In hard-line speech, Trump warns North Korea: ‘Do not underestimate us’
Trump, in an address to South Korea’s National Assembly, said the “rogue regime” was putting itself at risk by continuing to pursue its nuclear ambitions and test ballistic missiles.
“The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer,” Trump said, directing his remarks at North Korea. “They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.”
In a 35-minute speech here, for which he received a standing ovation, Trump offered a tough and blunt message to Pyongyang and dictator Kim Jong Un: “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us. We will defend our common spirit, our shared prosperity and our sacred liberty.”
But the president drew no red lines for what would prompt the United States to use military force, nor did he offer any additional ideas on how to coax North Korea to the negotiating table.
Nonetheless, Trump’s address framed the conflict on the peninsula in terms of dark — North Korea as “a hell that no person deserves” — versus light — South Korea as “a nation blessed with wealth, rich in culture, and deep in spirit.” He repeatedly heaped praise on his host country, holding up the nation as an affirming model for the North to follow.
“The more successful South Korea becomes, the more decisively you discredit the dark fantasy at the heart of the Kim regime,” Trump said. “In this way, the very existence of a thriving South Korean republic threatens the very survival of the North Korean dictatorship.”
Trump also made an emotional appeal, including on human rights, as he described, in searing detail, the brutal conditions in North Korea. He mentioned Otto Warmbier, the American student who sustained a severe neurological injury while imprisoned in North Korea and died shortly after his release to the United States.
In an apparent effort to press China to increase its pressure on Pyongyang, Trump recounted North Korean women being forced to abort or kill their babies if they are considered “ethnically inferior.”
“One woman’s baby born to a Chinese father was taken away in a bucket,” Trump said. “The guard said it did not deserve to live because it was impure.”
“So why,” he concluded, “would China feel an obligation to help North Korea?”
The remarks came a day after Trump asserted that his administration is making “a lot of progress” on the Korean Peninsula and urged Kim to “make a deal” at the negotiating table on the rogue nation’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
“I believe it makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing, not only for North Korea but for humanity all over the world,” Trump said during a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in after a bilateral meeting at the Blue House.
“I do see certain movement, yes, but we’ll see what happens,” he added, without providing any details.
On Wednesday, Trump similarly expressed some willingness to work with North Korea, but only once it has committed to “complete, verifiable, and total denuclearization.”