Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview Thursday the situation on the Korean peninsula is "very dangerous" and President Donald Trump is wisely using China to help.
McConnell said the Chinese "basically prop up the North Koreans" and Trump has "correctly figured out that the only ultimate solution to North Korea is China."
"President Obama said to President Trump that the single biggest problem you're going to have is North Korea," the six-term Kentucky Republican said at Newsmax TV's Florida headquarters. "China may be warming up to the notion that it's in their best interests to help us contain the North Koreans."
McConnell, 75, who was first elected in 1984, then pointed to last weekend's summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"If we had that kind of cooperation from the Chinese, that's the ultimate solution to the problem."
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McConnell's exclusive interview comes as U.S. warships head toward the North Korean coast as the Asian nation prepares to celebrate the 105th birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung, on Saturday.
The celebration could put North Korea on a military collision course with the U.S. The New York Times has reported leader Kim Jong Un will mark the day by firing a ballistic missile or testing a nuclear device.
"There isn't an easy military solution, though, not in North Korea," McConnell said, noting the large number of troops Pyongyang has stationed in the DMZ with South Korea.
The United States alone has 28,000 troops in the region, according to news reports.
"It's a very, very tricky, dangerous situation," the majority leader said.
"If the president was able to convince President Xi to apply some real pressure, that would be the best way to prevent some kind of Holocaust on the peninsula."
Turning to Syria, McConnell told Newsmax that Trump's order to level the airbase where President Bashar al-Assad stored his chemical weapons with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles last week "was a strike that sent multiple messages."
"To Assad: Don't use chemical weapons," he said. "To the Russians: Oh, by the way, I thought you got all the chemical weapons out of Syria.
"That's what Secretary [of State John] Kerry said back in 2013. Obviously, you weren't telling the truth."
Trump's action also sent this signal to North Korea and Iran, McConnell said: "This is a new more assertive American president."
And, to "our Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Gulf States — and, of course, our ally Israel: America is once again the side you want to be on," he added.
"It was an extraordinary series of messages with one very effective blow."
However, McConnell said Assad must go in any final peace agreement.
"I can't imagine an ultimate settlement in Syria that includes Assad," he told Newsmax. "Having said that, I would not advocate — and the president's not advocating — getting into the quagmire in Syria.
"There's no easy solution to it."
In other topics in his wide-ranging interview, McConnell told Newsmax:
- The Republican Party is "committed to achieving comprehensive tax reform. Our rates are too high."
- He invoked the "nuclear option" in confirming Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch last week because Democrats "knuckled down and tried to defeat him by filibustering, and we decided that we would not let that stand."
- The debacle surrounding the American Health Care Act has proved repealing and replacing Obamacare is "a lot harder to do than to say."
- The GOP will put forth a major infrastructure program "probably later in the year after tax reform."
- President Trump is "learning the job. Some of the things that were said during the campaign I think he now knows simply aren't the way things ought to be."
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