In his interview with Tucker Carlson on X on Wednesday night which paralleled the GOP debate, former President Donald Trump noted about China, Cuba and the highly strategic Panama Canal:
"We cannot let China be in Cuba. If I'm president, then they'll get out because I had a very good relationship with President Xi because he respected this country and he respected me. We can't let them run the Panama Canal. And we gave it away for one dollar. Think of that. How stupid are we?"
From the WorldTribune.com archives (By Editor and Publisher Robert Morton who was at the time also an editor at The Washington Times):
In 1976, Ronald Reagan mobilized his conservative base and almost defeated Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination by campaigning to retain U.S. sovereignty over the Panama Canal. Ford won the nomination, lost the White House and on Sept. 7, 1977, Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with Gen. Omar Torrijos surrendering the canal to Panama on Dec. 31 of this year. The United States gained the goodwill of a leftist dictator and lost a prime geopolitical asset – one built and maintained with tens of billions of taxpayers' money in a nation with no army or navy. Polls show most Panamanians support continued American military presence.
The installations fortify the economy, the native bureaucrats' competence at managing the canal is suspect, and the local police are no match for the narco-terrorists operating with impunity in neighboring Colombia where schoolchildren are taught that Panama is really Colombia. But does anyone really care about the Panama Canal? No one, it would seem, except Communist China's Military Industrial Complex, otherwise know as the People's Liberation Army (PLA). If the United States does not consider the canal a strategic asset, the surviving communist superpower apparently does.
In a deal reported by this newspaper on March 19, 1997, the Clintonesque government of Panama in effect sold the Chinese rights to two prime, American-built port facilities which flank the canal zone both to the east and the west. The 50-year contract awarded Balboa, on the Pacific side, and Cristobal, on the Atlantic side, to a giant Hong Kong shipping firm, Hutchison Whampoa, Ltd.
(See the full article here.)
In 1978, Trump had sided with Ronald Reagan over William F. Buckley Jr. on the question of whether the U.S. should have turned the Panama Canal over to Panama.
Trump, Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Roger Fontaine, and John McCain Jr. had argued against Buckley, James Burnham, George Will, and Elmo Zumwalt about control of the Panama Canal in a debate on "Firing Line" (which can be viewed here).
The U.S. administered the Panama Canal Zone as a territory between 1903 and 1979. The Carter-Torrijos Treaties outlined the process of turning the canal over to Panama by 1999. Buckley’s team argued in favor of the Senate ratifying the treaties, and Reagan’s team argued against. The Senate did ratify them, and the Panama Canal was fully turned over in 1999.