From promising to unleash “fire [and] fury” on Pyongyang and referring to North Korea’s dictator as a “maniac,” President Donald Trump’s rhetoric when it comes to the Pacific Asian nation has been anything but soft.
As tensions between the U.S. and North Korea grow, Trump has taken a hardline approach in warning Kim Jong Un against striking the U.S., especially the territory of Guam.
“He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before –what will happen in North Korea,” Trump warned earlier this week.
Despite Trump’s harsh rhetoric, he isn’t the only U.S. president to have to deal with North Korea and the problem of its nuclear arsenal. Here’s a look at what the past three presidents said about North Korea.
Former President Barack Obama asked the military in 2010 to prepare with South Korea in order to be “ready” to deter any aggressions from North Korea – after North Korea sank its southern neighbor’s naval ship.
North Korea is "a pariah state that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams."
In one warning to North Korea against launching a long-range missile, Obama said that if it should “decide to take this action, we will work with all interested partners in the international community to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that they cannot threaten the safety and stability of other countries with impunity.”
During a press conference with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009, Obama said North Korea’s actions had “been extraordinarily provocative.”
“My preference is always to use a diplomatic approach. But diplomacy has to involve the other side engaging in a serious way in trying to solve problems,” Obama said. “And we have not seen that kind of reaction from North Korea.”
And in a 2014 visit to South Korea, Obama said the U.S. would “not hesitate to use our military might” to defend allies, especially against “a pariah state that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams.”
“North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a path that leads only to more isolation,” Obama said.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush infamously dubbed North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, an “axis of evil” during his presidency.
In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush slammed the countries as “regimes that sponsor terror.”
“North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens,” Bush said.
During Bush’s presidency, North Korea admitted that it had developed a nuclear weapons program, the New York Times reported in 2002.
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."
Bush wasn’t ready to give up that “axis of evil” label for North Korea when asked years later in 2008.
“That has yet to be determined. The human rights abuses inside the country still exist and persist,” Bush said.
“The North Korean leader has yet to fully verify the extent to which he has had a highly enriched uranium program,” he continued. “In order to get off the list, the ‘axis of evil’ list, then the North Korean leader is going to have to make certain decisions.”
Following his presidency, Bush said “we must do more to improve the human condition in North Korea.”
During his presidency, Bill Clinton approved a plan which would provide more than $4 billion in energy aid to North Korea over 10 years. In return, North Korea was expected to disband and dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
At the time, Clinton heralded the program as a “good deal.”
“The United States and international inspectors will carefully monitor North Korea to make sure it keeps its commitments,” Clinton said. “Only as it does so, will North Korea fully join the community of nations.”
The agreement ultimately broke down in the early 2000s.
"[North Korea] would pay a price so great that the nation would probably not survive as it is known today."
And in a press conference in November 1993, Clinton warned Pyongyang against waging war.
“I know of no one who seriously believes that the United States and [South Korea] would be defeated in a war of aggression by North Korea if they were to attack,” Clinton said. “And I made it as clear as I could that if they were to do that, they would pay a price so great that the nation would probably not survive as it is known today.”
After his presidency Clinton traveled to Pyongyang in 2009 and successfully negotiated for the release of two U.S. reporters who were jailed when they were caught filming a documentary about the trafficking of North Korean women.