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Richardson assails Trump on N. Korea, Iran

Former Gov. Bill Richardson in North Korea.

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s threat to “completely destroy” North Korea if it forces the U.S. to defend itself dominated media coverage of his United Nations speech Tuesday, but former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson told the Journal he was more concerned about Trump’s remarks on Iran.

Trump suggested he might withdraw the U.S. from a 2015 deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama to curb Iran’s nuclear program, calling it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions.” The agreement comes up for recertification in mid-October.

Richardson, a Democratic former governor of New Mexico, said the deal is working and scrapping it would be a mistake.

“If we withdraw from the agreement with Iran, then Iran will immediately build nuclear weapons and we’ll have North Korea with nuclear weapons and Iran with nuclear weapons … and it’s going to anger our European allies who negotiated this deal with us,” Richardson said.

Richardson also said Trump’s tough talk regarding North Korea is not helpful, especially because he doubts there is a coherent policy underpinning it. The former New Mexico congressman was in New York Tuesday to headline a panel on Iran with Jeb Bush, a former Republican presidential candidate and governor of Florida.

“The overheated rhetoric is not accompanied by diplomacy or a comprehensive plan,” Richardson said. “The solution here is not a pre-emptive military strike; it’s diplomacy and negotiation. As tough as it may seem, we need a strategy. Pre-emptive military strikes and bluster are not a good strategy.”

The former U.N. diplomat, who has negotiated with the North Korean regime many times, but not directly with Kim Jong Un, said the mercurial leader’s domestic stature is enhanced by Trump’s threats.

“It unifies the North Koreans against the U.S., and its boosts Kim Jong Un because they feel the U.S. is threatening North Korea and Kim Jong Un is protecting them,” Richardson said.

The former governor did offer favorable remarks about Trump’s conciliatory remarks about the U.N. in general, which the president has criticized in the past.

“On the positive side, I like the president’s tone toward the U.N.,” he said.