January 6, 2016

FACT CHECK: Clinton Clouds Her Weak Record On North Korea

Today, Hillary Clinton released a statement in response to North Korea’s reported test of a nuclear weapon.

CLAIM: Clinton Said The U.S. Should “Send Pyongyang [North Korea] An Unmistakable Message That Its Nuclear Brinkmanship Won’t Succeed”

FACTS: In March 2012, Clinton praised North Korea’s announcement that the country would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for food aid from the U.S. When North Korea announced a failed missile test the following month, the administration was forced to cancel its planned food aid delivery.

Additionally, in January 2013, after the U.N. announced new sanctions against North Korea, Clinton said she “had long conversations” with Pacific powers about the “significant action” they would take if North Korea conducted a third nuclear test. Clinton further added, “we still hope there is still a way to convince the North Korean regime not to pursue this path.” Despite Clinton’s “threats” and hopes, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test anyway.

CLAIM: Clinton Said She Worked On Sanctions Against North Korea That Were “The Strongest Sanctions Yet”

FACTS: In her own book, Hard Choices, Clinton acknowledged she made concessions on the sanctions:

We had to make some concessions to get Chinese and Russian backing, but this was still the toughest measure ever imposed on North Korea, and I was pleased we were finally able to muster a unified international response.

Various media outlets and experts criticized the sanctions as weak and “symbolic.”

CLAIM: Clinton Pressed China To “Be More Assertive In Deterring The North’s Irresponsible Actions”

FACTS: Clinton has repeatedly challenged the notion that the U.S. can be tough on China because “how do you get tough on your banker?”

People around upstate New York are always asking me, ‘Senator why can’t we get tough on China?’ I say, well, every month we have to borrow $60 billion, to feed the interest on our debt and deficit. Who do we borrow from? China, Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia. So how do you get tough on your banker?

CLAIM: Clinton Said “We need a Commander-in-Chief with the experience and judgement to deal with North Korea on Day One”

FACTS: During her January 2009 confirmation hearing, Clinton promised a “very aggressive effort” to “end the North Korean nuclear program.” In May 2009, only a few months later, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. The test was condemned by countries around the world, including Russia and China.

CLAIM: Clinton Touted Her Asia Pivot Saying That She “Championed The United States’ Pivot To The Asia Pacific”

FACTS: The Asia Pivot never really gained steam. A 2014 report by the Democrat-led Senate Foreign Relations committee noted that administration had “not substantially increased diplomatic engagement resources to its Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.” The Congressional Research Service called the Pivot “more of a change in means… than a change in policy goals.”

Further, in October 2015, Clinton came out against the Trans Pacific Partnership, which was considered a “centerpiece” of the Asia Pivot.