US Election 2020

What did Trump and Biden say about North Korea, Russia, China and Iran in the debate?

Foreign policy was on the agenda for the final presidential debate with discussions on Iranian interference, Korean missiles and Chinese bank accounts.

What did Trump and Biden say about North Korea, Russia, China and Iran in the debate?
JIM BOURG AFP

The final presidential debate was a much more civilised affair than the first with each candidate largely allowing the other to have their say without interruption. However President Donald Trump and Joe Biden did clash on a number of issues, most notably in relation to recent foreign policy disputes.

There was no specific section for foreign affairs in Thursday night’s running order, something that the Trump campaign had claimed was evidence of pro-Biden bias, but with global tensions raising it was inevitable that the subject of international relations was discussed.

Here’s what happened as the two candidates discussed America’s relationship with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Evidence points to Russian and Iranian election interference

Just one day before the Nashville debate, FBI director Christopher Wray and John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence, announced that Iran and Russia had both gained access to voter registration data and the former had been threatening American voters.

The Iranian attack took the form of a series of targeted email purporting to be from the far-right group known as the Proud Boys, who are vociferous Trump supporters. The emails were directed to voters in Florida, the swing state that is expected to be crucial in deciding the outcome of the election.

Both candidates were asked how they would respond to foreign powers meddling in American election, with Biden answering first:

“I made it clear, that any country, no matter who it is, that interferes in American elections will pay a price,” he said. “They’re interfering with American sovereignty. That’s what’s going on.”

Biden went on to reference the recent report in The Washington Post that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Guiliani, was being “fed” disinformation by Russia.

In response the President claimed that he had been told by Ratcliffe: “The one thing that’s common to both [the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections] is that [Russia and Iran] both want you to lose because there has been no body tougher to Russia”.

Both candidates make accusations about China

That opening discussion of electoral inference soon unravelled as both candidates went on to link the other to dodgy dealings with foreign powers. Biden pointed to Trump’s recently revealed Chinese bank account and accused the President of becoming to close to China during his time in office. He accused Trump of choosing to work with “thugs” in China, Russia and North Korea while he “pokes his finger at all our allies”.

Trump returned to some of his material from the first debate, pointing to Hunter Biden’s business activities in China and Ukraine as a conflict of interest. The President also defended his Chinese bank account saying that it was from 2013, and was closed in 2015 before he ran for presidency.

“I have many bank accounts and they're all listed and they're all over the place,” he said. “I was a businessman doing business.”

North Korean nuclear armament brings new fears

Two weeks before the final debate reports emerged of a massive new weapon developed in North Korea, believed to be one of the largest ballistic missiles in the world. The missile was unveiled at a military parade and the development was brought up in the Thursday’s debate.

Trump had initially boasted of the progress made with North Korea during his time as president, falsely implying that President Barack Obama had tried and failed to hold talks with Kim Jung Un:

“We have a different kind of relationship. We have a very good relationship, and there’s no war,” said the President.

However Biden took issue with this approach accusing Trump of legitimising the North Korean regime and allowing them to build larger and more dangerous weapons. Biden said that he would not meet with Kim unless the discussion was to focus on denuclearisation.

The Democrat candidate said of Trump’s relationship with North Korea:

“He’s talked about his good buddy, who’s a thug, a thug. And he talks about how we’re better off, and they have much more capable missiles, able to reach U.S. territory much more easily than ever before.”