Sen. Marco Rubio: Kim Jong Un Has "Emotional Attachment" To His Nuclear Weapons


Sen. Marco Rubio joins ABC's 'This Week' to discuss negotiations with China and North Korea. Full transcript:

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Good morning, Martha.

ABC, MARTHA RADDATZ: You said you 100 percent support President Trump’s decision to pull out of the North Korean summit then the surprise meeting, the leaders of North and South Korea this weekend and the president has now expressed optimism the June 12 meeting in Singapore could still happen. Do you think that’s a good idea?

RUBIO: Well, it all -- it depends on exactly what it is that we should expect at the back end. I think the first thing we all have to do is stop pretending that we’re dealing with the Soviet Union, the old Soviet Union or that we’re negotiating with Italy or France. This is a very erratic regime that’s very -- that’s to say, you know, paranoid about the rest of the world, distrustful of the rest of the world.

They’ve never dealt with outsiders, they don’t have an established diplomatic core. They’ve never done that on their end. They have no history of it. And number two, we have a leader in Kim Jong-un who has -- has almost an emotional attachment and a personal psychological attachment to these nuclear weapons. They make him feel prestigious, they make him feel powerful.

And they have, quite frankly, been what his regime has been known for since he took over seven years ago. The third is -- and -- and the most important of all of it is can he really get rid of them. Because this is a man who has to figure out how to survive in power for 50-something years as a dictator and is probably afraid that if he gets rid of these weapons at some point, someone’s going to take him out.

And so that’s why I think you’re seeing this back and forth. From our perspective, you know, the North Koreans ghosted us here for about two weeks after all this happened. We didn’t hear from them, there was no talk. You can’t walk into the summit where their -- their advance team didn’t even show up. They keep doing that stuff, you’re really wasting your time and more importantly, perhaps elevating them in a way that makes this situation even more dangerous.

RADDATZ: And you -- you tweeted something on Friday that was interesting along those lines. Kim Jong-un stays in power through force and deception and believes nukes give him prestige and reduced chances of U.S. attack. He never wanted a nuke deal, he wanted as much sanctions relief as possible without giving them up. Unfortunately the options on dealing with him are narrowing. What do you mean by that, that the options are narrowing?

RUBIO: Well, if you don’t think you’re ever going to be able to reach a deal where he gives up his missiles and gives up his nukes, then you’re going to have to make a decision, which is where we’ve been the whole time. And that is are you prepared to live in a world where someone like him possesses not just nuclear weapons but the ability to hit the mainland of the United States.

And if you’re not, then you’re going to have to do something to go after them at some point. And I’m not in favor of that, it’s not something that I relish or take lightly. I’m just telling you that could very well be the option we wind up with at the end. Because ultimately, I remain convinced that he does not want to denuclearize, in fact he will not denuclearize.

But he wants to give off this perception that he’s this open leader, that he’s peaceful, that he’s reasonable, and that’s why you see they basically stopped talking to us for two weeks.

The president makes decision, and all of a sudden he shows up and has this meeting with the president of South Korea. And -- and now they’re talking peace again, and now all of a sudden everything’s moving.

RADDATZ: He -- he did, Senator, he did blow up, it appeared, parts of his nuclear facility.

RUBIO: It’s a show.

RADDATZ: He released three Americans.

RUBIO: It’s all a show. It’s a show. Released three Americans that were innocently there, blew up a facility that was probably already damaged with plenty of other facilities, plus here’s the bigger point, the facility he blew up was a testing site.

He can test this anywhere, they don’t have to have a town hall meeting in North Korea to decide whether to test weapons, he can test them anywhere. In his mind, he thinks he has already proven not only that he’s a nuclear power, but that he possesses long range missiles, and that alone has given him, you know, global standing.

A meeting with the President of the United States is something the North Koreans -- a dictator, elevates them to the status of world leadership, elevates them internally in a time when he’s probably facing some significant internal disconsent (ph). (Inaudible) --

RADDATZ: Well you call him -- Senator, you call him a tyrant and a dictator, you’ve heard President Trump talk about him. Is he appeasing him too much in your view?

RUBIO: I think President Trump is trying to figure out how to get this guy to a negotiating table so they can negotiate, and -- and -- and I think his strategy by large has unbalanced, basically left the North Koreans off balance.

They are usually the ones that out there doing this sort of dramatic action and -- and you know this sort of unpredictable action that set everybody off. The president has given him a taste of his own medicine.

You know, it’s a style we’ve never seen in a presidency before, but it seems to have at least you know knocked them off of balance, I -- I can imagine that they -- for all these years, North Korea’s been used to dealing with traditional politicians.

I give the president credit for that, but ultimately, there’s got to be a deal. That may be what sets the conditions, but ultimately now there doesn’t have to be a deal, but it has to be verifiable.

That is a very difficult thing to accomplish with a country in North Korea that has no history of diplomacy, no history of negotiations, and no one around that’s ever done this before.

RADDATZ: I -- I want to get to China and put up a Washington Post headline from this week, Rubio emerges as one of Trump administration’s loudest critics on China. Let’s talk about ZTE, that large Chinese telecom firm.

The Trump administration wants to lift sanctions on ZTE because President Xi appealed to them to do that, even though ZTE has sold equipment to Iran and North Korea. Is he appeasing China too much?

RUBIO: So I talked to the president at lengths on Friday night, and I think I understand kind of where we’re coming at this in different ways, so the president and for (ph) some in his administration, the ZTE issue is we’re going to punish this company for breaking U.S. sanctions, and the punishment I’m going to inflict on them is more than anything the previous administration did, more than any other administration’s ever done.

And if this was just an enforcement function, I would agree with him. The -- the difference between myself and the administration then is I don’t just view the ZTE issue as a punishment on ZTE, I view it in the context of the larger China issue.

China is trying to overtake the United States as the world’s most powerful country. They’re not doing it by out innovating us or out competing us, they are doing it by stealing. They steal our intellectual property, they force our companies to transfer this stuff over, and the only way that we are going to stop them is so they face significant consequences for continuing what they are doing.

And (ph) putting it out of business, a company like ZTE, is the kind of significant consequence that China would respond to, to understand that we’re serious. And so while the administration is viewing it slowly as recalibrating the punishment on ZTE, the sanctions, I’m viewing it as an opportunity to impose a real cost on Chine for everything else that they’re doing.

And I think that’s where the difference of opinion comes from.

RADDATZ: And -- and you think Congress will pass a bill prohibiting the administration from lifting the sanctions?

RUBIO: Well, I think Congress should pass a bill that goes further than just ZTE. I’ve already proposed a bill and I’ll propose language -- and I think we can get it passed -- that basically prohibits this continuing transfer of U.S. technology to the Chinese by our companies under duress in key industries. China’s told them what those industries are. It’s called Made in China 2025, it’s quantum computing, 5G technology.

You know, all the major industries that will dominate this century, they told us what they are. There is no way that our American companies, that it should be legal for them to have to transfer -- or to transfer key technologies in those sectors to the Chinese.

RADDATZ: And Senator Rubio, just quickly here in the end, on the -- on the so-called FBI informant. President Trump says that the FBI had a spy in his campaign. I know you were in -- you were not in those classified meetings this week but based on what you have seen, is the president telling the truth?

RUBIO: So I think the president is facing these -- and his lawyers are reacting -- they’re -- they’re responding to what -- what they’re facing and the things that are happening to them. I can tell you what I know. Number one, if there is an FBI informant or any sort of inappropriate action that’s been taken targeting a political campaign, the president’s or any, we want to know about it and it should be punished.

As far as what I have seen to date, it appears that there was an investigation not of the campaign but of certain individuals who have a history that we should be suspicious of that predate the presidential campaign of 2015, 2016. And when individuals like that are in the orbit of a major political campaign in America, the FBI, who is in charge of counterintelligence investigations, should look at people like that.

But they’re not investigating the campaign, they’re investigating those people. In fact, you could argue --

RADDATZ: So you’re saying President Trump was wrong?

RUBIO: I have no evidence that there -- that those people were part of an investigation on the campaign. If that exists, I would want to know about it, we should all know about and that -- that would be wrong and we should -- we should do something about it. But up to now, what I have seen is evidence that they were investigating individuals with a history of links to Russia that were concerning.

And that was appropriate, if that’s all that happened.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much for joining us this morning, Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank -- thank you.

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