Skip to main content
Senator Ted Cruz's Remarks: U.S. Responses to the North Korean Threat

Senator Ted Cruz's Remarks: U.S. Responses to the North Korean Threat

Ted Cruz

Written Remarks Delivered by Senator Ted Cruz

TED CRUZ: Thank you Rebeccah. Good afternoon – welcome. Thank you for coming out to join us this afternoon. It is an honor to join everyone here, and to take part in the important work of everyone here at the Hudson Institute.

Since your establishment under Herman Kahn in 1961, Hudson emerged during the Cold War as a leading voice against the irrational madness of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). It was the sober realism of institutes like Hudson that eventually paved the road for Ronald Reagan’s strategic vision of transcending nuclear weapons with missile defenses, thus shattering MAD and detente, and handing over the Soviet Union, relegating it to the ash heap of history.

It is entirely fitting for us to gather here amidst the nuclear crisis of our age.

Nearly seventy years ago, war erupted on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Il-sung, a man who plunged an entire nation into a collective nightmare of starvation and deprivation in the name of Juche ideology and Marxist-Leninist revolution, sought to subsume South Korea by force into the democratic people’s so-called paradise. America spilt considerable sweat and blood and lives in Northeast Asia to stymie the march of this madman and the campaign of Communism.

We are gathered here today, because there is still a Kim in North Korea. There remains a guiding ideology of fervent racist superiority in Pyongyang, and the same desperate urge of old enlivens the regime today: finishing the work begun by Kim Il-sung to unite its Southern neighbor under totalitarian tyranny.

Like his father before him, Kim Jong-un intends to accomplish this with nuclear blackmail.

The fact that North Korea is close, as close as it is to atomic coercion is an unmitigated bipartisan failure. For nearly three decades, Democrats and Republicans have taken turns overlooking the horrors of the Korean War and accepting the Beijing-Pyongyang propaganda line that North Korea merely seeks survival from a dangerous America.

Buying into this flawed ideology, the United States initiated an unbroken succession of failed policies, beginning with Bill Clinton and Wendy Sherman’s “Agreed Framework” in 1994. That, much like what the JCPOA is doing for Iran today, paved North Korea’s path to the bomb. When Kim Jong-il predictably revealed his nuclear program in 2005, President Bush pitched incentives to the despot, reversing Ronald Reagan’s decision of twenty years prior to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, in exchange for Pyongyang’s promises to freeze its nuclear program. That didn’t work.

When I joined the Senate in 2013, North Korea had already responded to that offer, and to Barack Obama’s delusional “strategic patience” policy. The response was a nuclear test. What then transpired in 2016 — a nuclear test in January, a space launch vehicle test the following month, and a boosted fission detonation in September — marked a significant shift in the conflict. Beyond expressing contempt for Seoul and Washington, Kim unmistakably signaled that the North’s long sought-after ICBM capability was perilously close to completion.

It was then that I initiated a sustained, incremental campaign, founded on American strength and leadership, to change Washington’s North Korea policy.

I began with the most urgent action required in that moment: ensuring that the Department of Defense delivered and deployed THAAD missile defense batteries in South Korea. At the time, Seoul lacked requisite missile defenses to credibly deny or limit damage of a North Korean No-dong missile carrying a nuclear payload. Moreover, South Koreans were feeling the brunt of Chinese economic coercion merely for considering the deployment of THAAD. In correspondence with President Obama, I called for the immediate deployment of THAAD to South Korea, and called on the president to protect our ally from the PRC’s hypocritical boycott.

It took President Trump’s leadership to act on that invitation to deploy THAAD, a reality not unnoticed by Xi Jinping. This should serve as a prelude to further missile defense batteries on the peninsula. For China must understand that, should our ally South Korea desire more defenses, we will no longer tolerate their financial intimidation.

Defending South Korea, however, was only the first move. Achieving material change in Northeast Asia remained impossible as long as Washington continued to exercise a policy of appeasement. We desperately lacked the strategic clarity founded on American leadership. Thus, in August 2017, I laid out a comprehensive strategy to degrade Kim’s growing power and to denuclearize his regime with three components.

First, nullify North Korea’s missile advances in the long term by deploying a space-based missile defense layer. Second, stymie Kim’s illicit cash flow with aggressive sanctions enforcement. And third, challenge the lies that underpin his hold on power with dedicated, persistent information operations.

Implementing such a comprehensive strategy required a decisive break from the past. Changed thinking always precedes changed actions.

For this reason, I prioritized re-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Bush administration delisted North Korea not because the regime changed or ceased to sponsor violence, but because Washington believed it would bring peace in our time. Returning to a Reagan policy of “peace through strength” to defeat radical ideologies and deter aggression remained impossible as long as this belief persisted.

Our current task is to align our policy with this renewed conviction. Our past presumption of fault and culpability wreaked havoc on our sanctions policy. You may have noticed that there is no lack of North Korea sanctions bills on Capitol Hill. Now we need to act.

The North Korean Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, which I enthusiastically cosponsored, compelled President Obama to actually implement the law. A sadly novel concept. Congress then went further, passing the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, actually nicknamed ‘CAATSA,’ which included my legislation that I had introduced to issue a determination on North Korea as state sponsor of terrorism. That legislation passed into law and within months of President Trump signing it, the administration re-listed North Korea and imposed corresponding sanctions.

In the wake of Otto Warmbier’s tragic death, acknowledging the unmistakable reality that North Korea is and was a state sponsor of terrorism was as critical moment of honesty. Of candor. Of realism. This moment signaled a shift, a course correction in our approach to comprehensively addressing the nuclear threat. And in fact, the fact that we won the argument is significant. It was a powerful indicator when the Vice President Pence issued a stern warning at the DMZ that the era of strategic patience is over.

Two weeks ago in the Washington Post, I contended that it’s now time to put Kim on his heels – we’ve waited too long wondering when he would test his next device or provoke South Korea – holding our financial penalties in reserve until his latest outburst.

We’ve allowed North Korea to set the tempo of their nuclear pursuit. It’s time for Kim to fear what we will do – not the other way around. My suggestion was simple: seize the initiative by announcing sanctions against North Korean and third-party entities on our own timing and our own pace. This is critical if we are to stymie the mafia-like operation that is North Korea: we must target its partners.

Last month, the Institute for Science and International Security identified 49 countries responsible for enabling sanctions violations. That is a staggering figure, made even more concerning by the geographic diversity of the offending countries. From Eurasia and the Middle East to Africa and Latin America, nefarious regimes including China, Russia, Iran and Cuba — as well as governments with weak export controls — have bankrolled North Korea’s nuclear pursuits.

We don’t need a new law to target these entities; we simply need resolve and belief in American power defending American interests with a clear-eyed understanding of these offenders – especially China. While I credit President Trump for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s limited cooperation, recent reports of Chinese vessels violating sanctions by selling oil to North Korea on the high seas only reinforces my long-held skepticism of Beijing’s empty promises.

The process of denuclearizing North Korea remains incremental and deliberate. I believe we can turn the tide on the Peninsula — but only if we adopt a new framework informed by U.S. resolve and decisive leadership. I will continue working with the administration and with my colleagues in the Senate to secure nothing less than the complete nuclear disarmament of Kim Jong-un, and the restoration of peace to Northeast Asia.

Thank you.

Transcript of the interview between Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs and Senator Ted Cruz

Disclaimer: The following transcript has been formatted for clarity but may contain errors. It should not be relied upon for purposes of verbatim citation.

REBECCAH HEINRICHS: Thank you so much, Senator. That gives us so much to talk about here. One of the things that I think is so important for the conversation about North Korea is that there seems to be two different camps from those who talk about North Korea and provide commentary for what we should do. One of the camps is sort of the one that Susan Rice is in, the former national security adviser to President Obama. She recently wrote an editorial…

TED CRUZ: I feel confident I’m not going to be in this one.

HEINRICHS: I feel confident that your confidence is accurate there. And what she said was, essentially, it’s too late to do anything about North Korea, and now we can just deter North Korea like any other nuclear state. And then the other camp is the one that H.R. McMaster – Jim McMaster, as you know, talks a lot about how that’s just simply not possible to do with this regime because of the nature of the regime. And you, in fact, have been a very compelling voice on this subject. And you talked a little bit about the nature of the regime and why the regime matters. So if you could just explain why North Korea is not one of these states that we can simply go back to and just hope that we can just, you know, mutually assured destruction with North Korea.

CRUZ: You know, in our foreign policy world, there have always been apologists for bad actors – apologists for communist dictatorships, apologists for enemies of the United States. We heard many, many voices during the Cold War that explained to us, typically in gravelly tones, that the Soviet Union could not be defeated, that it was only the ignorant and naive that thought America could prevail in the Cold War.

In my office, if you come to my Senate office, the dominant feature that anyone notices is a gigantic painting of Ronald Reagan standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, and above it, the words – Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall in German in the style of the graffiti on the wall. Now, as you know, when Reagan gave that speech, three times the State Department edited that line out of the speech. And three times President Reagan wrote that line back by hand. And the learned experts at State said no, no, Mr. President, that’s inflammatory. That’s extreme, and it’s completely unrealistic. We can’t win. It will never happen. You can’t make a demand that will never happen. And Reagan, with this classic twinkle in his eyes, said, this is the whole point of the speech.

So, the apologists for North Korea are nothing new. And indeed, if you look at the Obama administration, one of the things that suffuses the Obama administration’s approach to American power is embarrassment that there is such a thing as American power. “Leading from behind” is how President Obama put it. One component of this is this notion that we have no right whatsoever to say to North Korea, or say to Iran, “You can’t have nuclear weapons.” What moral standing could we possibly have to deny any two-bit tyrant nuclear weapons?

Remember, President Obama, in 2009, went to Cairo University. And he gave a speech saying Iran has a right – and he used that word, “right” – to nuclear technology. What utter hogwash. When you look to the natural rights of man, if you look to the Declaration – “We hold these truths to be self-evident – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” not “life, liberty and nuclear weapons to murder millions.” That doesn’t fall in there. And so, yes, the Obama administration proceeded on an assumption of normalizing our enemies, indeed apologizing for them, instead of stopping our enemies. Kim Jong Un, I believe, wants nuclear weapons for two reasons. One, he believes it’s dictatorship insurance, that having nuclear weapons makes the prospect of efforts to topple his regime much harder. The ability to murder vast numbers of people, I think, he believes – like his father believed – that it keeps him in power. But two, he wants a nuclear weapon – it’s central to his regime’s objective to reunify the Korean Peninsula, to use nuclear weapons as a tool of blackmail to drive Americans off the peninsula – which he would love to do – and to forcibly reunify South Korea. We’ve got to understand who we’re dealing with. And, you know, in my remarks I mentioned Wendy Sherman. I think every assessment of North Korea needs to stop and understand that North Korea is a daily foreshadowing of what is likely to happen with Iran.

The Clinton administration led the world in relaxing sanctions against North Korea. Wendy Sherman led the negotiations. Billions of dollars flowed into North Korea. Kim Jong Il promised, “We won’t use it for nuclear weapons.” And then what’d he do? He turned around, took the billions of dollars, and built nuclear weapons. Now, fast-forward to the Obama administration. The Obama administration went, recruited Wendy Sherman back to government to lead the Iran negotiations. Now, Rebeccah, I want you to think about it. It really is stunning that they wanted the only person on the face of the earth who has already screwed this up. There’s 7 billion people on planet Earth. You could walk up to someone on the streets of Washington, D.C., and say, excuse me, sir, have you already screwed up a nuclear deal and sent billions of dollars to a despot that turned around and developed a nuclear arsenal? No? OK. You’re more qualified than Wendy Sherman to lead this negotiation.

And what happened with Iran is they repeated the same mistakes. They negotiated essentially the same deal. And without various substantial changes, the outcome will be the same except an Iran with nuclear weapons, I believe, would be even more dangerous than a North Korea with nuclear weapons because in addition to a brutal and oppressive despot, you have religious zealotry that glorifies death and suicide. So I think the odds are unacceptably high that the ayatollah would use nuclear weapons, not merely use them as a threat.

HEINRICHS: Great points. And I would just also say, too, you know, North Korea – a lot of folks who say that it’s OK if North Korea – that we can just deal with North Korea having nuclear weapons because all they care about is regime survival, that the regime has actually already threatened and coerced the United States with – you know, with these military exercises we have with our South Korean allies, with our Japanese allies. The United States wants to test our own weapons systems, our ICBMs or our missile defense systems. The North Koreans oppose that and try to coerce us. So the coercion and the blackmail will continue as long as they have nuclear weapons.

CRUZ: Well, and let me note, you know, if there were a little black book or a little red book on lessons for dictators, there would be a lesson that any observant despot would draw of recent years. Libya had a program of developing weapons of mass destruction. In response to the Iraq War, Gadhafi said, “Never mind. Stop the program.” And then the United States helped lead bombing efforts that toppled Gadhafi, and ended up turning Libya into a nation torn to pieces by warring radical Islamic warlords. Ukraine – Ukraine used to be the third-largest possessor of nuclear weapons. United States, Russia, Ukraine. Ukraine voluntarily gave up their nuclear weapons – unprecedented, actually, in world history, any nation giving up that quantity of nuclear weapons. They did so in exchange for a promise from the United States, from Europe that we would defend Ukraine and defend its territorial integrity. Well, when the Russians marched into Crimea, you heard crickets from the Obama administration on doing anything to honor that commitment. Now, let me ask you, if you’re a tin-pot dictator – and I hope you’re not – but if you were, who in their right mind would give up nuclear weapons or not try to get them with all of your might? That’s a really bad incentive for the United States to be creating on the global stage.

HEINRICHS: And this – why I think it’s so critically important, your work on expanding missile defense. And you brought up your great work in drawing attention to the need to deploy the THAAD battery to South Korea. And that’s just to protect our troops there and our South Korean allies against some of the short-or-medium-range ballistic missiles. You’ve been a great advocate for the Israeli programs as well. And, of course, we have our homeland missile defense system, GMD. But you’ve also pushed for and offered amendments in this in the Armed Services Committee on getting started on a layer in space that would have the ability to intercept missiles in their boost phase. This, of course, is a legacy of Ronald Reagan. It’s something that a lot of Americans think we have, but we don’t. Can you talk a little bit about why that’s so important to have that additional layer in the missile defense architecture in space?

CRUZ: Absolutely. You know, if you go back to the 1980s, you go back to the time of the Brandenburg Gate speech, President Reagan also laid out SDI as a more rational approach to defending this nation than mutually assured destruction. Those same voices who were apologists for the Soviets were laughing and mockingly dismissive of the concept of missile defense. You’ll recall the media labeled it “Star Wars.” I was a teenager then. As someone who stood in line for three hours on the opening day of “Empire Strikes Back,” I didn’t understand why Star Wars was a bad thing. But you remember people saying at the time it’s absolutely impossible – only a cowboy actor from California could come up with such a kooky idea. You remember them saying it’s like a bullet hitting a bullet? It’s simply impossible. This is a pipe dream. Well, look, I was a teenager, was not then nor now a rocket scientist. But I will tell you one of the best indications of the power of this idea was the reactions of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev sure took it seriously. And the fact that the Soviets were so focused on – this changes the entire terrain. That, I think, revealed a lot.

You know, you mentioned Israel’s missile defense system, whether it’s Iron Dome or David’s Sling or Arrow, the incredible successes Israeli missile defense has had saving lives and preventing war. One of the things Israeli missile defense means is that when Israel is facing rocket attacks, it can choose when and how to respond, without the urgency of, “Our people are being killed right now, we must act now.” So, you see missile defense acting as a very real force for peace and preserving lives.

There is a fabulous video which I would encourage folks to google. I hope it’s still online. I haven’t googled it in a while. But if you google Iron Dome wedding, you come up with video footage of a wedding that was occurring in Israel. It’s when Hamas was lobbing in rocket attacks. And it’s this – it’s just a, you know, home camera video. You hear music and festivities, people laughing and enjoying a wedding. And you see in the night sky missile after come up through the night sky. And then you see Iron Dome missile interceptors come up and hit the missiles and they explode. And it’s like watching a fireworks display. And I remember thinking, gosh, all those critics in the ’80s said that’s impossible, that you couldn’t hit any of those. And yet we’ve seen the successes already.

Now, what capacity do we have? We have right now the ability to intercept missiles mid-phase and in the terminal phase but not in the boost phase, not when they’re taking off, not when – they’re traveling the slowest. The heat signature is the clearest. And countermeasures can’t be deployed.

Now, we know that we’ve got the technology to develop that, but that will require a space-based system with early detection and intercept capabilities. And here, I’ll give you a couple of stats. So a few years ago, the Institute for Defense Analysis conducted a congressionally-mandated assessment of space-based interception in 2011. Many of its findings are still classified. But the IDA informed former Senator Jon Kyl in June of 2011 that a space-based interceptor layer could contribute to the defense of the U.S. homeland, target missiles in their boost phase of flight, defend against ICBMs launched by both North Korea and Iran, engage anti-ship ballistic missile threats—including aircraft carrier defense, be developed within 10 years, and defend itself against ASATs. And the IDA estimated that a limited space-based interceptor layer of 24 satellites with four interceptors each was estimated to cost $26 billion. And that assumed a 20-year life cycle with one full constellation replacement after 10 years. Comparatively, a much bigger and more comprehensive global satellite constellation with 960 satellites under the same assumptions was estimated to cost $282 billion. Now, compare those costs with the estimated 40 billion to date that has been spent on Ground-Based Midcourse Defense – that a 2016 GAO report stated the flight testing was insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists. When you’ve got Kim Jong Un developing ICBMs that he claims can deliver a nuclear warhead to any city in the continental United States, that’s not an acceptable state of affairs. And I would note we’ve seen steady legislative progress on this.

So you mentioned legislation on the Senate armed services committee. In 2015, I offered an amendment that was adopted to the National Defense Authorization Act tasking the Missile Defense Agency to begin initial concept development for a space-based ballistic missile intercept-and-defeat layer. And that was adopted and signed into law. In 2016, I offered another amendment to the NDAA which would modify U.S. policy concerning the deployment of effective missile defense. And in particular, according to the National Missile Defense Act signed by President Clinton in 1999, quote, “It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective national missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attacks, whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate. And the amendment I introduced simply struck one word – the word limited – so that we’re defending not against limited missile – ballistic missile attack – but ballistic missile attack writ large. What preceded in the SASC was an energetic debate that broke down on predictable party lines. But at the end of the day, it was adopted and passed into law. And I think that’s an important step to take us to the next step of developing and deploying the missile intercept capability to keep the country safe.

HEINRICHS: And I would just say, too, we here at Hudson also did a study that highlighted the results of that IDA study as well, showing that, in fact – you know, a lot of people say that a space layer is just cost-prohibitive, but we can do an additional layer. And because of the technology that we’ve proven – the hit-to-kill technology – this is not something that’s technically too difficult to do. It’s just a matter of the political hurdles or the policy on the part of the U.S. government. It’s not truly cost, and it’s not the technical aspect, as well. And just one more point on that – we can add it to the overall missile defense architecture, so we can have a sea-based, land-based – you know, boost phase, midcourse, terminal – and have this layered architecture. And we can do it – if you just look at how much Barack Obama cut out of the missile defense budget, about $2 billion a year – if you just plug that $2 billion back in, you could get to that $20-odd billion dollars over the course of a 10-year life cycle cost and doing it two times.

CRUZ: To quote the movie “Jerry Maguire,” you had me at hello.

HEINRICHS: So it is – just to emphasize that it is technically possible. And certainly, we’re to the point now where it no longer makes sense to intentionally keep our arm tied behind her back. And it’s not just North Korea and Iran. We also have China and Russia to deal with, as well.

And then one last question, and then I’m going to turn it over to the audience. If you do have questions that you’ve already written down, you can pass it to the aisles. And I think my colleagues are going to collect those. I want to talk about – you mentioned sanctions and how we just – there’s all kinds of sanctions bills still. When President Trump came into office, you know, I often heard people say, he wants to introduce more sanctions. But North Korea’s already sanctioned to the extent that anybody possibly could. And the reason that the Obama administration didn’t sanction it further is because there’s nothing left to sanction. And, in fact, the pressure campaign has resulted in increased sanctions.

So what is it about the current political environment in which we are – you know, there there’s a new study out – or a new poll out – that says that U.S. – the view of our allies of the United States is dropping and that the United States just doesn’t have the same leadership poll. And yet we are getting increased sanctions from the international community. Other countries are cutting off trade. So can you speak to that a little bit? And then, also, is it to the point now where we need to start taking it tougher to China specifically and perhaps even starting to sanction more Chinese entities for their failure to comply with some of these sanctions?

CRUZ: On the second part, yes – absolutely yes. On the first part, for eight years, you had a real divide between Congress and the Obama administration on how to deal with North Korea. As we talked about – the opening part of the Q&A – many in that administration were apologists for the regime and so lacked the political will to actually implement the sanctions. And it stems from an ideological belief that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with North Korea or Iran having nuclear weapons. I think that ideological belief is nuts. But it was the manifest foreign policy view of the executive for eight years. So you saw sanctions legislation in Congress but an executive who did not want to exercise that. I think with the new administration, we have a far more clear-eyed assessment of our adversaries and a willingness to exercise U.S. force, whether economic force, whether diplomatic force. There are all sorts of ways to exercise American power short of sending in the Marines.

And we should be doing so for most countries, for most companies. Given the choice between access to the U.S. markets or doing business with North Korea – or, for that matter, doing business with Iran – any rational country and any rational company will choose the former. Access to U.S. markets is a big, big deal. And what has enabled North Korea to skirt a lot of these sanctions is willing partners who are complicit in skirting the sanctions. And I think we need to be far more aggressive in implementing the law on the books and moving more and more to North Korea being a pariah country with maximum economic pressure on it.

HEINRICHS: Bring those questions up here to me. I will point out, too, you know, a lot of folks will say whenever we talk about a space-based missile defense there they say, well, aren’t there treaties that prohibit that? And just two points on that, too. It was President Bush that withdrew the United States from the ABM treaty right after 9/11. And because of that, that paved the way for us to have the current missile defense system. If we don’t – we didn’t – if he hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system today that is providing protection against the North Korean threat even if it isn’t as robust as it could be. And also that there’s no treaty that prevents the United States from going to space, providing that extra layer.

CRUZ: Well, and let me underscore – a lot of people say we don’t want war to go to space. Anyone who says that is living in a world disconnected from the reality of 2018. And that’s much like seeing a threat and plunging your head in the sand and saying, “I don’t want that threat to exist,” or “I refuse to acknowledge it.” Whether we like it or not, war has gone to space. And I think I’m the only senator who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Commerce Committee, and the Judiciary Committee, all three. And on Commerce, I chair the Science and Space Subcommittee. So I’m looking at space both from the defense perspective, but also through the commercial perspective and the private prospective. Our economy is immensely dependent on space and satellite technology. And our military is immensely dependent on satellite and space technology.

I’ll tell you some of the most chilling briefings I’ve received in a classified setting are briefings about the extent of our vulnerability to having our satellite networks disabled. And numerous of our adversaries are investing heavily in this, none more so than China. A question I frequently ask military leaders when they come before the Armed Services Committee is, “When’s the last time you drilled in a space-down environment? If you’re piloting a ship, if you’re piloting an aircraft carrier, do you know how to do it with compass and the stars? If you’re flying the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world, do you know how to do it without GPS, without navigation, without weapons targeting?” It’s an enormous advantage to us, we’ve seen when we have gone to war, the technology that we derive from space. But the investments our adversaries are making to taking out our space capability and as a result to massively weakening our ability to defend ourselves and to project force, that is frightening. And it calls for serious investments shoring up and preventing that vulnerability. And so anyone who says we shouldn’t take war to space, it’s there. And our enemies are doing it. And the only question is, do we abandon space and leave that vulnerability? Or do we act in a rational and reasoned way to protect the United States?

HEINRICHS: Got a question here about – important one. What if – you know, we’ve got three years left of the administration’s term. And North Korea has now demonstrated the capability to carry an ICBM, the Hwasong-15. The last one was a monster. The two before that were successful ICBMs, but shorter. This last one was so big, though, you know, the intel community in an unclassified setting even believes that, man, you could put a warhead on that. It’s that big. So our time is short. We’re on a short timeline here. What if the pressure campaign isn’t successful? Can we – can you talk a little bit about – you know, we’re worried about our South Korean allies who are already right there and our troops that are deployed there. Talk about the military option and what you think about that and what has been discussed publicly.

CRUZ: Well, I think North Korea is the most dangerous place on the face of the planet right now. It is a really, really bad idea to have an unstable communist dictator with a significant nuclear arsenal. There’s no good solution right now. There’s no solution that should make everyone sleep at night in comfort and peace. These are tools and strategies to apply the maximum pressure and to put ourselves in the best position to defend ourselves in the event Kim uses nuclear weapons, one component of deterrence is military force. And I hope it is unmistakably clear to Kim Jong Un that the day he ever uses a nuclear weapon is the day his regime ends, that the result would be massive and crushing retaliatory strikes. Now, we don’t want that to happen. But it needs to be unambiguously clear. Even though Kim Jong Un remains unstable, unpredictable, a few cards short of a full deck, what we do know about him is that he is a megalomaniacal narcissist who desperately wants to stay in power, so that we hope some degree of rational deterrence is possible.

That being said, we should draw the lesson that this is a bad situation. Let’s not let it happen in Iran, where it’s even worse because the difference with Iran – if the Ayatollah Khomeini acquired nuclear weapons and they’re testing ICBM technology, I think the odds are unacceptably high he would use those weapons in the skies of Tel Aviv or New York or Los Angeles. And any rational world – if you detonate a nuclear weapon over Israel, you could murder millions of Jews. Now, Khomeini would know the response would likely be immediate and overwhelming retaliation taking the lives of millions of Iranians. Now, here’s the problem. As a religious zealot who glories in death and suicide, that might be an acceptable trade-off to him. That underscores, let’s not be in this situation after the fact. Let’s act now to stop Iran from getting the nuclear weapons so we don’t have to find out if he would use them, and in the meantime use every tool we can on North Korea to deal with the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves.

HEINRICHS: And there is plenty of evidence that the North Koreans and the Iranians cooperate on…

CRUZ: Yes.

HEINRICHS: …Missile development. And so it really is one of the major problems with the JCPOA, the Iran deal, is the North Koreans could watch and see exactly how the Iranians played that hand. And that perhaps the North Koreans, the lesson that they learned was just persist long enough and the United States might just simply give in.

CRUZ: You know, you look at the Iran deal on its face. You look at elements such as – I think it’s 21 days advance notice before an inspection. Here’s an analogy I’ve used before. Let’s say you’re passing a RICO federal law, a money laundering law targeting, let’s say, drug dealers. And you provide – before any search warrant can be executed on any drug dealer, you have to give them 21 days advance notice of the time and place of the search. Now, how effective do you think those searches would be? You know, I’m a movie fan, so I envision the prosecutor picking up the phone and calling Tony Montana, going, “Hey, Tony, we’re going to search you in three weeks.” That’s what’s written into the agreements. It’s also written in the agreement you can inspect non-military sites, but not military sites. Well, gosh, where do you think the Iranians are going to do the nuclear testing? Like, this is – and the important thing to understand – this is not well, and the first load of payments in $1.7 billion in unmarked cash on pallets in planes in the dark of night.

This is conduct that evidences they knew exactly what they were doing. Here’s an analogy. Let’s suppose you’re selling your house and I come to buy your house. And I say, “Hey, look. I want to buy your house. I don’t have a mortgage. I don’t have anything. I’ve got a duffel bag in the car of unmarked $20s.” Would you kind of be a little suspicious? Why exactly – people sometimes ask, well, gosh, you know, was John Kerry just hopelessly naive and ineffective? I try not to answer that question. But I’ll say this. It wasn’t ineffectiveness. Anyone negotiating this deal knows the outcome of this deal is Iran getting nuclear weapons. They don’t care. They are fine with this outcome. You don’t sign this deal unless you are perfectly fine – remember; Obama started this process in ’09 saying Iran has a right to nuclear technology. Well, if they have a right to it, then you don’t care if they get it.

You may remember there was a magazine article that had a number of high-level conversations in the Obama White House. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote the article. And what made all the news is it quoted a senior White House official as referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu with an epithet for chicken poultry for – rather, the excrement of chickens. That got a lot of news. I actually didn’t think that was terribly newsworthy. It was evident from the Obama administration’s treatment that was their view of the prime minister. You don’t refuse to meet with the prime minister when he comes to Washington, D.C., as Obama did, and have Democrats boycott his speech to Congress, as many did, if your view is not that. The more notable quote was another quote in that article which got far less attention. And it’s not clear if it was the same senior White House official or a different one who said, “The best thing we’ve done is we’ve delayed Israeli action for long enough that they no longer have the capability to attack and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal.” This is a senior U.S. official saying it’s a good thing that Iran is now able to acquire a nuclear arsenal. That, I think, is a profoundly misguided approach. But it explains why the JCPOA is so utterly tepid and ineffective. It was designed to be tepid and ineffective but to get a deal. It was a deal, but it’s a deal that absent serious change, I think, leads inexorably to the result we see in North Korea.

HEINRICHS: I have time for one last question, and it’s one that has been asked repeatedly, so I’m going to listen to the crowd and ask it. The Winter Olympics are coming up. The South Koreans are clearly desperate for anything that looks like progress and moving away from the potential military force option. And on the one hand, I don’t blame them. On the other hand, they’re kind of cozying up to the North Korean regime for the purpose of these Olympics. What is your take on that? And how does – you gave a great, I think, a point that is under-reported, under-appreciated about how difficult – the political stress that the South Koreans were under when we were trying to deploy that THAAD battery and how the Chinese then implemented that boycott that really hurt the economy of the South Koreans. So they’re in a really tight spot, to put it mildly. How do we navigate that? How do we bring them in so that there is no daylight between us and the South Koreans and then – especially moving towards these Winter Olympics?

CRUZ: Look. The South Koreans are in an incredibly difficult situation. They have a neighbor who’s nuts and has a whole bunch of nuclear weapons. One of my favorite exchanges is a year or two ago. John McCain called Kim Jong Un “that crazy fat man.” And the North Korean press department issued this outraged statement. “How could you say such a thing?” And John, to his credit, tweeted out to the world. He said, “What, I should say that crazy skinny man?” I promptly retweeted McCain. In our Senate lunch, I hit retweet.

The South Koreans are in a very difficult position. And I’ll tell you, you know, you asked about the military option. As you go through the projections for different possibilities of direct military conflict, an awful lot of the outcomes involve tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of casualties potentially within hours. If you’re the South Koreans, you’d be nervous about that too. Those are not good outcomes. What I would say on the Olympics is – in this debate, I think we need to avoid being distracted by shiny objects, avoid being distracted by the noise. You know, when I called a couple of weeks ago for us to dictate the timing and tempo of sanctions, not to wait for the next test and then we’ll do a little sanction here, and the next test, we do something here. And, oh, they seem to be making nice on the Olympics, so we hold back and don’t do anything. We need to dictate the approach, because the objectives here are profoundly dangerous. And so I think it requires a steel-eyed realism and clarity as to what the regime’s objectives are, and what their capabilities are, and using every tool we have to protect against it.

HEINRICHS: Senator, thank you so much. Especially from my perspective, your leadership on the issue of missile defense is so critically important right now. The Trump administration will be releasing their missile defense review report that will lay out the policy of the United States on missile defense in the next several weeks. The Trump administration, to its credit, is increasing money for missile defense, increasing the number of interceptors on the homeland to provide additional robust protection to all 50 states. But it is my hope that there will be a qualitative shift in the way we think about it from a policy perspective. And I know it’s your great leadership from the Senate that is moving that ball down the field.

View PDF