Lindsey Graham: China Sabotaging North Korea Nuclear Talks Over Tariff Trade War


Republican Senator Lindsey Graham looks at President Trump's possible candidates to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy and warns that China's fingerprints are "all over" the breakdown in nuclear talks with the North Koreans.

On 'Fox News Sunday,' the S.C. Republican said China is using North Korea to force the United States to back off on trade issues.

"We are in a fight with China," he said. "They cheat and President [Donald] Trump wants to change the economic relationship with China so if I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute. We've got more bullets than they do when it comes to trade."

He also weighs in on other foriegn affairs concerns, including Turkey and Russia:

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I see China's hands all over this. We are in a fight with China. We buy $500 billion worth of goods from the Chinese. They buy $100 billion from us. They cheat and President Trump wants to change the economic relationship with China.

So, if I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute. We've got more bullets than they do when it comes to trade. We sell them $100 billion, they sell is $500 billion, we can hurt them more than they will hurt us. And all we’re looking for is for them to stop cheating when it comes to trade.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it's the Chinese pulling a North Koreans back. And to our North Korean friends, can't say the word friend yet. You asked Pompeo, did he sleep well? If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn't sleep very well.

PERINO: I thought that was -- I actually really enjoyed reading about that exchange where the North Korean general asking Mike Pompeo twice, surely you couldn't have slept well last night and our secretary of state said, oh, I slept just fine.

Meanwhile, President Trump will meet one-on-one with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki next Monday. "Bloomberg" reports the Kremlin is working with the U.S. to have a deal that the president will except, they say Putin has agreed in principle to U.S. and Israeli demands that Iranian-backed forces in southern Syria be kept away from Israel's border, replaced with troops loyal to the government and Damascus. That’s according to two Kremlin advisors.

Would you recommend the president agreed to that deal?

GRAHAM: Given Russia's behavior, absolutely not. Russia was supposed to make sure that Assad had no chemical weapons. The last thing you can rely upon is the Russians to take care of American-Israeli interests.

There is ideal to be had in Syria. Our troops in northeastern Syria working with the Syrian Democratic forces, Arabs and Kurds, have demolished ISIS and if we stay there, we have about 2,000 troops, ISIS won't come back. If we stay in northeastern Syria, Iran can't march from Tehran to Beirut.

I don't trust the Russians to implement any agreement when it comes to the Iranians, but there is a way to break Iran from -- Russia away from Iran, but no way can it be achieved about us staying there. Our presence in northeastern Syria is an insurance policy against Assad taking over Syria and ISIS coming back and the Iranians owning the whole region.

PERINO: How do you balance the cooperation that we need with Russia right now on something with the concerns that we have with Russia on many other fronts? And how would you recommend President Trump approach that meeting next Monday in Helsinki? It will be his first one-on-one with Putin.

GRAHAM: Well, first, when Putin denies that he was involved in our election in 2016, reject the denial, challenge him. Don't let him deny the obvious. They are still trying to disrupt the 2018 election cycle.

When it comes to Syria, we need to be partnering with Turkey to make sure that we can maintain the presence in northeastern Syria. At the end of the day, Iran is a weak economy. They've got problems in their own backyard. What we need to do is partner with Turkey and Russia and break Iran away.

Iran has a different reason for being in Syria than most everybody else. Israel cannot tolerate Hezbollah and Iranian presence in Syria. If you leave Assad in power, the Arabs will never accept him, nor will the Syrian people.

There's a way to get Russia pulled away from Iran, but we’ve got to have a presence in Iraq and Syria to be successful. In 2007, we lost 900 soldiers fighting in Iraq and the last three and a half years, we have lost 14.

President Trump has done a good job of destroying ISIS and countering Iran. Our soldiers in Iraq and Syria are insurance policies against Iran domination and the rise of ISIS. If we keep this configuration in place, we’ve got some leverage regarding Russia and Iran.

PERINO: You mentioned Turkey. I wanted to ask you about that. You were just on a trip we spoke to the President Erdogan.


PERINO: He is going to be inaugurated for I think the fourth term tomorrow. And while Turkey has been somewhat helpful in Syria as you mentioned and Ambassador Hutchison just said, are you concerned that Turkey is an ally adrift, and is there a strategy to get them back on track?

GRAHAM: Yes, they are definitely an ally adrift but there’s a new chapter in Turkish history. Erdogan won big and he's going to have a long time to serve in Turkey and we need to come to grips with that. We need to push him when it comes to the way they treat the press and some human rights abuses. They have Americans in captivity for no good reason.

But having said that, we need to assure Turkey that the Kurdish forces we are partnered with in Syria will not present a threat to Turkey. That's a legitimate concern. Turkey has no interest in Iran dominating Damascus.

At the end of the day, their economy is better off hooked up with us versus Russia and Iran. They are a NATO ally.

So, I came away from my meeting somewhat encouraged that we can start over with President Erdogan in a win-win fashion, securing the northeastern part of Syria in fashion acceptable to Turkey, and they can be a better ally when it comes to pushing back against Iran and ISIS.

PERINO: Did you talk to President Erdogan about this idea that they would want to buy and S400 antiaircraft system?


PERINO: And do you think that he wants to go forward with it? And if he does, will the Congress vote to put sanctions on Turkey since that's allowed under the Russian Sanctions Act?

GRAHAM: We’re not going to sell Turkey the F35, our most advanced fighter, and allow them to buy the most advanced Soviet antiaircraft system. It will just be a matter of time before the S-400 would be used in a fashion to undermine the F35.

They have to pick. I would like them to buy the Patriot missile battery made by the United States and our partners. They are a NATO partner. They need to release Pastor Brunson, who has been held in my view way too long, very much illegally.

But you've got to remember that President Erdogan was under siege two years ago, there was an armed coup. I left that meeting believing that we can do business with Erdogan. You can't have the S-400, we’ll find a substitute for that. If you release the prisoners that are caught up in the coup, that helps us enormously.

There's a win-win situation in northeastern Syria. I think Turkey understands their future is better with the West economically, and I’d like to do a free trade agreement one day with Turkey when they get their house in order and that would neuter Russia and Iran's influence vis-a-vis Turkey better than anything I could think of.
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