In an interview on Wednesday, White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon discussed the, “economic war” with China, the situation with Korea, and spoke about his colleagues at the White House. He also diverged from the President’s thinking on the problem of North Korea, arguing that there is “no military solution” that would solve the problem.
Strangely, Bannon specifically requested the interview by conducted by Robert Kuttner, co-editor and columnist at The American Prospect. “I was a little stunned to get an email from Bannon’s assistant midday Tuesday, just as all hell was breaking loose once again about Charlottesville, saying that Bannon wished to meet with me,” wrote Kuttner. “I told the assistant that I was on vacation, but I would be happy to speak by phone. Bannon promptly called.”
During their interview, Bannon expressed his belief that China would undermine US attempts to sanction North Korea, and keep it from fulfilling its nuclear ambitions. “On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow,” Bannon stated. “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us,” he added.
This somewhat controversial remark earned Bannon strong praise from an unexpected quarter Jennifer Harris, a China expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former top staffer in the Obama State Department responded, “It’s a weird day when I agree with Steve Bannon, but he’s right on this.” She added, “Going back to George W. Bush, America’s policy toward China has been to ask nicely. That has not panned out well.”
Evan Medeiros, an Asian strategist at the Eurasia Group who served as Obama’s top adviser on the Asia-Pacific region also praised Bannon’s position, saying, “China is limiting market access for U.S. companies in China, yet the Chinese wanted unfettered access to America.” “We need to rethink China’s very substantial access to investment in the U.S.”
“If President Trump is considering whether to fire Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, as has been rumored for weeks, Mr. Bannon just gave him several new reasons,” NY Times wrote, noting the disagreement that Bannon and Trump have over North Korea.
Bannon also stated he is fighting against the Swamp, “That’s a fight I fight every day here.” Mr. Bannon singled out a number of Administration officials in his interview, “there’s Treasury and Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.” He also shared displeasure with the performance of certain State Department advisors, saying, “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in,” he said. “I’m getting Susan Thornton out at State.”’
When asked about the Charlottesville Disaster, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon dismissed the KKK and Nazi protesters as “a collection of clowns” and noted that the more Democrats insist on doubling down on identity politics, the easier it will be for Mr. Trump to unite and heal the nation by focusing on economic nationalism.
While Bannon told friends that he did not believe that this conversation with Robert Kuttner was an on-the-record interview, he is a savvy media operator who rarely speaks unguarded. Kuttner claims that the issue of whether the call was on-the-record never came up.
While Bannon’s fate at the White House still an object of much speculation, the President is yet to indicate what he has in mind for Bannon.