Donald Trump made headlines this week for claiming that he would unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" on North Korea if the country continues to threaten the United States with nuclear missiles. An old video of Trump discussing North Korea in a 1999 Meet the Press interview proves that the former business mogul never advocated for a lenient approach to dealing with North Korea. However, unlike today, he did emphasize the need for negotiation before all else.
"First, I'd negotiate," the future president told host Tim Russert when asked if he thought it would be a good idea to launch a preemptive strike against the isolated state if it continued expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal. "I would negotiate like crazy," he said.
Trump went on to say that North Korea was "sort of wacko" and that the U.S. approach to dealing with the country at the time was "so soft ... these people are laughing at us."
Trump further explained that, if negotiations failed, the United States would have no choice but to adopt a more aggressive approach:
We virtually tried to bribe them into stopping and they’re continuing to do what they’re doing. And they’re laughing at us. They think we’re a bunch of dummies. I’m saying that we have to do something to stop.
You can watch the full exchange below.
Given that North Korea has since severely expanded its nuclear arsenal, and continues to conduct routine missile tests despite condemnation from the international community, watching this nearly 20-year-old video is eerily unsettling. Whether or not Trump's stance on negotiation with the North Korean regime has changed, he did accurately predict that North Korea would pose a threat not just to the Korean Peninsula, but to the United States in the near future. Said Trump:
You want to [deal with this] in five years when they have warheads all over the place with every one of them pointing towards New York City, towards Washington. … Is that when you want to do it? Or do you want to do something now? You better do it now.
The Washington Post first reported earlier this week that North Korea now has the capability to build nuclear weapons that are small enough to fit inside missiles. Since this discovery, the Kim Jong-un regime has announced that it is "carefully examining" a plan to fire missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam in response to President Trump's aggressive threats.
After nearly two decades, it's evident that negotiations have not yet done much to reign in North Korea's nuclear capabilities. However, Trump's aggressive approach and threats don't seem to be the best alternative, either.