Fact Check: Joe Biden Falsely Claims Trump Softened North Korea Sanctions

DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 14: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the …
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Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that President Donald Trump “weakened the sanctions” on North Korea during Tuesday night’s Democrat debate, an allegation contradicted by the fact that North Korea is currently under unprecedented sanctions and the Trump administration has refused to soften them.

Early in the debate, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register, Biden responded in the negative when asked if he would meet with communist dictator Kim Jong-un without preconditions. He then proceeded to claim that Trump gave Kim “legitimacy” by meeting with him twice, in 2018 and 2019, and that Trump had loosened sanctions on the country.

“We gave them everything he [Kim Jong-un] is looking for: legitimacy. The president showed up, met with him, gave him legitimacy, weakened the sanctions we have against him,” Biden claimed.

In contrast, Biden said he would “be putting what I did as vice president — I met with [Chinese dictator] Xi Jinping more than anyone else — I would be putting pressure on China to put pressure on [North] Korea, to cease and desist from their nuclear power, make their efforts [sic] to deal with nuclear weapons.”

“I would move forward as we did before — and you reported it extensively, Wolf [Blitzer] — about moving forward the whole notion of defense against nuclear weapons,” Biden added, without elaborating on what the “notion of defense against nuclear weapons” entails. “That we would, and when China said to me, when Xi Jinping said to me, ‘That’s a threat to us,’ I said, ‘We’re going to move and protect our interests unless you get involved and protect it.’”

Biden concluded by emphasizing that he would not meet with “the ‘supreme leader,’ who said, ‘Joe Biden is a rabid dog; he should be beaten to death with a stick.’”

“Other than that, you like him?” Sen. Bernie Sander (I-VT) jokingly asked.

The claim that Trump “weakened the sanctions we have against” North Korea is false. The Trump administration has not weakened sanctions and imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang as recently as Tuesday. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Korea Namgang Trading Corporation, a North Korean company that generates funds for the regime overseas, and Beijing Sukbakso, a Chinese company that helps process the profits, on the same day Biden claimed the administration was weakening sanctions.

The new sanctions join those that the Trump administration convinced the United Nations Security Council to impose on the country in 2017, following its most recent nuclear weapon test. The administration convinced North Korea’s closest allies, Russia and China, not to use their veto powers to prevent unprecedentedly strict sanctions on the regime.

Reuters reported in December that Russia and China had attempted to pressure Trump to ease the sanctions, but failed.

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