As tensions escalate between the United States and North Korea over Kim Jong-Un’s continued treats to obliterate the United States, some are reflecting on President Trump’s comments about the situation from a 1999 interview with “Meet the Press.”
In the exchange with the late Tim Russert, Trump explained that he’d “negotiate like crazy,” but refused to rule out a swift preemptive military strike, if necessary.
Trump on North Korea in 1999. pic.twitter.com/x4FlnNfJv6
— Based Monitored 🇺🇸 (@BasedMonitored) August 8, 2017
“First I would negotiate, I would negotiate like crazy, and I would make sure that we try to get the best deal possible,” Trump told Russert.
“But look, Tim. If a man walks up to you on a street in Washington … and puts a gun to your head and says ‘Give me your money,’ wouldn’t you rather know where he’s coming from before he has the gun in his hand?” Trump questioned.
“These people, in three or four years, are going to be having nuclear weapons. They are going to have those weapons pointed all over the world, and specifically at the United States,” he continued. “And wouldn’t you be better off solving this really potentially unbelievable … problem. … The biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation.
“And we have a country out there, North Korea, which is sort of wacko, which is not a bunch of dummies, and they are going out and they are developing nuclear weapons,” Trump said. “And they’re not doing it because they’re having fun doing it. They’re doing it for a reason.”
Trump said the best tactic would be to negotiate first, but “if that negotiation doesn’t work, you better solve the problem now than solve it later, Tim.”
“You know it, and every politician knows it, and nobody wants to talk about it,” he said.
Trump also advocated for a more forceful response to Pyongyang’s posturing from Washington.
“Jimmy Carter, who I really like, he went over there and he was so soft,” Trump said. “These people are laughing at us.”
Russert pointed out that military officials warned against a pre-emptive strike “because the nuclear fallout would be devastating to the Asian peninsula,” but Trump seemed to disagree.
“Tim, did you know that this country went out and gave them nuclear reactors, free fuel for 10 years? We virtually tried to bribe them into stopping and they’re continuing to do what they’re doing,” he said.
“And they’re laughing at us. They think we’re a bunch of dummies.”
“I’m saying we need to do something to stop them,” Trump said.
Russert continued to stress the military’s warnings against a preemptive strike, but Trump quickly put the situation into plain terms.
“Do you want to do it in five years, when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointing to New York City, to Washington? Is that when you want to do it, or do you want to do something now?”
Trump’s comments in the nearly two-decade old interview provide interesting insight into the president’s perspective on the escalating tensions between the two countries as Kim Jong-Un has increased hostilities in recent months with repeated missile tests.
The interview also lends credence to the president’s recent warning that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States” or risk being “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
“I think what the President was doing was sending a strong message to North Korea I a language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
Trump’s promise to take action didn’t sit well with the hermit country, and prompted Pyonyang to issue threats to attack the U.S. territory of Guam and “turn the US mainland into the theater of a nuclear war.”
Trump’s response: “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”