Trump's 1999 interview on North Korea resurfaces amid heightened rhetoric

An interview President Trump did in 1999 about North Korea's nuclear program has resurfaced amid the Trump administration’s heightened tensions with Pyongyang. 

The interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” features Trump before his entry into political campaigning speaking with host Tim Russert. Trump at the time argued that the United States must stop North Korea sooner rather than later.

“First, I negotiate. I would negotiate like crazy. And I’d make sure that we tried to get the best deal possible,” Trump told Russert.

“Now, if that negotiation doesn’t work, you better solve the problem now than solve it later, Tim. And you know it. And every politician knows it. And nobody wants to talk about it,” Trump said.

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The unearthed interview has made the rounds on social media following Trump’s provocative comments Tuesday, when he vowed to unleash “fire, fury and frankly power” on Pyongyang should it threaten the U.S.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster, N.J.

“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” 

Democrats sharply criticized Trump over the remarks, arguing they would only escalate an already dicey situation. The president's warning to North Korea followed an assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which found that North Korea had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to place on a missile.

Trump in 1999 described nuclear proliferation as the world’s “biggest problem” and said North Korea would soon have “weapons pointed all over the world and specifically at the United States.”

“And we have a country out there, North Korea, which is sort of whacko, which is not a bunch of dummies,” the real estate mogul said at the time. “And they are going out and they are developing nuclear weapons. And they’re not doing it because they’re having fun doing it. They’re doing it for a reason.” 

When pressed by Russert, who noted that former military officials at the time argued against pre-emptive strikes because they could devastate the Korean peninsula, Trump said he did not mean the U.S. should use nuclear weapons against North Korea.

“I’m not talking about us using nuclear weapons. I’m saying that they have areas where they’re developing missiles,” he said. 

“We virtually tried to bribe them into stopping and they’re continuing to do what they’re doing. And they’re laughing at us. They think we’re a bunch of dummies. I’m saying that we have to do something to stop.” 

North Korea has launched multiple weapons tests since Trump took office in January, including its first reported successful test last month of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 

On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on North Korea in response to the tests.