President Trump's "fire and fury" threats toward North Korea may have been improvised and took his closest advisers by surprise, but new video shows that superficial declarations about the burgeoning nuclear superpower are nothing new for Trump — he's been pontificating about it for decades.
In 1999, NBC's Tim Russert asked Trump about his statement that if he were president, he would be in favor of a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Initially, Trump seemed diplomacy-minded. "First I would negotiate like crazy," said Trump. "And I'd make sure we tried to get the best deal possible."
"If a man walks up to you on a street in Washington — because of course this doesn't happen in New York — and puts a gun to your head, and says 'Give me your money,' wouldn't you rather know where he's coming from before he had the gun in his hand?" continued Trump, who said the biggest problem the world faced was nuclear proliferation. "Wouldn't it be great to sit down and negotiate something?"
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Russert told Trump that the military's assessment was that a pre-emptive strike against North Korea was impossible because the nuclear fallout would devastate the region.
“They’re laughing at us,” said Trump. “They think we’re a bunch of dummies.”
Russert challenged Trump again about the impracticality of a pre-emptive strike. "Look, you want to do it in five years, when they have warheads pointing all over the place?" said Trump. "Or you want to do something now?”
Tensions about North Korea's nuclear capabilities have escalated rapidly over the last week. Over the weekend, the UN Security Council unanimously approved severe sanctions on North Korea over the program. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that North Korea had miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could be attached to a ballistic missile. Trump then went ballistic, threatening North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it continued to threaten the U.S. The North Koreans then threatened strikes on Guam.
Today, as in 1999, military analysts have warned that a pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea would be an unprecedented calamity, causing hundreds of thousands of fatalities.