearization, but only in exchange for the U.S. ending its "hostile policy" toward Kim's administration, a term that remains open to interpretation.