President TrumpDonald John TrumpCynthia Nixon calls for Americans to ‘take to the streets’ if Trump fires Mueller Trump declines to implement new Russia sanctions Comey praises McCabe: He ‘stood tall’ while ‘small people’ tried to tear down the FBI MORE warned during his first State of the Union address that North Korea could soon be able to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon.
“No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” Trump said Tuesday. “North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from ever happening.”
Despite the warning, Trump took a more measured tone on North Korea than he has in the past, when he has warned of “fire and fury” like the world has never seen if Pyongyang continues to threaten the United States and its allies.
Instead, Trump highlighted the stories of two victims of North Korea in order to illuminate the “depraved character” of the regime.
First, Trump discussed American student Otto Warmbier, who died after he was returned home in a coma after being detained in North Korea for 17 months.
Trump spotlighted Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy, and siblings, Austin and Greta. The parents were in the Capitol audience and received two standing ovations as they wept at Trump’s telling of their son’s story.
“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength truly inspires us all,” Trump said. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with total American resolve.”
Trump also highlighted audience member Ji Seong-ho, who defected from North Korea to South Korea in 2006. Ji lost his left hand and foot after he passed out on train tracks from hunger. He was later tortured by the North Korean regime after he crossed the border into China to look for food.
“Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most — the truth,” Trump said. “Today he has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all.”
Ji then stood up, lifting up his crutches above his head as he choked up with emotion, to a standing ovation.
“Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom,” Trump added.
Even as Trump honored Warmbier and Ji, he took a veiled swiped at his predecessors for failing to stop North Korea’s progress on its nuclear program.
“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation,” Trump said. “I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this very dangerous position.”
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