White House spokesman Jay Carney blamed the Bush administration today for why North Korea and its new leader, Kim Jong-un, were so out of hand.
He told a reporter aboard Air Force One as the presidential entourage headed for Florida that President Obama’s attempts to engage Pyongyang were “absolutely not” a failure.
“What this administration has done is broken the cycle of rewarding provocative actions by the North Koreans that we’ve seen in the past,” Carney said. “Under the previous administration, for instance, there was a substantial amount of assistance provided to North Korea. North Korea was removed from the terrorism list, even as they continued to engage in provocative actions. Under our administration we have not provided any assistance to North Korea.”
But the Obama administration refused to put North Korea back on the terror list in 2010, saying that the rogue state “does not meet the statutory criteria” for that designation.
After the north sank the South Korean ship Cheonan that spring, the White House resisted calls on the Hill to re-list North Korea.
“There is more than ample reason to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terror,” Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in May 2010. “…I urge you to take this step without delay or hesitation.”
Carney said that this White House has “put the most unprecedented sanctions in place against the North Koreans that we’ve seen to date.”
“Those sanctions target in part their proliferation activities, their ballistic missile capabilities,” he said. “And again, what we saw yesterday was a launch that did not meet its objective and that failed shortly after takeoff.”
Carney said the U.S. would begin discussions at the U.N. Security Council about what to do if North Korea “continues to go down the road of taking provocative actions.” That would include tightening sanctions and putting pressure on the regime, he added.
“And frankly, that’s not just a message they’re hearing from us, they’re hearing it from the Chinese and the Russians as well,” Carney said.