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Hillary mocks Trump for embracing Obama’s 2007 North Korea stance

·Chief Washington Correspondent
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Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign mocked Donald Trump on Wednesday for saying he would be open to holding direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It’s a position she also derided when it was held by none other than Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential primary campaign, though he dropped it a few months into his first term.

Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, tweeted a news story about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s comments along with a photograph of former NBA star and apparent Kim Jong Un fan Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, captioned “Future Secretary of State?”

And a Clinton campaign press release used the tinsel-haired mogul’s words to argue that his foreign policy would be “unpredictable and dangerous.”

Trump touched off the debate over North Korea policy on Tuesday in an interview with Reuters, saying he was open to speaking to Kim and that he would “put a lot of pressure on China” to use its considerable leverage to rein in the Stalinist nation’s nuclear weapons program.

“I would speak to him. I would have no problem speaking to him,” Trump said of Kim.

While the Obama Administration has put pressure on China to help defuse increasingly worrisome tensions with North Korea, direct leader-to-leader talks with Kim would be a major shift from current U.S. policy.

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“Our position has always been that we have to see that they [North Korea] are serious about denuclearization,” a senior Obama aide told Yahoo News. “They have not given that indication, so we’ve been focused on upping the pressure and ensuring we are pursuing appropriate steps like missile defense.”

Trump declined to offer details of his North Korea policy, according to Reuters. And his campaign did not immediately respond to an email request for more information. But by envisioning direct, leader-to-leader talks without apparent preconditions, he was following the model set by another high-profile presidential candidate: Obama.

At a July 2007 Democratic debate in Charleston, S.C., the future president was asked “Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?”

Obama’s response? “I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”

In the same forum, Clinton said she would not, stressing: “I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse.”

Later, she toughened her stance, calling Obama’s position “irresponsible and frankly naïve.”

In February 2007, Clinton had seemingly signaled greater openness to this kind of diplomacy in the context of calling for an international conference to stabilize the Middle East.

“You don’t refuse to talk to bad people. I think life is filled with uncomfortable situations where you have to deal with people you might not like,” she said. “I’m sort of an expert on that. I have consistently urged the president to talk to Iran and talk to Syria. I think it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.”

Obama dropped the idea of direct leader-to-leader talks with North Korea in early 2009 after that country again tested missiles and nuclear weapons. His policy shifted to what Clinton, as his secretary of state, described as “strategic patience in close coordination” with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Top administration officials later held talks with North Korean counterparts, but the notion that Obama himself would communicate directly with Kim or his late father, Kim Jong Il, never again got serious contemplation in public. Instead, the United States led the charge for increasingly tough economic sanctions on North Korea.

As secretary of state, Clinton supported Obama’s historic diplomatic outreach to Iran, including direct communications between the president and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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