President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon says there’s no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president’s recent pledge to answer further aggression with “fire and fury.”
In an interview with The American Prospect posted online, Bannon tells the liberal publication that the US is losing the economic race against China. He also talks about purging his rivals from the Defence and State departments.
Bannon is also asked about the white supremacist movement, whose march on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend led to deadly violence. He dismisses them as “losers,” “a fringe element” and “a collection of clowns”.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” Mr Bannon says.
“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 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.”
Trump tweeted earlier y that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “made a very wise and well-reasoned decision” by backing down after heightening fears of nuclear conflict in a series of combative threats, including against the US territory of Guam.
Mr Bannon also outlined his push for the US to adopt a tougher stance on China trade, without waiting to see whether Beijing will help restrain Kim, as Trump has pressed China’s leader to do.
Trump also has lamented US trade deficits with China. “The economic war with China is everything,” Mr Bannon says.
“And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think,ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
Bannon was a key general election campaign adviser and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House. The former leader of conservative Breitbart News, Bannon has drawn fire from some of Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The president is under renewed pressure to fire Bannon, who has survived earlier rounds of having fallen out of favour with Trump. Earlier this week, the president passed up an opportunity to offer a public vote of confidence in Bannon. Trump said he’s a “good person” and not a racist, adding that “we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”
The latest anti-Bannon campaign comes as Trump faces mounting criticism for insisting that white supremacist groups and those who opposed them were both at fault for deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In the interview, Bannon muses about getting rid of administration officials who disagree with his strategy toward China and North Korea and replacing them with “hawks”.