Donald Trump’s take on North Korea during a decade-old interview with “shock jock” Howard Stern could offer a window into the president’s thinking as he deals with the regime now.
“This is the final question,” Stern said toward the end of a 2006 episode of “The Howard Stern Show” in which Trump appeared. “Are you ready? You are the president of the United States. What do we do about North Korea?”
“I would be so tough, you have no idea,” Trump replied.
When Stern asked Trump to elaborate, Trump said, “You have no idea how tough I’d be.”
“You would — ” Stern began, before Trump interjected with “Embargoes?”
“Embargoes?” Stern repeated, presumably seeking to clarify Trump’s statement.
“Well, I think I’d go beyond embargoes,” Trump said. “I would be so tough, but I wouldn’t send [then-Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice in to negotiate.”
Stern asked why, to which Trump replied, “I don’t think she’s tough enough. I mean, I don’t think she’s a tough person.”
When Stern asked if Rice was a “lightweight,” Trump said he thought she was “not tough enough to do a good job.”
Eleven years later, North Korea is one of the Trump administration’s most pressing threats, and Trump has responded to it with combative rhetoric.
In August, following reports from the Defence Intelligence Agency that North Korea could make nuclear warheads small enough to fit on missiles and could have as many as 60 nuclear devices, Trump issued a sharp warning to the country.
North Korea “best not make any more threats to the United States” or it will “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said at the time, according to press pool reports.
The rogue nation fired a missile over Japan a few weeks ago for the second time in two months.
Earlier in September, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb.
Trump ramped up his rhetoric against North Korea when the United Nations General Assembly convened on September 23, saying that “rocket man” Kim Jong Un was on a “suicide mission,” and that if he did not back down, the US would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Kim responded by saying he would “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.” North Korea’s foreign minister also said that Trump’s comments made the possibility of a missile attack on the US mainland “all the more inevitable.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Beijing on Saturday that the US had a direct line of communication open with North Korea and that the country’s first priority was to calm the “overheated” situation.
But a State Department official told Business Insider that though the US has been “probing through our normal channels,” North Korean officials have not responded “with any indication that they want to engage in substantive discussions.”
Trump, diverging from the State Department on Sunday, tweeted, “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” referring to Kim. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
The president added that being nice to Kim “hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”
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