All the head-scratching remarks Trump has made about North Korea and Kim Jong-un

All the head-scratching remarks Trump has made about North Korea and Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center, seated) during a combat drill
Source: KNS/Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center, seated) during a combat drill
Source: KNS/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has said a lot about North Korea and its young leader, Kim Jong-un, over the past few years. He first tweeted about North Korea after a successful North Korean rocket test on Dec. 12, 2012 — Trump tweeted, "Watching Pyongyang terrorize Asia today is just amazing!" 

Now, amid Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's trip to Asia and Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to the U.S., we can look at (almost) everything Trump has ever said about the "Hermit Kingdom." 

Dennis Rodman walks along the court at an exhibition basketball game between U.S. and North Korean players at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Source: Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

Talking to or meeting Kim Jong-un

Trump has consistently advocated talking to or meeting Kim Jong-un, though he has disputed former basketball player Dennis Rodman's apparent assertion that Trump wanted to visit North Korea with him. 

March 4, 2013: "Maybe it’s not the worst thing that somebody actually calls, because you look at this world — this world is just blowing up around us. ... We are doing nothing. You know, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. It’s not a very big deal to make a phone call."

April 12, 2013: "The only American who has met with the North Korean man child is Dennis Rodman. Isn’t that frightening and sad?"

May 7, 2014: "Crazy Dennis Rodman is saying I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Never discussed, no interest, last place on Earth I want to go to." 

May 7, 2014: "Dennis Rodman was either drunk or on drugs (delusional) when he said I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Glad I fired him on Apprentice!"

May 18, 2016: "I would speak to him, I would have no problem speaking to him."

June 15, 2016: "What the hell is wrong with speaking? ... I wouldn't go there, that I can tell you. If [Kim Jong-un] came here, I'd accept him. But I wouldn't give him a state dinner like we do for China and all these other people that rip us off." 

June 15, 2016: "Who the hell cares? I'll speak to anybody. ... There's a 10% or 20% chance I could talk him out of having his damn nukes, because who the hell wants him to have nukes?"

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard outside the North Korea Embassy in Beijing.
Source: Andy Wong/AP

China's Control over North Korea

Trump is tough on China on every issue, and North Korea is no exception. He has repeatedly stated his belief that China not only has leverage over North Korea, but also pulls the strings in Pyongyang. 

March 30, 2013: "North Korea is reliant on China. China could solve this problem easily if they wanted to but they have no respect for our leaders."

April 2, 2013: "China has control over North Korea!"

April 5, 2013: "North Korea can't survive, or even eat, without the help of China. China could solve this problem with one phone call-they love taunting us!"

April 6, 2013: "China is pushing North Korea!"

April 12, 2013: "China controls North Korea. So now besides cyber hacking us all day, they are using the Norks to taunt us. China is a major threat."

April 13, 2013: "China will extract much from Secretary Kerry and the U.S. in order for them to help us with the North Korea problem — don't let this happen!"

Jan. 6, 2016: "China has total control, believe me, they say they don't. They have total control over North Korea. And China should solve that problem. And if they don't solve the problem we should make trade very difficult for China.... So, North Korea is totally under the control, without China, they wouldn't eat."

Feb. 10, 2016: “I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly.... China has control — absolute control — over North Korea. They don’t say it, but they do. And they should make that problem disappear." 

March 26, 2016: This quote is just a small section of a long soliloquy on North Korea that covers everything from nuclear weapons to Trump's erroneous belief that Iran is North Korea's top trading partner: 

"China has great power over North Korea even though they don’t necessarily say that... China has great influence over North Korea but they don’t say they do because they’re tweaking us.... And I ask them about their relationship to North Korea, these are top people. And they say we have tremendous power over North Korea. I know they do. I think you know they do.  So much of their lifeblood comes through China, that’s the way it comes through.... They have tremendous power over North Korea, but China doesn’t say that.... And I can see them laughing in the room next door when they’re together. So China should be talking to North Korea. But China’s tweaking us. China’s toying with us."

Jan. 2, 2017: "China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea. Nice!"

U.S. soldiers wear gas masks during a competition to test individual skills at a US Army base in Uijeongbu.
Source: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Military as mafia enforcer

Perhaps the most shocking of Trump's foreign policy positions is his belief that the U.S. military is the enforcer for a mafia-style protection racket. This view predates Trump's campaign and goes back to at least 2013, when he questioned why South Korea doesn't pay the U.S. for protection. 

March 9, 2013: "How much is South Korea paying the U.S. for protection against North Korea???? NOTHING!"

March 30, 2013: "What do we get from our economic competitor South Korea for the tremendous cost of protecting them from North Korea? — NOTHING!"

April 2, 2013: "I ask again, how much is very wealthy South Korea paying the United States for protecting it against North Korea?"

Aug. 22, 2015: "I think South Korea's great. I think it’s wonderful. I just ordered 4,000 television sets for a job that I’m doing, right? And guess what? Between Samsung, and LG, and Sharp, they all come from South Korea. They're making a fortune. So, we send our troops, we’re getting ready to go in there and defend them. We get nothing. It’s like crazy. We get nothing. Why are we getting nothing? Why aren't they helping us, OK? We help them."

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Source: Uncredited/AP

North Korean aggression and American fecklessness

Trump does believe North Korea is a danger, but thought that the U.S. was being outplayed at every turn by all of our friends, enemies and frenemies. 

April 6, 2013: "Our President must be very careful with the 28-year-old wack job in North Korea. At some point we may have to get very tough — blatant threats."

Feb. 17, 2014: "Do you think John Kerry is aware of the fact that they are building nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea and Pakistan already has them!!"

Sept. 16, 2015: "And nobody ever mentions North Korea where you have this maniac sitting there and he actually has nuclear weapons and somebody better start thinking about North Korea."

Jan. 10, 2016: "[Kim Jong-un] goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss... It's incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. I mean this guy doesn't play games. And we can't play games with him."

July 21, 2016: "We’ve let North Korea get stronger and stronger and more nuclear and more nuclear.... North Korea now is almost like a boiler. You say we've had peace, but that part of Korea, North Korea, is getting more and more crazy. And more and more nuclear. And they are testing missiles all the time." 

Oct. 4, 2016: "CLINTON IS WEAK ON NORTH KOREA"

Jan. 2, 2017: "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!"

Trump may understand that North Korea presents a danger to our allies and to the United States, but there is no evidence that he has a coherent strategy for dealing with this danger. 

For now, all we can expect from Trump on North Korea is more tweets.