US President Barack Obama blasted Donald Trump on an international stage for comments the Republican frontrunner has made about nuclear proliferation.
Earlier this week, Trump said Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons to boost their ability in deterring regional rivals like North Korea.
“They [Trump’s comments] tell us that the person who made the statements doesn’t know much about foreign policy or nuclear policy or the Korean Peninsula or the world generally,” Obama said Friday during a news conference at the close of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, which gathered more than 50 world leaders to discuss ways to reduce the threat of a nuclear attack.
Obama questioned Trump’s fitness for office for suggesting that the US and its allies should abandon constraints on the use of nuclear weapons. “We don’t want somebody in the Oval Office who doesn’t recognize how important that is.”
In the past, Obama has not hesitated in censuring Trump’s divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail, but his criticism about the candidate’s stance on nuclear proliferation carried an extra edge because it involved an issue that Obama has made a central goal of his presidency.
“I said before that people pay attention to American elections. What we do is really important to the rest of the world. Even in those countries that are used to a carnival atmosphere in their own politics want sobriety and clarity when it comes to US elections,” he said.
Obama said world leaders and other participants at the nuclear summit have expressed concerns to him about Trump’s comments.
During a CNN town hall event on Tuesday, Trump suggested that allowing Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons would save the US the cost of defending its East Asian allies.
“You have so many countries already — China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia — you have so many countries right now that have them,” the billionaire businessman said. “Now, wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”
In an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Trump argued that if the US was not willing to use an atomic bomb, then “why are we making them?”
When asked whether he could assure the Middle East that the US would not use nuclear weapons in that region, Trump said, “I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.”
He was then asked the same question about Europe. “I’m not going to take it off the table for anybody,” Trump stressed.
Trump’s campaign has been marked by controversy from the beginning, with disparaging remarks about immigrants, Muslims and women.