President Donald Trump, who the Clinton campaign previously said was too weak on North Korea, has delivered a series of tough warnings to Pyongyang over the past week, eliciting strong criticisms from the left for being unnecessarily aggressive and escalatory.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff criticized Trump for an unwillingness to get tough on North Korea, but while the Trump administration has made friendly overtures to North Korea, Trump is now threatening the use of military force against the regime.
“Donald Trump’s statements about North Korea show that he has more interest in making Kim Jong Un like him than backing up our friends and allies in the region,” Clinton aide Jake Sullivan told Reuters last June, referencing Trump’s willingness to sit down with North Korean leadership and his complaints about American allies in the Asia Pacific not covering the cost of defense.
Sullivan said that Trump’s statements would only make Kim Jong Un more provocative.
“This is another reminder that America must elect a president who can confront the threats we face with steadiness and strength,” Hillary Clinton said, after the North conducted a fifth nuclear test in September last year.
After taking office as president, Trump told reporters he would be “honored” to meet Kim Jong Un under the right conditions, and his administration has consistently pushed for a diplomatic solution as an alternative to the application of military force.
But, the situation with North Korea is changing as the country turns bluster into real capability.
Since the start of this year, Pyongyang has tested a collection of new short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range ballistic missiles. The intercontinental ballistic missile the North tested twice in July can theoretically strike targets across the continental U.S. Furthermore, the Defense Intelligence Agency recently confirmed that North Korea can mount nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles.
As North Korea has enhanced its ability to wage war against its neighbors and the U.S., Trump’s attitude towards the regime appears to be changing.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump declared before the White House press pool Tuesday after North Korea threatened the U.S. over the latest U.N. sanctions. “They will be met with the fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
As the North warned of possible strikes on Guam, the president again warned North Korea to back down.
“[Kim Jong Un] has been pushing the world around for a long time,” Trump reporters Thursday.
“I will tell you this, if North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous,” he said. “They should be very nervous. Things will happen to them like they never thought possible.”
“It’s not a dare, it’s a statement,” he said.
The president issued a more severe warning Friday, letting North Korea know that a military solution is ready to go, not simply on the table, if North Korea does not change paths.
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path,” Trump tweeted Friday. This statement, together with the others, has received significant criticism from Democrats, as well as some Republicans, for being overly hawkish.
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