Graham: 'China's hands' all over North Korea rebuke of US negotiators

Graham: 'China's hands' all over North Korea rebuke of US negotiators
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-S.C.) suggested on Sunday that China may have pressured North Korea to take a harder line against U.S. negotiators during a recent visit to the isolated country by Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMexico's president presses Pompeo on reuniting migrant families The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Trump's administration should avoid pursuing an unreachable end with North Korea MORE.

"I see China’s hands all over this," Graham told "Fox News Sunday," citing an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China as Beijing's possible motivation. "We’re in a fight with China."

Graham's comments came a day after the North Korean foreign ministry released a lengthy statement condemning U.S. negotiators' "gangster-like" demand for denuclearization.

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The criticism suggests that talks between the U.S. and North Korea to end the country's nuclear program may take longer than President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE has said. After the president left a landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month, he declared that Pyongyang was "no longer a nuclear threat."

Pompeo insisted that his visit to North Korea was "productive." He fired back at the country's criticism, saying if the U.S. requests for denuclearization "were gangster-like, the world is a gangster" — a reference to the widespread condemnation of the North's nuclear ambitions at the United Nations.

Graham placed blame for the North's colder attitude on Chinese influence, saying that the outbreak of a trade war between Beijing and Washington was to blame for the antagonism. 

He also warned China against stepping up the trade conflict, saying that the U.S. has "more bullets than they do when it comes to trade."

"We can hurt them more than they hurt us," Graham said, adding that there is "no doubt" in his mind that China is "pulling the North Koreans back."

“And to our North Korean friends, I can’t say the word 'friend' yet," he added. "You asked Pompeo: ‘Did he sleep well?’ If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well.“

— This report was updated at 10:21 a.m.