NEW YORK CITY – The morning after his bellicose speech to the United Nations, President Trump on Wednesday blamed his predecessors – and previous political opponent Hillary Clinton – for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes,” Trump tweeted, using an insulting nickname for his Democratic challenger in the 2016 presidential election and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its Asian allies.
He denounced Pyongyang’s “reckless” pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and taunted North Korea leader Kim Jong Un with a campaign-style nickname. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” he said.
Some political analysis, and former officials from the Obama administration, worried Trump’s rhetoric in the U.N. speech will make a diplomatic solution to North Korea more difficult. Speaking on CBS’ Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, Clinton described the speech as “very dark, dangerous, not the kind of message that the leader of the free world should be delivering.”
John Kerry, who succeeded Clinton as secretary of State, told MSNBC that Trump’s “childish” rhetoric pushes away potential diplomatic allies. “You have to ask yourself, is America safer because of ‘Rocket Man’?’” Kerry said. “Did we bring anybody to the table as a consequence of that language? You don’t give a speech at the United Nations to talk to your base.”
In his early morning tweet storm, Trump also retweeted another critic of Clinton and his predecessor Barack Obama. “It is the height of hypocrisy. Obama and Clinton in effect gave nuclear weapons to North Korea by their policy of appeasement,” the tweet said.
The North Korea nuclear program stretches back to the 1950s, and began in earnest after the 1989 collapse of the communist nation’s major patron, the Soviet Union. Over the last two decades, it has grown despite the efforts of presidents from both parties – Clinton, Republican George W. Bush, and Obama – to lobby other countries to pressure the North Koreans to give up nuclear weapons development.
As his predecessors did, Trump has lobbied China to rein in the nuclear ambitions of its neighbor North Korea.
The growing threat from North Korea has dominated Trump’s week-long visit to the United Nations, though the president will focus Wednesday on the Middle East. He will meet with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Egypt. He also has a “working lunch” with African leaders and a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
On Thursday, discussions of North Korea will be back on the agenda again, as he meets with the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in.
Trump’s morning tweet storm – ten posts – also included retweets of supporters praising his U.N. speech, and a shout-out to one of his favorite television programs.