President Donald Trump said Monday that his predecessors have “all been outplayed” by North Korea over the years, a justification for the close-to-the-vest approach he has taken in dealing with the repressive communist state.
First as a candidate and now as president, Trump has often expressed his preference for keeping all options, military and otherwise, on the table and pointedly refusing to discuss what plans he might be considering. He has stuck to that model in dealing with North Korea, which in recent weeks has ramped up its saber-rattling by launching missile tests and engaging in what appeared to be preparations for a sixth test of a nuclear weapon.
“I hope things work out well. I hope there’s going to be peace, but they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time. You read Clinton’s book and he said ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal’ and it was a joke,” Trump said in a Monday interview with Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” that aired Tuesday morning. “You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been out played. They’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman.”
It was not immediately clear to whom Trump was referring when he said “this gentleman,” given that former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama dealt with different leaders in North Korea’s dynastic chain – the former with Kim Jong Il and the latter with Kim Jong Un. Both North Korean leaders have stuck to similar governing styles, favoring repressive and insular policies paired with bellicose rhetoric aimed most often at the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
North Korea’s most recent bout of brinkmanship fits squarely into its larger pattern of behavior, which often includes a flurry of activity surrounding the April birthday of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung. After launching one missile earlier this month, North Korea attempted another missile test last weekend that failed shortly after takeoff.
Asked by Fox News’s Ainsley Earhardt if the U.S. had sabotaged the North Korean missile, Trump said “I don’t want to comment on it.”