Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that he is concerned China isn’t doing enough to control the spread of nuclear material.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Senator Richard Lugar, who joins us in our studio. Senator, thank you so much for being with us.
SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Thank you, Al.
HUNT: You’re the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of the great experts on foreign policy. Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives Wednesday. What are the realistic expectations for the two-day meetings between the world’s superpower and emerging superpower?
LUGAR: I think a cordial resume of various things we want to talk about and a recognition we are two great powers that will have to work together, if problems (ph) of world nutrition, climate change, energy needs, quite apart from the problems we may have militarily, and in terms of the jurisdictions that we see.
I think Secretary Gates’ visit to China this week has outlined both the possibilities and the difficulties, the difficulties being that we are not sure the Chinese military are as in touch with their civilian leadership that we will be seeing. I think they would - the Chinese would claim the other way, that this is the way China works.
LUGAR: But in any event, we’re making some - some very tough statements about this, as Gates goes to Japan and South Korea and says, you know, you’ve got to do a great deal more to help the United States maintain at least posture in this area, vis-a-vis China, as well as North Korea.
HUNT: Well, another issue there is the Nunn-Lugar nonproliferation initiative is expanding into China, yet there are reports that China is not doing enough to stop its companies from selling sensitive materials to Iran for its nuclear programs. No one knows this subject better than you. Are these reports accurate and worrisome?
LUGAR: Yes, they’re worrisome. China takes a view with regard to Iran, as far as the nuclear or with regard to, for instance, Sudan. While we have been worried about genocide, they’ve been worried about oil. They take a view with regard to African states that there would be food there and/or mineral resources for China, not necessarily for starving Africans.
In other words, there’s a very different point of view frequently in foreign policy, which we have learned to live with, simply because this is the world in which we live.
LUGAR: We’re saying, whether we have a good summit or not this week, that’s something we can’t agree on. So I think we’re coming into a very different kind of relationship, which is more difficult for Americans to encompass, and that is that there is another great power there. It’s not necessarily an unfriendly power, but it’s not one that necessarily is going to reform at our behest.
HUNT: On economic issues, do you think China is trying to corner the market on so-called rare earth materials used in everything from iPhones to laptops?
LUGAR: Well, I think they probably are using their monopolistic authority in this respect, and we’re pushing back. I think China does use its authority for its own economic advantage, whether it be with regard to currency situations, in which we’re always demanding reform in that regard, or any other of a number of economic situations in which we have conflicts.
HUNT: Let me turn to Pakistan. You’ve expressed concern that Pakistan doesn’t have the capacity to control some of its own borders. Vice President Biden was there this last week pressuring the Paks to mount operations in Northern Waziristan, which is a key al-Qaeda outpost. Do you think Biden’s trip and the extra money that we’re offering is going to produce any results? Or are the Pakistanis simply unable to seal the frontier?
LUGAR: Well, for the moment, the Pakistanis would say they can only do so much. Their military is saying we’re - we, the Pakistanis, are stretched in this.
So they’re saying to us, hold your horses. Well, we’re saying, we can’t hold our horses. The - the Taliban are coming in here and the remnants of al-Qaeda. You’ve got to go after them. And they’re still pushing back, and it’s just a very difficult relationship.
HUNT: All right. The special U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, died a month ago. He was a man you admired.
HUNT: Should he be replaced, and by whom?
LUGAR: Yes, he will need to be replaced by somebody who can deal continuously with Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, others who may be involved in (inaudible) Af-Pak war.
HUNT: Do you have anybody in mind who would be good for that post?
LUGAR: No, I don’t. I’m not going to offer a nominee. But I think, in answer to your question, Holbrooke had a very special place here, because he was someone who had great international respect.
HUNT: OK. Let me turn to a domestic issue, the terrible tragedy in Tucson. That assailant was rejected by the Army, kicked out of community college for mental health reasons, yet he could walk in and buy an over-the-counter Glock 19 with a 30-bullet magazine. Now, you supported the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Should that be reinstated to make sure someone can’t do something like that?
LUGAR: I believe it should be, but I recognize the fact that the politics domestically in our country with regard to this are on a different track altogether. As a matter of fact, it appears that ammunition has been purchased from stores all over the country subsequent to this by many Americans feeling that somehow the Congress might take action that would somehow limit the amount of ammunition or the types of ammunition people could have.
HUNT: Senator, you have - most people would say - a very mainstream conservative record in the 34 years you’ve been in the Senate, yet the Indiana Tea Party that you met with last month isn’t - they say they’re not convinced you’re really conservative enough for them. How are you going to avoid or will you avoid a challenge from a Tea Party candidate in the Indiana Republican primary next year?
LUGAR: I anticipate that there will be a candidate or candidates running in the Republican primary against me. And this is why we have taken a very early campaign stance of vigorous fundraising, vigorous campaigning, anticipating that that kind of a campaign might occur. It’s not one that I welcome, but nevertheless, this is a democracy. People are free to express views that they want to. But likewise, I’m free to as vigorously as possible point out the things that I think are very important for our country.
HUNT: Do you have any thoughts on some of this back-and-forth with Sarah Palin and everything this week on the tone of the debate in U.S. politics?
LUGAR: I suspect all of that was almost inevitable, given the fact that the tone is not a very good one, from my judgment. And so as a result, it doesn’t matter what the incident is, how horrible and grotesque the situation. Many commentators feel that this is, once again, open season to fire away at whoever they want to fire away at. I regret that’s the case, but I acknowledge it, as do most people.
HUNT: Barack Obama had a good relationship when you were in the Senate. First foreign trip he took was with you, was on your committee. Last month, you said you’d only had limited contact with him since he became president. Has that changed any over the past month? Has he - have you talked to him more? And do you anticipate that he’ll reach out more to you?
LUGAR: Well, I appreciate a call from the president following the successful ratification of the New START treaty. I saw a lot of Vice President Biden during that period of time, as did everyone who was involved with the New START treaty.
But nevertheless, my contact with the president has been very limited. I think I pointed out maybe three visits, two of them with regard to the New START treaty, along with my chairman, John Kerry, of Foreign Relations Committee -
HUNT: Do you have any sense that may change with the new political -
LUGAR: No, I don’t believe so. I have no idea what the president’s desires are, but my - my guess is that he has a circle of people with whom he deals, and he’s found that to be satisfying.
HUNT: Senator Richard Lugar, thank you so much for being with us today.
LUGAR: Thank you, Al.
HUNT: And when we come back, gauging the mood in the White House and in Beijing about the Chinese president’s visit. We talk to Bloomberg reporters next.
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