Presidential Debate 2020: Biden slams Trump on N Korea ties, but US has always befriended dictators

Presidential Debate 2020: Biden slams Trump on N Korea ties, but US has always befriended dictators
(Getty Images)

President Donald Trump locked horns with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in their third and final debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday, October 22. Though the event started on a more gentle note compared to what it was in the first debate held last month (the second was canceled), the two candidates were seen stepping up their attacks on each other as time progressed. 

One of the topics over which the two leaders debated was foreign policy and among the countries that came up for discussion was North Korea. Trump touted what he called a “very good relationship” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and insisted there was no war situation. 


A handout photo provided by Dong-A Ilbo of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the South and North Korea on June 30, 2019 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Getty Images)

“I have a very good relationship with him. Different kind of a guy, but he probably thinks the same thing about me. We have a different kind of a relationship. We have a very good relationship. And there's no war,” he said.

Trump, who had once taken a very stern stand on Kim over the latter’s military ambitions, toned down his approach towards the dictator and met him on multiple occasions in various venues in Asia, including in North Korea last year. However, none of those meetings have produced much visible outcomes on the ground. 

Biden, however, was critical of the president and accused him of legitimizing the pariah nation, which has remained suspicious over its human rights records and nuclear plans. Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions have created much tension in the Far East with neighbors like South Korea and Japan expressing their concerns. Even its closest ally -- China -- has not been happy with its armament program.

“He's talked about his good buddy who's a thug, a thug, and he talks about how we're better off. And they have much more capable missiles, able to reach US territory much more easily than they ever did before,” the former vice president said, besides slamming Trump’s good relation with leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Biden said at the debate that he would only do a meeting with Kim “on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity”. “The Korean peninsula should be a nuclear-free zone,” he added. Biden also alleged that the president was busy, on the other hand, hurting America’s relations with its allies.

Trump nullified Biden’s attack saying having a good relationship with leaders of other countries is not a bad thing. Biden then responded to Trump saying: “That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe, the rest of Europe. Come on.”


US has always been friendly towards non-democracies, dictators

Though Biden targeted Trump over keeping a good relationship with strong men, it has been seen historically that American leadership has acted lenient towards dictators and non-democratic regimes across the globe, just like it has befriended democracies. A number of non-democratic countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia which has a dubious human rights record, have been America’s friends and for Washington, nothing has mattered more than serving its own political interests. Even after dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 and Riyadh came under a backlash, the Trump administration was accused of not doing much.

In the past, there have been instances where the US was found backing dictators in its vicinity. For instance, it supported Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s revolution. In Chile, too, the US backed the rise of dictator Augusto Pinochet who toppled the regime of Marxist leader Salvador Allende in the 1970s. The US also bettered its relationship with authoritarian China in the 1970s and maintained robust ties with a not-so-democratic Pakistan and built an axis to keep the former USSR and its friendly state India in check. These were the times when the Cold War was at its height but yet, being a leader of the free world, the US did not stop pursuing its political interests by ideologically compromising with non-democratic leaders.


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