Republican Debate: North Korean Cameo

December 18, 2015 7:00 AM

The CNN moderators of Tuesday night’s Republican debate were clearly complicit in keeping the foreign policy discussion focused almost exclusively on ISIS and the revived “war on terror,” including immigration and domestic surveillance. The debate also included a quite substantive discussion on the merits of regime change (Paul, Cruz and Trump skeptical, Kasich and Rubio more in the neoliberal camp).

But North Korea did make a cameo appearance, and with the most stale of all possible introductions from Wolf Blitzer: that Kim Jong Un is an unstable maniac (On the Issues keeps a running tally of candidates’ positions on the issue, and several have indeed used “maniac” or “lunatic” to describe KJU). Ms. Fiorina used the question to outline her strategy with respect to China, including references to retaliation in the cyber sphere and a tougher stance on the South China Sea. But while criticizing both Democratic and Republican predecessors, she argued that if we put together a more robust strategy to contain China—her word—it would make Beijing more cooperative with respect to North Korea.

Dr. Carson agreed with the premise of the question and then suggested we should use our economic clout vis-à-vis North Korea given their humanitarian problems. Whether this meant more engagement or more sanctions was unclear, and he quickly pivoted to other issues.

The full transcript can be found here.


Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson on North Korea

CNN-Facebook Republican Debate, December 15 2015

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN-Facebook Republican Presidential Debate. We're here at the Venetian Las Vegas. Tonight we have been focusing on the Middle East, but let's turn to some other world threats that you will potentially face as Commander in Chief.

Ms. Fiorina, candidates here have called the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a maniac who is mentally unstable. Last week he said he now has a hydrogen bomb. If you were elected president, what would you do about Kim Jong-Un?

FIORINA: Well, first, Kim Jong-Un is a dangerous leader, without a doubt. And both Republican and Democrat administrations have been completely ineffective in dealing with him. So we must continue to isolate him. We will need China as part of that strategy.

China is a rising adversary. So one of the things we have to do if we want China's support is to push back on China. They, too, recognize one thing -- strength and their own economic interest.

I have done business in China for 25 years, so I know that in order to get China to cooperate with us, we must first actually retaliate against their cyber-attacks so they know we're serious. We have to push back on their desire to control the trade route through the South China Sea through which flows $5 trillion worth of goods and services every year.

We cannot let them control the disputed islands, and we must work with the Australians, the South Koreans, the Japanese and the Filipinos to contain China. And then we must ask for their support and their help with North Korea. Because believe it or not, China is as concerned about Kim Jong-Un as we are.

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, what would you do about Kim Jong-Un?

CARSON: Well, I definitely believe that he is unstable, and I do, in fact, believe that China has a lot more influence with him than we do. But we also recognize that North Korea is in severe financial straits, and they have decided to use their resources to build their military, rather than to feed their people and to take care of the various humanitarian responsibilities that they have.

We can capitalize upon that. You know, we should use our economic power in lots of different ways. I think we can use that in order to keep Putin contained, because he is a one-horse show. Energy. And we have an abundance of energy, but we have archaic energy exportation rules. We need to get rid of those, allow ourselves to really make Europe dependent on us and other parts of the world dependent on us for energy. Put him back in his little box where he belongs.

And, you know, we need to be doing lots of other things with the resources that we have. So economic power works just as well as military power, perhaps even better. And speaking of that, our Military needs to be upgraded. You know, you look at things like our Ohio Class submarines, they're 25 years old. Our minuteman 3 missiles -- they are 34 years old. Our B-52 bombers -- 50 years old. You know, if we don't get the military right nothing else matters.

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Stephan Haggard Senior Research Staff