Speaking from the Oval Office, Donald Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the latest in a pattern of cheering on undemocratic autocrats from around the world, even as "military preparation [is] underway."

Donald Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in an Oval Office interview, taking the unusual step of complimenting an oppressive leader while sitting in the ultimate seat of American power, even as his administration is sending alarming signals about its “military preparation” for possible action against North Korea.

Speaking to Reuters, Trump said of Jong-un, “He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.”

Trump continued, “I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational.”

Under Jong-un, North Korea has continued in its role as an international pariah. Isolated from most of the globe, it has pursued a nuclear arsenal and issued multiple threats against the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The North Korean state does not allow free speech or freedom of movement, while Jong-un lives in extreme luxury.

As a candidate, Trump praised Jong-un in similar terms, saying “he was, like, 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss.”

Perhaps no autocrat has received Trump praise as effusive as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whom Trump described as “very smart,” at the same time elements of Putin’s regime were attempting to skew the results of the election in Trump’s favor. He also had kind words for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and Saddam Hussein, whom he praised for being an effective fighter against terrorism.

Trump also recently made a congratulatory phone call to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the controversial passage of an internationally condemned referendum that granted him dictatorial powers.

Meanwhile, Trump has managed to offend some of America’s closest allies with his dismissive treatment of other world leaders and apparent lack of understanding of those relationships.

To date, America’s system of checks and balances has prevented Trump from joining the ranks of the authoritarians he admires, but he is on record as a huge fan of their anti-freedom ideologies and practices.