U.S. Presidential Candidates on North Korea’s Missile Test
Published February 7, 2016
Shortly before the 8th Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire North Korea conducted its second successful satellite launch. North Korea was also topic of discussion at the 5th Democratic presidential debate a few days earlier. Here is what the candidates had to say about the satellite launch in the Republican debate and more generally about North Korea in the Democratic debate.
- This relates to the strategic patience of the Obama administration. They come up with these great marketing terms, and what they do is they pull back, and voids are filled, and they’re now filled by asymmetric threats of terror, as well as nation-states on the run.
- The next president of the United States is gonna have to get the United States back in the game, and if a preemptive strike is necessary to keep us safe, then we should do it.
- Well, first of all, it’s interesting that that happened literally days when this hostage release took place in Iran. A day or two days afterwards, North Korea took a — held an American student hostage. I think it’s when we send a signal of weakness, when we are negotiating to release people that committed crimes in our country for people that didn’t commit crimes that are held hostage in Iran.
- We saw the shameful treatment of our sailors, that this creates weakness — sends a signal of weakness around the world. The next president of the United States is going to have to get back in the game. Where the United States’ word matters. Where we back up our allies, where we don’t send signals of weakness. We need to use every — every influence possible to get this student back.
- And I think John is right about this, there are crippling sanctions that are available, as it relates to the two or three banks that North Korea uses to — to — use it — illicit trade. We ought to re-establish sanctions, not just because of the student, but because of their actions that they’re taking right now, as it relates to building this missile capability.
- Let’s make something very clear. I learned seven years as a federal prosecutor in dealing with types of situations like we’re talking about in North Korea, where criminals take people hostage. You never pay ransom to the criminals. Ever. You never pay ransom to the criminals. Everyone out at home watching tonight understands that principle.
- And so, what you need to do is to engage in a much different way with these folks. They do not understand anything but toughness and strength, and we need to engage the Chinese to deal with the North Koreans, but we also need to make sure that they understand there’s a commander-in-chief who will not pay ransom for any hostage.
- This president and his former secretary of State are for paying ransom for hostages. When [you] do that, you endanger even more Americans around the world to be the subject of this type of hostage taking and illegal detention. You need a strong commander-in-chief who will look these folks in the eye and say, we will not put up with this and we will take whatever actions we need to take, not only to get our people home safely, but to swiftly and surely punish those who believe they can violate the law and violate American’s sovereign rights to travel the world freely and safely.
- Well, I would note, initially the fact that we’re seeing the launch, and we’re seeing the launch from a nuclear North Korea is the direct result of the failures of the first Clinton administration. The Clinton administration led the world in relaxing sanctions against North Korea. Billions of dollars flowed into North Korea in exchange for promises not to build nuclear weapons. They took those billions and built nuclear weapons.
- And, I would note also the lead negotiator in that failed North Korea sanctions deal was a woman named Wendy Sherman who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promptly recruited to come back to be the lead negotiator with Iran. So, what we are seeing with North Korea is foreshadowing of where we will be with Iran.
- With respect to North Korea and what we should do now, one of the first things we should do is expand our missile defense capacity. We ought to put missile defense interceptors in South Korea. South Korea wants them. One of the real risks of this launch, North Korea wants to launch a satellite, and one of the greatest risks of the satellite is they would place a nuclear device in the satellite. As it would orbit around the Earth, and as it got over the United States they would detonate that nuclear weapon and set of what’s called an EMP, and electromagnetic pulse which could take down the entire electrical grid on the Eastern seaboard, potentially killing millions.
- We need to harden the grid to defend ourselves, and we need missile defense to protect ourselves against North Korea.
- I haven’t gotten the intelligence briefing tonight on what North Korea’s doing because I’m here in New Hampshire. When you’re responding to an immediate incident, you need to know the intelligence of what’s occurring.
- But what I was saying — look, it is qualitatively different dealing with a country once they have nuclear weapons. It’s why you prevent them from getting nuclear weapons in the first place — because your hands are somewhat tied once they have nukes.
- Well, we’ve got to step up the pressure. …Look, in terms of North Korea, Martha, we have to make sure that we intercept both the ships and their aircraft, because what they’re trying to do is to proliferate this very dangerous material, along with the — with the technology, the instruments that can be used for mass destruction.That’s what I worry about the most, frankly, is non-state actors, people who don’t have a uniform, people don’t have a country, who can spread this, who are not subject to the — to the mutual assured defense. In other words, you strike us, we strike you. Some of these radicals, they don’t care about that. That’s what I worry about, for my children, and for their children, going forward. So, we have to be very tough.
- And we should tell the Chinese, look, if you’re not going to do this ballistic missile defense to the Koreans, ballistic missile defense to Japan — and by the way, we should impose the same kind of sanctions on North Korea that we imposed on Iran, because they’re able to shift money. They’re able to send money and receive money.
- We’ve gotta to be very tough on this. And frankly, I think we could have — I think we could have let the Japanese know that if you want to take action on that — on that missile that’s rising, you want to take action — you will have our support, if that’s what you think is the best thing to do. We cannot continue to be weak in the face of the North Koreans, or, frankly, in the entire rest of the world.
- …it is standard procedure of the United States to shoot down those missiles once launched if they pose a threat to civilians, land and ships.…I think it’s important to note that it is — and Senator Cruz, I think, was alluding to this, as well — it is the standard procedure of the United States, if those missiles pose a threat to land, civilians, our allies or any of our assets, to shoot down that missile in mid-flight.
- I understand your question was about a preemptive strike, but my point is that there is in place now contingencies to avoid any sort of that strike from going errant and destroying any — any assets of the United States, or implicating or hurting any of our allies or any of our assets in the region.
- This is a president that views this country as a country that’s been too powerful in the world and we create problems around the world.
- For example, it’s one of the reasons why he had betrayed Israel, because he believes that if we create separation from Israel, it will help our relations in the Islamic world. The same is happening in the Asia-Pacific region with accommodations to North Korea. North Korean should be back on that list of terrorist nations, as an example.
- And Donald’s absolutely right. China does have a lot of influence over North Korea and he should be leveraging our relationship with the Chinese to ensure that North Korea no longer has access to the resources that have allowed them — a country that has no economy to develop long range missiles already capable of reaching the west coast of the United States potentially.
- China says they don’t have that good of control over North Korea. They have tremendous control. I deal with the Chinese all of the time. I do tremendous — the largest bank in the world is in one of my buildings in Manhattan. I deal with them. They tell me. They have total, absolute control, practically, of North Korea. They are sucking trillions of dollars out of our country — they’re rebuilding China with the money they take out of our country. I would get on with China, let China solve that problem. They can do it quickly and surgically. That’s what we should do with North Korea.
- We do have to worry about North Korea. They continue to develop their nuclear weapons capability, and they’re working very hard on their ballistic missile capability. And, I know that some of those plans could very well lead to a missile that might reach Hawaii, if not the West Coast. We do have to try to get the countries in the region to work with us to do everything we can to confine, and constrain them.
- Clearly North Korea is a very strange situation because it is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid. And, who had nuclear weapons. And, our goal there, in my view, is to work and lean strongly on China to put as much pressure. China is one of the few major countries in the world that has significant support for North Korea, and I think we got to do everything we can to put pressure on China. I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs. I think, clearly, we got to work closely with China to resolve the serious problems we have, and I worry about Putin and his military adventurism in the Crimea and the Ukraine.
- North Korea is a very, very strange country because it is so isolated, and I do feel that a nation with nuclear weapons, they have got to be dealt with. Dealt with effectively.
The views expressed here are the candidates’ alone.
Photo from Gage Skidmore’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.