(CNSNews.com) – President Trump and Joe Biden clashed over North Korea during Thursday night’s debate, with the former vice president accusing Trump of legitimizing Kim Jong Un by meeting with him, while Trump argued that his diplomatic efforts had averted a war predicted by his predecessor.
Trump said that when he became president, President Obama had told him that “the biggest problem we have is North Korea. He indicated we will be in a war with North Korea.”
Instead, he went on, “we don’t have a war and I have a good relationship” with Kim.
“Different kind of a guy, but he probably thinks the same thing about me,” Trump said of the North Korean dictator. “We have a different kind of a relationship. We have a very good relationship and there’s no war.”
Biden charged that Trump has “legitimized North Korea.”
“He’s talked about his good buddy, who’s a thug, a thug. And he talks about how we’re better off – and they have much more capable missiles, able to reach U.S. territory much more easily than they ever did before.”
In July 2017, North Korea after decades of shorter-range missile provocations carried out its first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile theoretically able to reach parts of the U.S. mainland.
After a year of hostile rhetoric, missile testing, and a nuclear test, 2018 brought a dramatic shift, the historic first summit in Singapore, and Kim’s agreement to a moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile testing – a moratorium that continues to hold.
“We’re not in a war,” Trump emphasized. “People don’t understand. Having a good relationship with leaders of other countries is a good thing.”
He also noted that Obama had never met with Kim.
“The reason he would not meet with President Obama,” Biden responded, “is because President Obama said ‘we’re going to talk about denuclearization, we’re not going to legitimize you and we’re going to continue to push stronger and stronger sanctions on you.’ That’s why he wouldn’t meet with us.”
“And it didn’t happen,” Trump interjected, apparently referring to the threat to “push stronger and stronger sanctions” against the regime.
In fact the strongest sanctions yet imposed against Pyongyang have come during the Trump presidency. Prodded by his administration, the U.N. Security Council in 2017 imposed the toughest measures ever on the Stalinist regime.
Even so, Trump met with Kim three times – at the summits in Singapore in June 2018 and Hanoi in February 2019, and a meeting at the DMZ dividing the two Koreas in June last year.
“They left me a mess,” he said of the Obama-Biden administration. “North Korea was a mess.”