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Former UN head: North Korea got 'de facto nuclear state status' from Trump summits

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an interview said that North Korea “seems to have succeeded in acquiring de facto nuclear state status” after the nation's leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnOvernight Defense: Biden nets military family endorsements | Final debate features North Korea exchange | Judge refuses to dismiss sexual assault case against top general Biden: Obama wouldn't 'legitimize' North Korea with meeting How Trump and Biden contrast on foreign policy MORE has had three high-profile meetings with President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE

Ban, who served as U.N. secretary from 2007 to 2016, told Time magazine that he is “very worried” about ongoing missile tests in North Korea, saying Trump has allowed for the behavior to continue. 

“President Trump has been saying that it’s okay that [North Korea] are testing some small range missiles, as it cannot reach the American continent. It’s not only the security and safety of the American continent. It’s the safety, security and threat to the whole of humanity,” Ban said.

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Trump and Kim have met three times: in Singapore in June 2018; in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February 2019; and at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in June 2019. Trump has touted his relationship with the country as a success in his first term. 

The 2018 summit was largely symbolic and lacked a tangible agreement. At the second summit in 2019, the U.S. failed to reach a deal with North Korea to completely give up its nuclear weapons, and North Korean failed to get demands for swift sanctions relief addressed.

Pyongyang has lashed out with a rash of weapons tests in recent months and criticism of Washington’s scrutiny of China, its chief ally and economic booster.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said in a statement run by state media Friday that since the summit the hostile relationship between the two countries is “unchanged, but the situation of the Korean peninsula is getting worse.”

Ban told Time that “embarrassingly, we are seeing some absence of American leadership since the Administration of Donald Trump began ... at a time when American leadership is most needed.”

“President Trump has been able to make a good contribution, but at this time, unfortunately, by just granting a one-on-one summit three times, [it] perhaps played to Trump’s ego and penchant for pageantry, and Kim Jong Un seems to have succeeded in acquiring de facto nuclear state status,” Ban told Time.