President Donald Trump said on Fox News Monday that former Presidents Obama and Clinton were both "outplayed" by North Korea, though he did not reveal how his policy might diverge from theirs.
Trump's comments were in response to whether or not he would rule out a strike on North Korea, given that Vice-President Mike Pence said recently that the U.S.'s "era of strategic patience is over" with Pyongyang.
The US recently deployed a Navy carrier group toward the region.
"I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say 'we're going to do this in four weeks,'" Trump said. "It doesn't work that way ... I hope there's going to be peace, but they've been talking with this gentleman for along time."
"You read Clinton's book; he said 'oh, we made such a great peace deal,' and it was a joke," Trump continued. "You look at different things over the years with President Obama; everybody's been outplayed. They've all been outplayed by this gentleman."
It's not completely clear to which "gentleman" Trump referred, since Obama and Clinton dealt with different North Korean leaders.
North Korea attempted to launch a missile on Sunday, but it blew up within seconds. Some experts have suggested that the missile failure could be the result of sabotage at the hands of US cyber warriors.
President Obama ordered the Pentagon to increase its cyber and electronic strikes on North Korea three years ago in the hopes of detonating any missile launches within seconds. After that order, several attempted missile launches by Pyongyang did just that.
Some experts, however, believe the failed launch attempts could be chalked up to manufacturing errors, disgruntled insiders and incompetence. Nevertheless, North Korea has successfully launched three medium-range rockets in recent months.
In 1994, then-President Clinton struck a peace deal with North Korea, as Trump mentioned. The U.S. agreed to deliver a $4 billion energy aid package to Pyongyang, and in return, North Korea agreed to freeze and slowly dismantle its nuclear weapons development program.
After the deal was made, the America's chief negotiator with North Korea, Robert L. Gallucci, said that the U.S. got everything it wanted in the deal.
"The agreement goes to concerns we've had about the North Korean nuclear program with respect to past activities, current activities and future activities," he said.
South Korea and Japan also endorsed the agreement at the time.
In January 2003, about two years after Clinton left office, North Korea announced it would withdraw from the accord struck in 1994, and began its nuclear development facilities once again.
Negotiations resumed in August 2003, and lasted for nearly four years. Although North Korea agreed to go back to the deal made under Clinton in 2007, it reneged soon after Obama took office.
After that, there were nothing but imperfect options for Obama, which Trump may have begun to realize.
The president could continue to escalate the Pentagon’s cyber and electronic warfare effort, but there are no guarantees. He could open negotiations with Pyongyang in the hopes of once again freezing its nuclear and missile programs, but a looming threat would always remain. He could strike on North Korea's launch sites, which Obama also considered, but there is little chance of hitting every target. He could also press China to cut off trade and support with North Korea, but Beijing has always stopped short of steps that could lead to the regime’s collapse.
It's not clear what Trump will do, and it remains to be seen whether he might get "outplayed" by North Korea, as he claimed Obama and Clinton — but not Bush — did.
Watch Trump's full interview here:
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