MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: North Korea’s Kim Jong Il defies the world, testing long-range missiles which one day could deliver nuclear warheads. Can this man be stopped? With us: from the Bush administration, the third-ranking official at the State Department, Ambassador Nicholas Burns; the former assistant secretary of defense, Ashton Carter of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; the man who led the negotiations for the 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea, Robert Gallucci, dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has visited North Korea five times, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
And in our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE, former President Gerald Ford turns 93 this week. He last appeared as president on MEET THE PRESS 31 years ago when he talked about age as a state of mind.
But first, North Korea. On the Fourth of July North Korea tested medium- and long-range missiles, and their nuclear program appears to be full speed ahead. What is the Bush administration going to do about it? Here with us, the under secretary of state, Nicholas Burns.
Mr. Ambassador, good morning.
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you, Tim. Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Will the United States insist that the United Nations impose sanctions against North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Well, we are pursuing a very aggressive resolution up in New York at the Security Council, and we think we’ve got the votes to pass that, but we’re also operating on multiple diplomatic fronts. We have our lead negotiator, Chris Hill, Ambassador Hill, in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo this week; President Bush and Secretary Rice have been working the phones with, with their counterparts; and we also have a very interesting development today. The Chinese government is sending tonight to Pyongyang a senior delegation. You know, frankly we think it’s time for China to use its influence with North Korea. The Chinese have influence, certainly more than the United States and the other members of the international community, dealing with this problem. China now has an opportunity to put its best foot forward, to send the North Koreans a direct message that these missile tests cannot be tolerated, and that the North Koreans now have to come back to the September 19, 2005, agreement, and they’ve got to denuclearize, give up their nuclear ambitions and abide by the agreement that they, that they made with the rest of us nearly a year ago.
MR. RUSSERT: But the South Koreans and the Chinese have both said they do not believe there should be sanctions against North Korea. Will the U.S. absolutely insist that there be sanctions in the U.N. resolution?
MR. BURNS: If you look at this U.N. resolution that’s under debate in New York, it does—it’s a Chapter 7 resolution, so it has the effect of compulsory behavior by all the member states. It says that what the North Koreans did was a threat to international peace and security, it does ask all member states not to engage in nuclear trade with North Korea. That strikes us as an obvious point. And I think what we have to do, we’ll see a lot of diplomacy over the next couple of days, we’ll have to see how the Chinese and Russians react to this, but our view is that the six parties—or the five parties—ought to remain united, and that the goal of the current diplomacy should be to use the combined leverage of China and Russia, of South Korea, Japan and the United States, to force the North Koreans back to the negotiating table. That’s the—certainly the best policy for the United States.
MR. RUSSERT: “Force the North Koreans back to the negotiating table.” There are many, as you know, Mr. Ambassador, who believe the North Koreans did this launch on the Fourth of July to get our attention because they saw the way we were treating Iran differently than we’re treating North Korea. Here’s one Nicholas Burns on National Public Radio: “With Iran, the United States has made an offer and that is we were willing to sit down and negotiate with the Iranians assuming and contingent upon their suspension of their nuclear activities at their plant in Natanz, in Iran.” Why not sit down in the same way with North Koreans? Say to them, “Stop developing your program and we’ll sit down with you one-on-one”?
MR. BURNS: Well, Tim, we’re trying to sit down with the North Koreans in the context of the six-party talks. We’ve been saying for months now that the right step forward is for North Korea to return to these talks. But we really don’t see the logic in turning this into a test of wills between two countries—the United States and North Korea. The fact is that China has the same interests as the United States—it should have the same interests—and that is to stop the North Korean nuclear program. Our allies, Japan and South Korea, have the same interests, and the Russians do as well. And so we think we’re far better off working within the framework of the six-party talks, because you get in that process the combined leverage, the combined strength, and frankly the combined pressure on North Korea of all these different countries. I simply don’t see why it’s in the interest of the United States to get those countries out of the way and only deal with North Korea directly.
So the problem here is not the lack of discussion between the United States and North Korea. We’re perfectly willing to sit down with them in that six-party environment. And in that sense, it’s analogous to what we’re trying to do with Iran. Secretary Rice announced about a month ago that should the Iranians meet the condition of suspension of their own nuclear activities, we’d be willing to sit down in another multilateral forum, and that’s with the Europeans and the Russians and Chinese.
So really, you know, the North Korea problem is not a problem just for the United States. What they did the other day on July Fourth was to disrupt the peace and harmony of their relations with the Asian countries. And the Asian countries want to be involved in these negotiations.
MR. RUSSERT: Is it the policy of the Bush administration that we would like to see regime change in North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Well, this is one of the most despotic regimes in the world. It’s a major human rights violator, there’s massive famine. And certainly we hope for—that the day will come when those people in North Korea can live in peace and be different—be governed by a different type of government. What we’ve got to do now, of course, is focus on the most immediate problem, and that problem is nuclear weapons. The problem is the ballistic launches of the other day.
I think the thing to remember about those launches, by the way, they were provocative, they were reckless, they were also unsuccessful. They fired four Scud missiles, intermediate-range missiles. They tried to fire the longer-range missile, the Taepodong, and that was spectacularly unsuccessful. It crashed into the Sea of Japan.
So we obviously have an opportunity now for diplomacy, and an opportunity to use the combined strength of all these countries to try—to provide some leverage, put some leverage against the North Koreans, and that’s what we’re—we will continue to try to do in the coming days and coming weeks.
MR. RUSSERT: Will the United States give North Korea security assurances that we will not attack their country or seek to undermine their regime?
MR. BURNS: If you look back at this historic agreement that was signed in the six-party framework on September 19 of 2005, those types of, of assurances are in that agreement. But the North Koreans have obligations, and that is to take down their nuclear program, dismantle it, dismantle their weapons of mass destruction programs in a verifiable way before all those assurances can go into place, all the other elements of the agreement can be put into place. And what we’ve seen since then is we’ve seen the United States and Russia and China and Japan and South Korea willing to go forward, willing to sit down, willing to implement this entire agreement that you just referred to, Tim, but we see the North Koreans walking away from it. So we’ve got to be very persistent, and frankly very tough in putting—in, in combining with these other countries to pressure the North Koreans to live up to their commitments.
MR. RUSSERT: But we would, we, we would be willing to give North Korea increased economic aid, perhaps light nuclear reactors for peaceful means, and a security assurance if, in fact, they sat down and negotiated?
MR. BURNS: The North Koreans know what’s in the September 19 agreement, and it’s very specific about what the United States is willing to do to take a step forward towards them should they dismantle all their nuclear programs and their weapons of mass destruction. But they’ve got responsibilities in this agreement, and no agreement is whole until both sides meet their agreement. And what we’ve seen, Tim, especially on July Fourth, is the North Koreans in outright violation of the agreement that we made with them last September.
MR. RUSSERT: Why do you think the North Koreans chose July Fourth?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don’t think it was coincidental. You know, it’s a, it’s a very unreliable and unpredictable regime. The last thing we want to do is react to every wild statement that they make, but they certainly chose that to get our attention, and that of the international community. But what they’ve got to realize is there is no magic bullet here. They can’t just think that they can sit down with the United States alone. That doesn’t work for Japan, it doesn’t work with South Korea, and frankly it doesn’t work with the Chinese. So I said before that one of the most interesting developments here is this Chinese delegation going to Pyongyang. Chris Hill, our ambassador, was in China a few days ago. He made the point, and Secretary Rice made the point yesterday to the Chinese foreign minister, we want to see China use its influence. We want to see China push forward and ask the North Koreans to meet these commitments that they’ve made to all of us.
MR. RUSSERT: Speaker Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, Republican, weighed in on this debate in this way. He offered this: “The time to replace the State Department’s failed North Korea strategy of ‘talk forever - act never’ has come. ... For 13 years the United States has talked loudly about a North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile threat. For 13 years the North Korean dictatorship has lied and hunkered down and continued to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The strategy of talking has failed. ... America’s actions must be decisive. We are faced with a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship about which we know little. It is acting in defiance of all of its own international commitments. The time for talk is over. Either they dismantle the missile or we the United States should dismantle it.”
MR. BURNS: Well, with all due respect to Speaker Gingrich, we are on a course which has a reasonable chance for success. And you never want to disavow a diplomatic track, a negotiating track, if you think you can resolve the problem in that fashion. And as I said before, we are not alone in this endeavor. We have countries with us, united with us, who can apply the same type of pressure. I will say this, what the North Koreans have done over the past week is going to give a lot of strength to our efforts to develop a missile defense system. You’ve seen very strong statements by the Japanese government wanting to work with us in that realm. So obviously, we’re going to pursue a very tough, very decisive policy over the coming weeks designed to focus the North Koreans on their obligations, to pressure them to come back to the talks, but also, certainly, to provide for our own defense and the defense of our treaty allies in Asia. And I think you’ll see us move, move ahead smartly in that direction as well.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Ambassador, many critics will say the six years that George Bush has been president, North Korea’s program has developed rather dramatically, that the policy first of isolation and then the six-party talks just hasn’t worked. Here’s the latest study from the Institute for Science and International Security. They “estimated in a report that North Korea has enough separated plutonium to develop” now “an arsenal of four to 13 nuclear weapons, compared with estimates of” just “one or two weapons in 2000” when George Bush became president. “The group says that by 2008, North Korea could have enough plutonium for eight to 17 nuclear weapons. ... The group’s assessment was based on an analysis of satellite imagery, media reports and statements by North Korean officials.”
Which led Nick Eberstadt, a conservative critic from the American Enterprise Institute—these are not Democrats. He offered this, “Although the Bush administration’s rhetoric about Kim Jong Il and his regime has sometimes been ferocious, ... North Korea’s leaders seem to have concluded that the Bush North Korea policy consists mainly of empty words - and that oft-repeated warnings need not be taken terribly seriously. By more than one criterion, indeed, Pyongyang’s strategic successes on the Bush watch outshine those from its brinkmanship during the Clinton years.” Would you acknowledge a significant increase in the nuclear capability by North Korea on the watch of President Bush?
MR. BURNS: Tim, obviously, we profoundly disagree with, with some of the statements that we’ve just heard. You know, we’ve got a very strong military force and deterrent force at work in Asia and particularly on the Korean peninsula, and that military can handle any contingency that should arise. We also have a very tough policy and I think forward-looking policy to develop missile defense to handle those contingencies. But you’ve got to combine military measures with diplomacy to be effective in a situation like this.
The fact is that a lot of this criticism seems to direct the United States back to a test of wills bilaterally between North Korea and the United States. What we want to do is we want to ask countries that do have a great deal of influence on Chi—on North Korea—certainly more than we have—to use that influence. We, we can do that by channeling those efforts through the six-party framework. And you know, diplomacy sometimes can’t succeed in a day or two, or a week or two. Sometimes it takes many months, or even years to succeed. But if you have the right policy in place. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish and if you’re very tough-minded about applying that policy, we can be successful. So we have not given up hope that we can engineer a policy that will effectively put the North Koreans back in the box, take away their nuclear programs and take away their ability to inflict threats and damage on their neighbors.
We have got to be single-minded about this. We certainly understand the gravity of the challenge posed by North Korea. But frankly, I don’t think these critics have offered any alternative that would have a reasonable prospect of success or lead us to unintended consequences if you went down the road as some of them are suggesting. And we think we’ve got the right policy in place and I can assure you we’re going to drive it forward with a great deal of energy and determination.
MR. RUSSERT: But you do not deny that North Korea’s nuclear capability has increased during the presidency of George Bush?
MR. BURNS: Well, North Korea says that it has a nuclear weapons capability and we believe it, that it has produced that over the last several years. And that’s why we put in place this policy, designed to take it away from them. And if we can have the September 19, 2005, agreement implemented, it will do just that. It will effectively denuclearize North Korea. And so that is a good bet for the United States. It’s obviously the goal that I think all these critics that you cite would share, but we think we’ve got a much more realistic in-the-real-world strategy put in place to deal with that problem.
MR. RUSSERT: But there has been a profound change in the rhetoric, certainly of the president, on this subject. Here’s the president Friday at his news conference in Chicago about North Korea.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: It takes a while for a problem to fester and grow and then it take a while to solve them diplomatically. It’s just the nature of diplomacy. I wish we could solve them overnight.
Mr. RUSSERT: Let me go back to January of 2002 in the president’s “axis of evil” speech before Congress. Let’s watch.
(Videotape, January 29, 2002):
PRES. BUSH: North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction while starving its citizens.
States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an “axis of evil,” arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.
We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.
MR. RUSSERT: Since the president uttered those words, Mr. Ambassador, every estimate is that North Korea has doubled its capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
MR. BURNS: And yet we’ve driven forward with this policy designed to respond to all the things that the president talked about back in 2002. And he has been very consistent since then in putting forward the proposition that we have to oppose the human rights abuses of the government, we have to try to draw a net around the fact that North Korea is the leading exporter of ballistic, ballistic missile technology in the world, the proliferator of it. We’ve done, we’ve done a lot to develop missile defense and we’ve created and driven forward this diplomatic coalition designed to bring us to a victory in denying North Korea the nuclear weaponry that you talk about.
So we have been very activist. We have followed this policy for a number of years. The president is right, and as I said before, diplomacy can’t be measured in a snapshot. You can’t just say on a Sunday morning in July that somehow because we haven’t come to the end of the negotiations these negotiations are bound to fail. You’ve got to be very purposeful and directed in what you’re trying to do, and apply the weight of your country and that of others to the test, and that’s what we’re doing. We have not given up on, on, on this quest to come to the end of these negotiations and put the North Koreans back into a place where they can no longer be a threat to their neighbors or to the United States.
Mr. RUSSERT: But, again, it’s the tone and the rhetoric. Let me go back and review some of the things the president has said about Kim Jong Il of North Korea. “I loathe Kim Jong Il. I’ve got a visceral reaction to this guy.” And then in 2004, “There’s a tyrant in North Korea that wants to develop a nuclear weapon.” And then this in 2002. The president called him a “pygmy” and compared him to “a spoiled child at a dinner table.” Does the president still believe that Kim Jong Il is a tyrant, a pygmy and a spoiled child?
MR. BURNS: Kim Jong Il is a—is a despot and he is someone who is one of the worst offenders of human rights all over the world. These missile tests the other day were certainly reckless, they were provocative and so we haven’t changed our opinion of the nature of the regime in North Korea. No one in our government has. We are very clear-eyed about who they are, what they represent, how much they’ve denied their own people the basic human rights that people should have around the world, and we’re focused on this nuclear question as well. So I think there’s been a lot of continuity over American policy both in the substance of the policy and in the way we’ve talked about North Korea over the last several years, and we’re determined to press ahead.
MR. RUSSERT: When the president talked about the “axis of evil,” he said “Iraq, North Korea and Iran.” The United States invaded one of those countries: Iraq. Some now make the case that Iran and North Korea took from that the following lesson: that if you develop a nuclear bomb and have a strong military you will not be invaded by the U.S.
MR. BURNS: And both of those countries have clearly miscalculated their own situations. Now the North Koreans felt, I guess, that by testing these ballistic missiles they would somehow put themselves into a position of greater weight in the negotiations. They’ve miscalculated because you’ve seen very tough statements from the Chinese and the Russians, and the South Koreans and Japanese against what they’ve done and you, and you see momentum building in the U.N. Security Council towards a very tough Chapter 7 resolution against them.
The Iranians have miscalculated. They thought that they could divide the United States from both our European allies and from Russia and China. But we’ve been able to craft a major and united coalition of all those countries. And we’ve essentially given the Iranians a clear choice, and you’ll see a lot of this unfold this week, both in Europe when Secretary Rice meets with her counterparts on Wednesday at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, at the end of the week when the president is there—the Iranians are going to have to choose: negotiations with us after they suspend their nuclear programs, or further action in the Security Council.
So I don’t think either of these countries is on the offensive. Frankly, I think both of these countries are rather cornered and isolated. There are very few countries defending them, and they’re running out of options. So we think this, this policy of patient diplomacy and of crafting multilateral coalitions to tighten the pressure around them is going to work, and it’s the right way to go, clearly, for the United States. We want to exhaust diplomatic means before we consider other means.
MR. RUSSERT: Based on our experience in Iraq, particularly with our emphasis on the weapons of mass destruction that did not materialize, John Deutch, the former head of the CIA, offered this observation: “The next time military intervention is judged necessary to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction - for example, in North Korea - there will be skepticism about the quality of our intelligence.” Do you agree with that?
MR. BURNS: I don’t—not in the case of North Korea, not in the case of Iran. Tim, I’ve been to Europe 20 times over the last 14 months to talk to the Europeans and the Russians and Chinese about Iran, for instance. There’s not a single person at the higher levels of those governments who doesn’t believe that Iran is trying to create a nuclear weapons capability. There isn’t a single person in the governments of China or Russia or South Korea or Japan who doesn’t believe that North Korea is bent on building up its nuclear capability. There is no argument in the real world today about what these two countries, Iran and North Korea, are trying to do. There is no argument remotely similar to what we went through in 2002 and ‘03 with our European allies over Iraq. In fact, we are now tightly knit up with these countries. And if you look at what the French and German and British governments are saying—as well as the Russian and Chinese governments—about whether or not these countries are intending to create a nuclear weapons capability, they agree with our assessment. So I don’t agree at all that we’re somehow limited in what we can do and limited in our effectiveness because of the, the disagreements we had over WMD in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me conclude with comments by Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard. He used to work for Vice President Dan Quayle: “North Korea is firing missiles. Iran is going nuclear. Somalia is controlled by radical Islamists. Iraq isn’t getting better, and Afghanistan is getting worse. ... I give the president a lot of credit for hanging tough on Iraq. But I am worried that it has made them too passive in confronting the other threats.” Has a preoccupation with Iraq allowed North Korea—and Iran—to go forward with their nuclear programs and limited our options?
MR. BURNS: Well, I strongly disagree with that criticism from Bill Kristol.
And I disagree for one reason: We have a very strong and active government. From the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, Treasury, we are focused on all of these problems. We created, over the last 15 months, a major international coalition to corner the Iranian government and to isolate them, and that’s been a diplomatic success over the last several months.
We’ve now got this six-party talk framework we hope coming back together, and certainly the five countries are united. Secretary Rumsfeld is in Afghanistan this morning and Secretary Rice was there 10 days ago, and we’re giving that government—President Karzai’s government—all the support it can get. We are a government that can operate—and we have to operate—in every part of the world. We’re a global superpower. We have tremendous resources at our disposal, and, frankly, we’ve got a first-class military and a first-class diplomatic effort, and we can certainly take on all these issues and be successful simultaneously.
MR. RUSSERT: And we will be watching. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, we thank you for sharing your views.
MR. BURNS: Thanks, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the view of three former Clinton administration officials who spent years dealing with the North Korea problem: former Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter; chief State Department negotiator, now at the Georgetown University, Robert Gallucci; and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., now governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. They are all right here next only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: More on North Korea with three men who’ve dealt firsthand with this situation after the station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Welcome all.
Governor Richardson, should the United States negotiate directly, one-on-one, with North Korea?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM): Yes, it should. Our policy so far is not working. What you have is North Korea has quadrupled its enriched plutonium since 2002. The six-party talks are going nowhere. We should talk directly to the North Koreans to discuss what is next. They need to dismantle their nuclear weapons. They need to destroy their missile capability. The only way to do that, in my judgment, is face-to-face talks at a level of Christopher Hill. He is a competent diplomat. The successes we’ve had with the North Koreans have been through direct engagement: when I got some pilots out of North Korea, when Bob Gallucci negotiated the agreed framework, Secretary Albright close to having an agreement on reducing or terminating their missiles.
What North Korea is seeing right now is Iran getting a nuclear reactor. They see Iran getting a nuclear fuel cycle that is assured, economic incentives. On the other hand, what they want to see is treated with respect, direct talks with the United States, but also they want to see an effort by the United States to give them the recognition that they feel they deserve. I don’t believe they do. They are a desolate, isolated regime, but right now our policy is not working. It makes sense to talk directly with the North Koreans.
MR. RUSSERT: But wouldn’t the world then say, “Oh, I see. You test the missile on the Fourth of July, you get the U.S. attention and you bring them to the bargaining table”?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Our policy right now has not worked. Look where we are right now. Asia has destabilized. We are trying to outsource our foreign policy to China. I believe China is not necessarily interested in helping us on North Korea. They don’t want to see a bunch of refugees go into their country. I believe that China is a competitor. They control a lot of our debt. Right now we do not have leverage over China. The best effort, in my judgment, is face-to-face talks, hard negotiating, get that agreement that was signed in September that North Korea has not abided to—a timetable for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons. Efforts to set up benchmarks in exchange for that armistice agreement where we don’t attack North Korea, they get economic assistance. But our objective should be firm: to get them to dismantle their nuclear weapons. The best way to do it is face-to-face talks.
MR. RUSSERT: If the president now changes course, won’t the headlines be Bush’s—“Bush blinks”?
GOV. RICHARDSON: No. I believe the headlines would be “Bush deals realistically with North Korea. He reverses a policy that is not working.”
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Gallucci, do you agree with, with that?
MR. ROBERT L. GALLUCCI: Just about entirely, I think. I, I, I have nothing against the idea of a six-party talk, something Nick pounded on, the, the virtue of having all these parties in Asia engaged. That—it’s true, it is their problem as well as ours. But the fact is it hasn’t worked. And to make the form more important than the substance—to care more about whether we have six parties meeting together than whether we stop the accumulation of plutonium—is absurd, in my view.
MR. RUSSERT: But you’d have some conditions. You had said prior to the missile test that if they took that missile off the launchpad, you’d negotiate face-to-face. Now that they’ve launched it, would you have any conditions before you went back to the table one-on-one?
MR. GALLUCCI: There’s kind of a rule, I think, that you, you really try hard not to negotiate with a gun or a missile to your head, and I think a decent interval now and some work at the United Nations is the appropriate thing to do. But I think we’re taking a view from 30,000 feet right now, what, what should the administration do? It needs to find a way to get back to negotiating table. And the fact that you may get a headline, like the president is, is reversing course, as indeed we have on—in the case of Iran, that’s not so bad if you find you’re on the wrong course. And we have been.
MR. RUSSERT: Ashton Carter, do you agree there should be one-on-one, direct negotiations between North Korea and the U.S.?
MR. ASHTON CARTER: No, I actually think the six-party talks is a perfectly appropriate forum, including for us to speak directly to the North Koreans, if others are at the table. Let’s go back to the logic of the six-party talks in the first place. The reason to have everybody at the table with the North Koreans is not only that they have a, a stake in the outcome as well, but in dealing with North Korea, diplomacy has to have a coercive dimension. And we don’t trade with North Korea, we don’t recognize North Korea diplomatically. There’s almost nothing we can do short of military action to apply pressure to North Korea. We’re capable of military action, and it’s important that that be an ingredient of coercive diplomacy. But the real levers on Kim Jong Il are the Chinese and the South Koreans. It is they who essentially support the regime economically and politically. So it makes sense to have them at the table.
The six-party talks, I totally agree with my colleagues here, have produced nothing so far except a quadrupling of the amount of plutonium, as Ambassador Richardson said, in North Korean hands, and now missile launches. So they’ve been running wild for three years or so. The reasons for that—there’s a lot of blame to go around. Of course, you have to start with the North Koreans and their own intransigence. The Chinese and the South Koreans have not done everything that they should. They’ve shown sticks, they’ve been unwilling to show the—I’m sorry, the carrots—they’ve been unwilling to show the sticks that they can also wield.
I think on our side, it matters less who else is at the table than that we have our own wits about us as we sit down with the North Koreans. And our government, I believe, has been divided over the last few years at the six-party talks between two camps. One camp which believes that we have to give diplomacy a try and is earnest about pursuing diplomacy with North Korea. But there’s another camp in this country, and I think represented in the government, that believes that negotiating with the North Koreans is a fools game, or is even immoral because of the nature of the regime. I don’t agree with that view, because I think it’s more immoral to let North Korea go nuclear than to try to reach a deal with North Korea. But we have been of two minds, and therefore I don’t think we has—have—we, at the table, have been as effective as we might have been. You, you showed some of that ambivalence in the earlier part of your segment, where you see the U.S. government saying one thing at one time, and another thing at the other time. So it’s important that we get our story straight, and that’s more important than who else is at the table.
MR. RUSSERT: You had advocated several weeks ago a pre-emptive military
strike on the missile that was about to be tested. Many criticized that as
belligerent and perhaps could even trigger a North Korea response against
South Korea or against Japan—who knows? In, in hindsight, do you still stand
by that pre-emptive military strike?
MR. CARTER: Well, I, I do, and I want to put that in some context. And, by the way, I would say we should have that same position today—that is, if the North Koreans go out to the launchpad and erect that missile and prepare to launch it, we can destroy that before they can do it. To do so would be a very limited military action—a single bomb, a single cruise missile. The North Koreans aren’t going to start a war in response to that kind of action.
And to those who think that’s too much, I can only say, where are you going to draw a line in the sand with North Korea? At some point, we have to draw a line in the sand and defend it. We say things are intolerable, we say they’re unacceptable, and then we tolerate and accept. Secretary of Defense Bill—former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and I thought long and hard about this, and we thought this was a relatively nonprovocative way to draw a line in the sand with North Koreans. Now I have to emphasize there’s risk in inaction, also. You may say there’s risk in this action, but I have to emphasize there’s risk in inaction, as well, letting North Korea go nuclear.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, how do you think the North Koreans would react if we took out their test missile?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I respectfully disagree with Assistant Secretary Carter there, but at least he’s got a new idea, which the administration has not put forth. I think if we are seriously attacked or threatened, that missile—which was a test—was geared to the United States or to our allies, we have allied responsibilities with the South Koreans and Japan—you do take that step. But the fact is that you risk the South—the North Koreans shooting missiles at South Korea, we’ve got 37,000 American forces at the DMZ.
But, Tim, I think another reason for the face-to-face talks is that there are two issues that are separate from the six-party talks that are a serious grievance in our relationship. One is the fact that we have frozen financial assets of the North Koreans—I believe rightly so—but that is a separate bilateral issue. The second is our objection to dealing with North Korea’s request for a light water reactor, which I believe has boggled down the six-party talks, which, by the way, I believe you could have a separate, bilateral, face-to-face negotiation with the United States and also continue the efforts of the six-party talks, because it is the South Koreans and the Japanese that are providing financial and fuel incentives, so you can’t cut them out. But I think it’s essential to have face-to-face, private bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea.
MR. RUSSERT: But in the end, it’s a judgment of North Korean intentions. You’ve been there five times; you know them. And yet a few weeks before the missile launch, you said, “I don’t think they’re going to test,” and they did.
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, no, Tim, I said, “I believe that they were going to test.” I did say that. And what I sense in my negotiations in dealing with North Koreans...
MR. RUSSERT: You said, “As days go by, I don’t believe they’re going to do it.”
GOV. RICHARDSON: No, but early on, I said that they, they did, on CBS. My point is that when you deal with North Korea, you’re not dealing with individuals like you and me. They don’t believe in compromise. They believe in their only way or the highway. Their view is that their cause is right, and they’re going to wait you out. So they’re totally unpredictable, and I believe the only way to deal with them—and we have shown that effectively in past dealings in the Clinton administration—is direct engagement, to get them to curb their nuclear weapons, as Bob Gallucci did. Secretary Albright almost got a missile agreement. Jimmy Carter got an agreement, which was later violated, regrettably, with the father of Kim Jong Il. My point is that face-to-face discussions with the United States directly, I believe, is a precursor. The continuation of the six-party talks is the best way to go.
MR. RUSSERT: But do they keep their word? Here’s Madeleine Albright toasting Kim Jong Il in North Korea, October of 2000. She appeared on this program four years later, and this was our exchange:
(Videotape, September 12, 2004):
MR. RUSSERT: But didn’t North Korea develop a nuclear bomb on Bill Clinton’s watch?
MS. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: No. What they were doing, as it turns out, they were cheating. And the reason that you have arms control agreements is you don’t make them with your friends, you make them with your enemies. And it is the process that is required to hold countries accountable.
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Gallucci, you negotiated that ‘94 agreement. The North Koreans stopped processing in one plant, if you will, but we later found out that at the same time, they were making uranium at another plant.
MR. GALLUCCI: Not actually, no. That’s not what we found out. What happened was we did do a deal. We did stop the—a plutonium-based program, nuclear weapons program. We made sure that 8,000 fuel rods containing around 30 kilograms—enough for five nuclear weapons worth of plutonium—stayed in, in a storage pond. And a deal would have had the North Koreans end their nuclear weapons program. We think they started cheating in the late ‘90s by getting some gas centrifuge equipment from Pakistan. We don’t know a lot about that, where it is, whether the equipment has been put together. We think over a period of time they’ll do what the Pakistanis did, what the Iranians appear to be wanting to do, and put together this gas centrifuge. They never got there yet—or we don’t think they’ve gotten there yet.
MR. RUSSERT: But they broke their word.
MR. GALLUCCI: They absolutely cheated. There’s no question about that. But we really, really ought to be clear here what’s happened. There was a nuclear weapons program that was stopped. Plutonium production was stopped, right? And afterwards, tragically, I believe, that agreement which locked them up, was allowed to collapse. And we find ourselves now with the North Koreans accumulating plutonium, a bomb’s worth a year, and freed up that plutonium that was controlled for that period of time, and they say they’ve used it to make bombs. We would have to estimate about five more. And with each passing day, I would argue to you, more important than that missile that Ash would take out on the gantry if it turns up again, with each passing day, we’re going to find ourselves more and more and more closer than we were before to the day when that material could be transferred or sold to al-Qaeda, presenting a threat far greater than the threat that is posed to us by nuclear weapons aboard ballistic missiles. We can deter a country with ballistic missiles.
MR. RUSSERT: We know the return address.
MR. GALLUCCI: We do. But with a terrorist, with unconventional delivery, your national missile defense will not be very good against United Airlines or American Airlines or a bus or a truck. And deterrence doesn’t work terribly well when an enemy values your death more than his life. So no defense, no deterrence. We need to lock up the nuclear program. You would not care about the ballistic missile program if they did not have the nuclear weapons program.
MR. RUSSERT: But you can have all the agreements you want, if they’re going to cheat, what good are they?
MR. GALLUCCI: Madeleine Albright essentially had it correct, in my view. You make a deal. Nobody did that deal in ‘94 thinking we were trusting North Koreans. We had some transparency, a measure of it, and you verify. We caught them cheating. You might make another deal. I think you should. You ask the question, you make another deal. Are you better off with the deal or are you better off without it? If the answer to the former is yes, you do the deal. You don’t ask, I think, the simple question, Have they fooled us before? Then don’t let them fool us again. I don’t believe that’s the way you proceed in international affairs. You ask a very tough question about the national security. Should we do this? Is it better for us? Ask for more transparency. Insist on it. Be tough in the negotiations, not in the formality of whether it’s six parties or it’s bilateral.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you all two presidents, Bill Clinton back in 1993, George Bush 10 years later, talking to the North Koreans, in effect. And I’m asking you to put your mind in place of a North Korean watching this.
President Clinton, President Bush:
(Videotape, November 7, 1993):
PRES. BILL CLINTON: North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb.
We have to be very firm about it.
(Videotape, May 23, 2003):
PRES. BUSH: We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.
MR. RUSSERT: Ash Carter, both presidents making very firm, resolved statements. If you’re a North Korean watching that, knowing that you now have the potential building eight nuclear bombs, what are you thinking?
MR. CARTER: Well, I’m concerned that they’re thinking that we’re giving a new meaning to the word “intolerable” because they keep doing things that we say are intolerable and then we tolerate them. That’s why I think at some point you have to draw the line with the North Koreans. I do think and I—here I agree with both the other gentlemen you have on the show, who’ve shown it’s possible to reach agreement with North Korea and to get agreements that serve our interests. The much-maligned agreed framework, as Bob Gallucci pointed out, without that agreed framework, North Korea, by all the calculations of the experts, would now have 50 nuclear weapons. So we were better off with the agreement than without it.
It is possible to reach agreement with the North Koreans, but not when they see the kind of footage that you showed, which is Americans drawing a line in the sand and then stepping back from that line, drawing a line in the sand and then stepping back. I think our, our, our diplomacy has to have carrots in it, but it has to stand somewhere, and as I suggested earlier, I think the missile tests are a good place to take a stand.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, draw a line in the sand and step back? The North Koreans watch that, they observe that, they know what their own...(unintelligible)...has been. How do you have any strength in negotiating with people like that?
GOV. RICHARDSON: The North Koreans in, in my dealings with them, they care more about form than they do substance. In your earlier segment, you showed President Bush calling him a tyrant, but then later he called him Mr. Kim Jong Il. I was in North Korea when that happened. The North Koreans were delighted because they felt they’d been treated with respect. They care deeply about protocol. And this is another reason why I think, for a relatively cheap price, a face-to-face negotiation at the level of Chris Hill—who, again, is very competent—I believe would set the stage for a final agreement at the six-party talks, which is essential, which is basically a good agreement.
In exchange for North Korea dismantling its nuclear weapons, its missiles, they get an armistice agreement where they’re not attacked. They get food, fuel, energy assistance.
MR. RUSSERT: Security assurances, we will not topple their regime.
GOV. RICHARDSON: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. That’s in, that’s in that September agreement that Chris Hill negotiated.
My point is, if it’s just going to be a face-to-face meeting that serves as a precursor that also deals with this frozen assets issue, which has directly hit the North Korean regime, because it controls the foreign expenditures of Kim Jong Il, and you deal with this light water reactor, especially now after we’ve promised it to Iran and economic incentives to Iran, I think the timing is right for this new stage of direct negotiations.
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Gallucci, based on your experience, do you believe the North Koreans would give up their nuclear program, give up their nuclear bombs—which they believe in their mind is an insurance policy against an American invasion—for economic assistance, light water reactors?
MR. GALLUCCI: At the end of the day, I don’t know. But that leaves me to conclude, since I really don’t know, that it’s a good idea to find out. It’s a good idea, it was in 1994, to do a deal with the North that required them to give up the program. We did that, and for a period of years we were in a position to monitor that closely, and they did give it up. Indeed, you can make an argument that while the centrifuge program with the Pakistanis was clearly cheating, it wasn’t yet a genuine nuclear weapons program. It hadn’t produced anything and probably still hasn’t produced anything.
So, you have the possibility if the North Koreans are thinking the way they may be thinking, that they need one or the other. They need either nuclear weapons to deter the United States from regime change, or they need a relationship with us that makes it unnecessary for them to have nuclear weapons. The only way to find out whether they’ll ultimately give up those weapons is to do a deal.
MR. RUSSERT: We hear so much talk about Kim Jong Il, tyrant, spoiled child, others have said madman. You’ve been in that country five times. Who is he, what is he?
GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I, I’ve never met him. I met the number two in command. He is the entire nation. He is basically a cult of personality. He runs everything. He knows everything that’s happening. All power flows through him. What that causes, unfortunately, is an isolated North Korea. His people are in terrible shape economically. I’ve been there five times, I think I’ve seen one tractor. I see people weak and drawn out. They look like they need nourishment. A lot of people are starving there. They have human rights violations.
He is a mercurial character, but I think he’s crazy like a fox. He is not somebody that is out of his mind. He’s, he may be totally unpredictable, isolated, but he’s calculating, and he’s used the Fourth of July. Every time he’s backing—he feels he’s backed down, he moves and does something irrational. He, he, he shoots missiles off. He’s done it twice. He cancels agreements, he gets the nuclear inspectors out in 2002. This is the way he operates, and what we should do is, is take advantage of his vulnerability. He also is vulnerable in the sense that the country is weak economically, it desperately needs an elimination of sanctions, they need food, electricity. He’s realistic, too, I believe.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Richardson, Robert Gallucci, Ashton Carter, thank you all for a very sobering but important discussion.
Coming next, President Bush celebrated his 60th birthday this week. And 31 years ago on MEET THE PRESS, then President Gerald Ford talked about being 60 and serving as president. Coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’re back. Two presidential birthdays this week. President Bush turned 60 last Thursday, and this Friday, former President Gerald Ford will be 93 years old. Our 38th president talked about age, health and the presidency right here 31 years ago.
(Videotape, November 9, 1975):
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mr. Reston:
MR. JAMES B. RESTON (The New York Times): Mr. President, in the—in the early days of the republic, you know, the American people took great chances on young men in the presidency. Now here we are looking at ‘76 and most of the leading candidates are old geezers like me in their 60s. Now we seem to have misplaced a generation here somewhere. Can—is the system out of phase? What explains this?
PRES. GERALD FORD: I think age is a state of mind, and obviously a state of health. I’m in the early 60s. I feel as vigorous mentally and physically as I ever have at any time in my life. I don’t think you should rule a person out just because they’re my particular age. On the other hand, I don’t think you should rule out a younger person who by experience or intelligence or overall capability is a potential candidate. I don’t think you should categorize people just by age bracket. I believe you ought to look at the person, how strong he is mentally and physically, and what his experience and what his background in. That’s the criteria that I would use.
MR. RUSSERT: Happy, happy birthday, President Jerry Ford, and also happy birthday to another American legend. Thirty-eight years ago, Eunice Shriver founded the Special Olympics. She turns 85 tomorrow.
And we’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: For more information on today’s guests and topic, logon to the viewer resources page of our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.
That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week at our regular time. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.