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The Peninsula

Republican Presidential Candidates Discuss Regime Change and North Korea in Houston Debate

Published February 26, 2016
Category: North Korea

In last night’s CNN-Telemundo Republican debate, the remaining candidates got the chance to comment on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and highlight their policy for the region.

Governor John Kasich first raised the issue of North Korea, saying “We said to the South Koreans that we would give them the high altitude defense system. It really rattled the Chinese, and for the first time since we took positive action, the Chinese are beginning to take action against North Korea.

When we stand firm and we let the world know who we’re with, who we stand for, and we bring our allies together, that is the road forward.”

Wolf Blitzer, the moderator for the debate, later returned to the topic, one which he also raised at town hall meeting VCU, asking Kasich to elaborate on his policy and allowing the other candidates to comment. Please see below the transcript of this exchange, edited for space.

—–

BLITZER: The threat posed by North Korea to the United States and its allies, the commander of American forces in South Korea said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would use a weapon of mass destruction if he thought his regime was being threatened. You have said the United States should start examining a strategy of regime change in North Korea. Let’s be clear. Are you talking about getting rid of Kim Jong-un?

KASICH: When you talk about regime change, Wolf, it means regime change. That’s what it means. Even though there’s so much chaos in North Korea right now, there’s a lot of reports of uncertainty, and instability in that government.

But, look, here’s what I think we ought to do — like, immediately. And, we’ve been kicking the can down the road on this for, I don’t know, 15 years. We should be intercepting the ships that are leaving North Korea so they’re not selling this material, or this technology, or giving it to someone else.

Secondly, the same goes with the aircraft.

Thirdly, we need to slap even tougher sanctions on North Korea because we really don’t have the toughest sanctions on North Korea. We ought to talk about arming South Korea with ballistic missile technology. And, of course, also Japan with ballistic missile technology. Because we’re now starting to take a firm position. We have the attention of the Chinese. The Chinese are the best way to calm that regime down and get them in a position of where they back off.

But, when I say regime change, I don’t have to talk exactly what that means. Look, I’ve been involved in national security for a long time. You don’t have to spell everything out, but what I’m telling you is you look for any means you can to be able to solve that problem in North Korea, and in the meantime put the pressure on the Chinese. And, what we’re doing is beginning to work against them.

They are the key to being able to settle this situation.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, Governor Kasich, this is critically important. There are a million North Korean troops north of the DMZ, a million South Korean troops, 28,000 U.S. troops along the DMZ, right in between. Would you risk war for a regime change?

KASICH: Wolf, again, it would depend exactly what, you know, what was happening. What the situation was. But, if there was an opportunity to remove the leader of North Korea and create stability? Because, I’ll tell you, you keep kicking the can down the road we’re going to face this sooner or later.

But, in the meantime, I’m also aware of the fact that there’s 10 million people living in Seoul. So, you don’t just run around making charges. I have put it on the table that I would leave to see regime change in North Korea.

Now, perhaps the Chinese can actually accomplish that with this man who is now currently the leader, but the fact is we have to bring everything to bear. We have to be firm, and we’ve got to unite those people in that part of the world to stand firmly against North Korea, and make sure we have the ballistic missile technology to defend ourselves.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: One thing I’d like to add to what the Governor’s saying, I think that we are now in a position — are $19 trillion dollars because of the horrible omnibus budget that was approved six weeks ago, it’s going to be $21 trillion dollars. We can no longer defend all of these countries, Japan, Germany, South Korea.

You order televisions, you order almost anything, you’re getting it from these countries. Whether it’s a Mercedes-Benz, or whether it’s an air conditioning unit. They’re coming out of these countries. They are making a fortune. Saudi Arabia, we are defending Saudi Arabia. Before the oil went down, now they’re making less, but they’re making plenty. They were making $1 billion dollars a day.

We defend all of these countries for peanuts. You talk about budgets. We have to start getting reimbursed for taking care of the military services for all of these countries.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson.

KASICH: Hey, Wolf, let me just say this because he mentioned this. Look, we’re all in agreement that the Japanese need to do more. We’re all in agreement that the Europeans need to do more, but I hate to just tell everybody we are the leader of the world and we should put the pressure on them to do their job. There is no question about it.

But, at the same time, we also have to rebuild the military. Look, I have a balanced budget plan that cuts taxes, reforms regulations, but also builds the military, puts a $100 billion dollars more in defense. We need to rebuild our defenses,

But, I must also tell you, a long time reformer of the Pentagon, we must reform that building.

We can’t have a weapon system take 22 and a half years. We have 800,000 bureaucrats working for DOD, performing bureaucratic functions when we ought to be putting these resources into strengthening the military. So, we can do it all…

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, how would you deal with North Korea?

CARSON: ….And now, as far as North Korea is concerned, you know, Kim Jung-un is an unstable person, but he does understand strength. And I think we have to present strength to him. We should be encouraging the alliance with Japan and South Korea. We should be encouraging the placement of the THAAD, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, that seems to disturb not only the North Koreans but the Chinese as well.

And we also need to have a much more robust naval presence in that area, and I think we need to be developing strategic defense initiative because this man is going to have long-range missiles, he is going to have nuclear capabilities. We need to be able to defend ourselves. And lastly, we should make sure that he knows that if he ever shoots a missile at us, it will be the last thing he ever does.

Photo from David Stanley’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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