Former Congressman John Tierney (D-Mass.) said President Donald Trump should demonstrate the deal-making skills he touted during the presidential campaign, by following through on his past comments related to engaging North Korea.
“He’s been bragging like crazy about what a tough guy he is, so stand up to it – take a little criticism. Do something bold. He was the guy that was going to have a hamburger with Kim Jong-un, right? So you think you are that bold? Go do it. There’s no difference here,” said Tierney, executive director of the Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, in an exclusive interview. “The optics on that are terrible, politically, both ways. If you claim you are the tough guy that can get it done – now is your chance.”
In June of 2016, Trump said he would “absolutely” be open to speaking with Kim Jong-un.
“We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table and we should make better deals with China and others and forget the state dinners,” he said at the time.
Tierney pointed out that a lot has to happen before the two could sit down face-to-face for a formal meeting.
“I think there’s a lot of preliminary work that has to be done on other levels before you even get to that point,” he said.
Tierney said the Trump administration had a “very good opportunity” to begin negotiations with North Korea and should not have denied a visa for Choe Son Hui, the top envoy from Pyongyang, to engage in track two discussions with U.S. officials over the country’s nuclear program.
“He yanked the visas. He didn’t say anything, so I guess people are speculating it was because of the assassination of the step brother and because of the missile test of last month,” Tierney said. “These New York potential meetings would have been one start.”
Given North Korea’s ballistic missile tests, Tierney was asked if Trump should follow through on his campaign pledge to get tougher on China to do more to address the situation.
“North Korea is a very, very difficult situation, so I think it would be wrong to say if the president doesn’t get something done there, they’re just no good. It’s been tough on every administration for many, many administrations. That said, clearly, what we’ve tried so far through a number of administrations hasn’t had the effect that we wanted it to have,” he said.
“Now China has sort of upped the ante a little bit by saying they won’t import coal anymore from North Korea, which takes off a major source for them, so it’s more of a compliance that we had had with China in terms of the sanctions,” he added.
Tierney continued, “Now, it is incumbent to say what is this president going to do? Well, when we were campaigning, this president said he was going to engage North Korea. It sounds like something he ought to try. Again, his big boast that he can try to deal with anybody and he’s going to have a hamburger with the North Korean leader.”
Tierney told Political Storm that the U.S. government must do a better job of working with other countries to tighten “the screws” and make sure the sanctions against North Korea are effective.
“China has stepped up a little bit more now, in its latest order on that, so the question is ‘Are you going to just keep trying to do only sanctions, which haven’t proved effective or are you going to use sanctions and engage and see if that takes you anywhere?’ I don’t think anyone can guarantee its going to take you anywhere, because we’re dealing with a real peculiar character there, but it certainly would seem to be worth the effort and if this president has the skills to negotiate that he pretends to have, it’s certainly worth the effort to see if you can use sanctions and engagement to see if you can come to a resolution.”
He compared the North Korea situation to Russia. Tierney said some individuals, like former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, would likely argue that the United States should not engage Russia on nuclear non-proliferation issues, due to their actions in Ukraine and other areas.
“The hawks have not been right in my lifetime and why they keep getting asked a question and asked for their opinion is just, I think, so people that are commenting can do one hand and on other hand arguments, but they ought to say these people have been consistently wrong over and over again,” he said.
Tierney said the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “second to none” and “on par” with Russia. According to his organization, Russia and the United States own 93 percent of all the nuclear weapons in the world. Tierney wants to see the U.S. and Russia work together to “reduce the number” of the nuclear weapons.
“We ought to be talking about working with Russia and the rest of the nuclear countries in the world to start reducing that and living up to our nonproliferation treaty obligations,” he said. “This notion that if Russia has one missile you have to have 2, if Russia has 10 we have to have 20, doesn’t make any sense. Deterrence means you have to have just how much you think you need in order to give somebody else pause and not start a nuclear war with you.”
Tierney said he is “absolutely” concerned that the Cold War-era could resurface.
“When you listen to Donald Trump say we need to have more bigger and better and you listen to Putin who’s out there starting to ramp up, even China are starting to wonder whether they should increase their nuclear capacity because they are watching the other two powers talking about ramping theirs up – this talk of aggression; the rhetoric is heating up,” he said.
“We’ve somehow got to get the public to understand that just because the Cold War is over doesn’t mean the nuclear powers have gotten to be smarter – it doesn’t mean Putin and Trump and others aren’t going to start huffing and puffing and trying to out-testosterone each other and lead to what could potentially be an arms race as opposed to a continuation of nonproliferation and arms control,” he added.
Nicholas Ballasy is a political correspondent and analyst based in Washington, D.C. known for conducting on-camera interviews with an array of national political figures and celebrity activists about the most pressing issues facing the country. His work has been cited by CNN, Fox News, The Drudge Report, NBC News, MSNBC, ABC News, Access Hollywood, Inside Edition, the Washington Post and others.