The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano appeared on Fox News early Friday to discuss with anchor Heather Childers the announcement that President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May. Watch the video or read this lightly edited transcript of that conversation.
Heather Childers: Well, here now to react, senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and foreign policy expert, James Carafano, thank you so much for joining us this morning on this really, the heels of this amazing news last night. What did you think when it first came out?
James Carafano: I thought it was predictable. We know a couple of things about Trump. One, is we know he likes to meet with leaders, particularly his competitors and size them up. It’s a Trumpian thing he does.
We also know he’s actually really good at these meetings. He’s had many of them, and he actually does very, very well.
And most importantly, what this shows is what a lot of us have been saying all along: This was not a crisis spinning out of control. The United States wasn’t getting ready to preemptively attack North Korea. That maximum pressure, it was the right policy, and the president was right to stick with it.
Childers: Yeah, and that’s what is interesting, one of many things, talking about how people were just going the complete opposite direction. Let’s take a look at this timeline from North Korea and the launch they’ve had in some of their nuclear tests. Going from Feb. 12 in 2017, that was their first test during President Trump’s administration. Then, their last was on Nov. 28, 2017. That was their last ICBM test. People said, people that are against President Trump, said that he is driving us straight towards war, and now we have this.
Carafano: Yeah, well, it’s cause they’re idiots. Look, I mean, the reality is maximum pressure is exactly the right strategy. Missile deterrence, nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence with our allies, heavy sanctioning, these keep Kim from becoming a more serious threat.
Now, I think we have to be honest. We don’t know why Kim does what he does. Maximum pressure’s a strategy to keep him from being a threat. It doesn’t necessarily drive how he chooses to negotiate. So, we don’t know where this is going, but I think the critics have basically just reflexively attacked the administration for saying, “Well, they’ve absolutely no idea what they’re doing.” I mean, they really ought to start having second thoughts.
Childers: South Korea’s national security adviser in the announcement [Thursday], he gave President Trump credit for the maximum pressure, the increased sanctions. Do you think people here in our country will do the same?
Carafano: Well, again, I don’t know what drove Kim to do this. Here’s what that announcement by the South Korean leader shows. President Trump has done a tremendous job binding the alliance of U.S., Japan, and South Korea in holding a stiff face to North Korea. That is an accomplishment of the United States and an accomplishment of the statesman, and he ought to get credit for that.
Childers: Well, no sitting U.S. president, from what I understand, has ever met a North Korean president. This is the first world leader that Kim Jong-un will have met at all. Now, he hasn’t traveled outside of North Korea. Where do you think that they’ll have this meeting?
Carafano: Well, the logical place to have it would be in the demilitarized zone, the DMZ. I was actually stationed in Korea when I was in the Army, drove up there, saw the demilitarized zone. It’s the only logical place. It’s unlikely that Kim would want to leave the country. It’s also incredibly unlikely the United States would want to go to Pyongyang. So, that would be my guess.
Childers: Yeah, and definitely still taking precautions. As Griff Jenkins was just telling us, the president tweeting out [Thursday] that they will also have this missile freeze during this time period until May when they have this meeting. Hopefully, it does happen.
Carafano: The most important thing is that the U.S. policy and strategy is maximum pressure stays in place until North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat to the United States or its allies.
Childers: Yeah, I mean, just give it a chance. The people already last night, some of the people against President Trump saying, “There’s no way that he will be prepared to have this meeting.” Give it a chance.
Carafano: They’re just yahoos.
Childers: Yeah, all right, James, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.