Alex Witt   |  March 31, 2013

N. Korea call nukes 'nation's life'

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., responds to the latest  rhetoric coming from the isolated country.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

to north korea now where the government is pushing its position as a nuclear nation today after a week of ongoing threats to the u.s. and south kor korea. this morning the ap reporting one of north korea 's top legislative parties called the nation's life that would not be traded even for billions of dollars. joining me now is eliot engel of new york, a member of the foreign affairs committee . congressman, thanks for being here. when you hear that heightened rhetoric after saying they had missiles pointed, what's your reaction here?

>> well, it's certainly irration irrational and makes no sense. you have the new leader of the country kim jong un is 28 years old. whether he's doing this because he wants to show that he's a strong leader or whether the military is pushing him into doing it, we really don't quite know. but we do know that these comments are irrational and, of course, need monitoring because north korea has nuclear weapons . it strikes home why the president is right. when you have irrational leaders it creates a dangerous world.

>> what might the red line be when the united states needs to move forward in a more forceful way?

>> well, i think we have to monitor them carefully, where their troop movements are, if anything has changed behind the scenes . we can pretty much tell whether it's rhetoric or bluster or really if it's real but, of course, south korea is on a heightened state of alert . the japanese are very concerned.nitor very , very carefully. this is a country that has nuclear weapons . it's not a matter of a question. if you have an irrational leadership, who knows what they could do.

>> and whether they have been able to weaponize their capability, whether they are able to deliver on the devices that are reportedly now in their hands. what does this tell us about what's happening in north korea ? we have a new young leader here. we have heightened rhetoric which we're somewhat, unfortunately, accustomed to because of his father, kim jong un's father, quite the bricsman, if you will. what does it say about the struggle for power with this young leader and the established military apparatus in the country? is there perhaps one trying to outdo the other, if you will?

>> well, it could very well be. we really don't know for sure. the fact is we know that he has made all kinds of irrational statements since he's been in power. of course his father was in power and his grandfather before him. so it's really almost a dynasty but the rhetoric happens to be more rational than ever before. there's one other thing that we need to look at carefully and that is the role of china. china has more influence over north korea than virtually any other country and so i know that our officials are going to be having talks with the chinese to make sure that this this is not something that can explode. i'm sure china doesn't want it to explode. it's a headache for them but i think if we work together with china that we can perhaps try to put the lid on this. it's a very difficult thing to understand whether it's the military pushing him, whether it's him trying to show his bravado. we don't know but we need to monitor, of course, carefully.

>> now what was coming out in the ap which we were saying at the top of the segment, congressman. korea's top legislative body is calling nuclear weapons the nation's life. and is this alluding to their very profitable black market sale of nuclear technologies and nuclear capabilities to other countries?

>> yes, of course. other countries like iran . iran is a problem. i've been to north korea twice. the last time was several years ago and we met with the leaders there. they kept saying about how much they prize their nuclear weapons and kept saying saddam hussein didn't have nuclear weapons and look where he is now. so, again, are this is a country that has used its nuclear capability as a chip. they've exported it certainly to e iran and it's something that should worry us and i know we're monitoring --

>> there's chemical weapons , too. we talk about that big concern coming out of syria. north korea has chemical weapon capabilities as well.