During the course of his presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump has courted controversy on numerous occasions because of controversial remarks that he’s made. Among his most dramatic comments was one in which Trump appeared to indicate that steps should be taken to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump made the comments the morning after winning the New Hampshire primary on February 9. Appearing on CBS This Morning, the billionaire businessman was hypothetically asked about a situation in which he would have to make a decision about killing Un. The question was connected to North Korea having recently tested a long-range missile, which the country claimed was only to launch a satellite.
Starting off his response by saying that an assassination wouldn’t be a terrible idea, Trump then offered a defense of this possible plan by noting Un’s past history. The North Korean dictator had taken control of the country immediately after the death of his equally-repressive father, much like the elder had done years many years before.
Trump then elaborated on his statement by noting how such a transfer of power was able to take place in the face of potential competition from North Korean military officers and politicians. His belief was that Un should never be underestimated.
The proximity of North Korea to China was something that Trump believed could allow the United States to avoid having to become involved in any assassination attempt. The businessman stated that because China effectively controls their Asian neighbor, they possess the ability to “make him disappear,” in his words.
The irony of Trump’s comments were noted by many media outlets because of his past statements about such things as China manipulating currency and stealing jobs from the United States. The belief that they would be willing to perform such an action as a favor to what would be a Trump presidency is something that few of those outlets believe is possible.
Due to American law, the United States would be unable to legally assassinate a foreign leader. That law was signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, with an Executive Order issued two years later by Ford’s successor, Jimmy Carter. That Order broadens the scope of the law by also banning any conspiracy in planning such an act.
The reason that original law was drawn up was in response to a mid-1970’s investigation of the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Those results found that the CIA had either directly killed foreign leaders or covertly played a role in allowing the murders to take place.
Whether or not Trump was aware of the existence of this law is open to debate, given some of his past statements about dealing with volatile parts of the world. For example, in dealing with terrorist groups like ISIS, Trump had advocated that one plan of attack should be to kill the family members of any terrorist.
The problem with that statement is that it could conceivably be judged to be a war crime by the Geneva Convention treaties. Those treaties deal with the treatment of prisoners of war or other individuals not engaged in combat.
Another previous controversial remark by Trump within this same vein dealt with the banned practice of waterboarding. This simulates drowning for captured soldiers in order to elicit pertinent information from them. The administration of George W. Bush had previously engaged in this activity, with Trump stating that he would go beyond that strategy. Trump’s son, Eric, had dismissed concerns of any illegality by comparing the practice to hazing from a fraternity.