Bill Clinton says 'I regret' missed chance to 'end' North Korea missile program

Former President Bill Clinton has said that he had a chance to "end" North Korea's missile program near the end of his second term, but was persuaded not to make the required trip to the totalitarian state by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"I had a chance at the end of my presidency -- I kind of regret this now, but I would do the same thing again [if] faced with it -- to end their missile program, but I would have had to go to North Korea," Clinton told NBC's "Today" in an interview that aired Monday.

"But I couldn't do that and finish the Middle East peace," Clinton went on. "And Arafat begged me not to go and then backed out on his promise."


When NBC's Craig Melvin pressed Clinton on whether he regretted not going to North Korea, the former president said: "I made the right decision. That is, if we had peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially back then, it would have been better, but I regret that I didn't end their missile program."

Clinton did not elaborate on why Arafat asked him not to make the trip. The North Korean regime has long provided weapons and other support to Palestinian militants and Arafat made multiple trips to Pyongyang before his death in 2004.

Trump and other members of his administration have criticized past presidents, including Clinton, for being too tolerant of North Korea's nuclear ambitions. In his interview with NBC, Clinton pointed out: "We had eight years when I was president where, because of a deal that I made early [in 1994], there was no fissile material produced."

When asked about the upcoming Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Clinton said, "we should want this to succeed."

"We shouldn’t be too quick to say it fails if it doesn’t cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’," the former president added. "In these deals, you have to make a compromise, and so the test that the Americans should have when it’s over is: If both sides do what they promise to do, will we be better off? If the other side doesn’t, can we get out of this without more harm?

"If the answer to both those questions is yes, then we should say the summit was a success and worth doing."