Intelligence reports suggested that the North Koreans had even developed two nuclear weapons during his administration.
As reports emerge that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear weapon for delivery on a long-range ICBM, it’s worth looking back at President Bill Clinton’s promise to stop Pyongyang from developing the weapons and his failure to do so.
In 1994, Clinton crafted a deal with North Korean leadership, which he formally announced at a press conference in June. At the time he bragged that diplomatic talks would continue while the North Koreans froze their nuclear program:
North Korea has assured us that while we go forward with these talks, it will not reload its 5-megawatt reactor with new fuel or reprocess spent fuel. We have also been assured that the IAEA will be allowed to keep its inspectors and monitoring equipment in place at the Yongbyon nuclear facility thus allowing verification of North Korea’s agreement.
He touted the official inauguration of the deal in the October 1994 statement above, calling it “a good deal for America.”
“The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons,” Clinton promised, following the deal.
Inside the deal, South Korea paid for and provided electricity to North Korea, while in reality, the Kim regime continued its nuclear program.
But at a town hall meeting in April 1994, Clinton faced tough questions on his administration’s ability to stop the North Korean nuclear program.
“North Korea has said they want a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. North Korea has said they want to get along with South Korea,” Clinton told the gathered crowd, seemingly believing that Pyongyang was acting in good faith. Both of these points have fallen apart with time, as Kim Jong-Un’s recent nuclear missile development efforts and the North Korean leader’s goal of peninsula reunification show.
Clinton went on, however, to claim that he would act to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. “I’m not going to threaten something that we’re not prepared to do. I think what we should do is say less and do more in international politics,” he said.
Local reporter Kim Hindrew called the president out at that point.
“Several months ago, November of last year, you said, ‘We will not allow North Korea to build a nuclear weapon.’ We now believe that there are at least two nuclear weapons and possibly a third,” she told Clinton.
Clinton assured Hindrew that Pyongyang’s weapons were not “deliverable,” a fact that undercut his previous claims and one that changed drastically yesterday as reports emerged that North Korea had miniaturized a nuclear warhead for ICBM delivery.
The president then touted how economic sanctions could convince North Korea to give up its march to nuclear capabilities.
In response, Hindrew pointed out that given the fact that North Korea was already suffering economically and has been relatively isolated, economic sanctions wouldn’t affect the reclusive nation as much as others.
Clinton said that economic sanctions “may or may not” help the situation.
Economic sanctions in recent decades have been unable to halt the North Korean nuclear and missile programs.
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