BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump has a history of tough talk on North Korea, as evidenced by a television interview from 1999 that’s circulating online.
In the conversation with the late Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump said that, as president, he would “negotiate like crazy” with North Korea, but added “if that negotiation doesn’t work, you better solve the problem now than solve it later.”
The interview, conducted as Trump considered a third-party bid for the White House in the 2000 election, has drawn renewed attention after Trump’s warning this week that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if it escalated threats against the United States.
Betsy Fischer Martin, longtime executive producer of “Meet the Press,” recalled that Trump came on the show to discuss his plans to switch his party registration from Republican to the Reform Party. Much of the interview dealt with his presidential ambitions and other policies. But Russert also asked Trump about a book he had coming out, in which he said as president he would be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.
Trump said he would first negotiate and try to get the “best deal possible.” When Russert said retired military officials had warned against a pre-emptive strike, Trump said, “I’m not talking about us using nuclear weapons. I’m saying that they have areas where they’re developing missiles.”
Pressed by Russert on what he would do if he was advised against a strike, Trump said: “I don’t know. You want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointing to New York City, to Washington? … Or do you want to do something now? You better do it now.”
But he added: “If they think you’re serious, they’ll negotiate and it will never come to that.”