US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at a private speech three years ago the Chinese military was “the biggest supporters of a provocative North Korea” and that Washington had vowed to Beijing it would “ring China with missile defence” if Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme was not stopped, according to hacked emails.
“So China, come on. You either control them or we’re going to have to defend against them,” the former secretary of state was quoted as saying when addressing a Goldman Sachs conference in June 2013.
The comments were included in hacked emails belonging to her campaign manager John Podesta. Their release last week comes amid a row between China and South Korea over the deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile system.
Beijing has strongly protested against Washington and Seoul’s decision to deploy the system in South Korea, prompting China and Russia to announce additional missile defence drills.
In an excerpt compilation of her paid speeches, Clinton said North Korean missiles could not only inflict damage on United States treaty allies, namely South Korea and Japan, but could also “theoretically” reach Hawaii and the US west coast.
But at another event, she said Pyongyang did not pose a direct, immediate threat to the US. In February 2013, North Korea conducted its third underground test.
“You know, we all have told the Chinese if they [North Korea] continue to develop this missile programme and they get an [intercontinental ballistic missile] that has the capacity to carry a small nuclear weapon on it, which is what they’re aiming to do, we cannot abide that,” she said. “[We’re] going to ring China with missile defence. We’re going to put more of our fleet in the area.”
Clinton said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration appeared to have taken a more dismissive stance towards its military’s support to Pyongyang.
“The biggest supporters of a provocative North Korea has been the PLA. The deep connections between the military leadership in China and in North Korea has really been the mainstay of the relationship,” Clinton said.
“So now all of a sudden new leadership with Xi and his team, and they’re saying to the North Koreans – and by extension to the PLA – no … you’re going to have to pull back from your provocative actions.”
North Korea carried out two additional nuclear tests in January and September this year, along with a series of missiles test firings, in defiance of United Nations sanctions, which are backed by Beijing, although it prefers to resolve the issue through talks.
The content of the speeches were contained in thousands of hacked emails belonging to Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, which were released by WikiLeaks last week. They have been neither confirmed nor denied by Clinton’s team.