During the final presidential debate last week, one of the few questions about foreign policy dealt with the question of North Korea.
Moderator Kristen Welker asked President Donald Trump about his meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which did not result in any peace agreement, and did not prevent North Korean from creating a large new missile. The president responded, in part, that Kim told him in one of their meetings that he “didn’t like Obama.”
Vice President Joseph Biden said in the debate that “what has [Trump] done? He legitimized North Korea. He’s talked about his good buddy who’s a thug. A thug. And he talks about how we’re better off. And they have much more capable missiles, able to reach U.S. territory much more easily than [they] ever did before.”
In a campaign appearance on Biden’s behalf Wednesday, former President Obama addressed Trump’s North Korea policy. Speaking in Florida, Obama seized on comments made by Trump this week that the leaders of China, North Korea and Russia “don’t want to deal with Sleepy Joe,” and that those people therefore want Trump to win a second term.
“Our current president, he whines that ‘60 Minutes’ is too tough. You think he’s going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl’s a bully. Just yesterday, he said that Putin of Russia, Xi of China, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea want him to win,” Obama said, per an MSNBC transcript.
“We know! We know because you’ve been giving them whatever they want for the last four years! Of course they want you to win! That’s not a good thing. You shouldn’t brag about the fact that some of our greatest adversaries think they’d be better off with you in office. Of course they do. What does that say about you? Think about that. Why are you bragging about that? C’mon. That doesn’t make any sense.”
When he first ran for president in 2007, ironically, Obama was criticized by some of his opponents for stating that he would meet with certain dictators, including those of Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Syria, without preconditions. Obama, as president, went on to pursue diplomatic openings with Iran and Cuba, but did not meet at any point with Kim Jong-un. He also did not meet his Kim’s father and predecessor Kim Jong-Il prior to his death in 2011, although there were occasional attempts during the Obama presidency for the two governments to engage in denuclearization talks.
Biden, in the debate, stated that as president, he would only meet with Kim “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.