Donald Trump accuses Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama of not confronting North Korea but vows 'I won't fail'

Not for the first time the President has broken with precedent

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Sunday 01 October 2017 20:15
Comments
It was not the first time Mr Trump broke with precedent
It was not the first time Mr Trump broke with precedent

Donald Trump has accused his predecessors in the Oval Office of failing to deal with with the challenge of North Korea’s nuclear programme but said he but “won't fail”.

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail,” he said on Twitter.

It was not the first time that Mr Trump has broke with precedent since he assumed the presidency in January. Yet it is very rare for presidents to openly criticise those who went before them in the job, especially on issues of such complexity.

Indeed, when they met during the transition period, Barack Obama warned Mr Trump that confronting North Korea’s expanding nuclear programme would most likely be his most pressing foreign policy challenge.

The President’s comment was one of several tweets he posted about North Korea on Sunday as he spent the day at his private golf club in New Jersey and then made his way by presidential helicopter a short distance to attend the Presidents Cup tournament at the Liberty National Golf Club.

Earlier in the day he had suggested that his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was wasting his time by seeking to secure a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s stepping up of its testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear payloads.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” he said. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

Chinese government orders all North Korean firms to close in China

His comments came as it emerged over the weekend that the US had direct diplomat contact with North Korea, which many US analysts believe will be able to hit the US mainland with a missile within a matter of months.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing over the weekend, Mr Tillerson said his immediate goal was to “calm things down” as the East Asian nation continues to press ahead with its weapons development and the US has intensified its sabre-rattling. Last month, Mr Trump told the UN that US may be forced to "totally destroy" North Korea.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Mr Tillerson told reporters, according to Reuters. “We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation or a blackout. We have a couple of direct channels to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them. Directly, through our own channels.”

He added: “We've made it clear that we hope to resolve this through talks. I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down. They’re a little overheated right now, and I think we need to calm them down first.”

The Associated Press said that in the opinion of one senior advisor to Mr Tillerson, there was no confusion in the message being delivered by the US.

“The President just sent a clear message to NK: show up at the diplomatic table before the invitation gets cold,” RC Hammond tweeted. “Message to Rex? Try message to Pyongyang: Step up to the diplomatic table.”

Some commentators seized on Mr Trump's tweets as evidence that he was either undermining Mr Tillerson personally or his diplomacy. Others said the tweets might represent a “good cop-bad cop approach” to North Korea.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the US “absolutely” should step up diplomatic efforts. “We’re moving to a place where we're going to end up with a binary choice soon,” Mr Corker told NBC News.

“I think Tillerson understands that every intelligence agency we have says there's no amount of economic pressure you can put on North Korea to get them to stop this programme because they view this as their survival.”

Mr Trump’s predecessors tried different approaches to try and contain the East Asian nation's nuclear ambition. In 1994, the Clinton administration announced the Agreed Framework with North Korea, which provided for a nuclear-free peninsula in exchange for massive amounts of energy assistance.

After he took office in 2001, Mr Bush cane out with a hardline stance before softening its approach. Among its moves, was the decision to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terror in 2008, a move that was undertaken in exchange for access to North Korea's nuclear facilities, according to CNN.

The Obama administration also tried diplomacy, and North Korea agreed to halt its nuclear missile programme in 2012 in exchange for food aid. However, after current leader Kim Jong-un took charge of the country following his father’s death in 2001, North Korea ignored such undertakings and speeded up its testing of missiles.

Many experts now believe, North Korean missiles could strike parts of the US mainland. It is unclear whether the country currently has the capacity for those missiles to yet deliver a nuclear warhead.

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