All In   |  April 03, 2013

Obama administration stands firm to North Korea

Tensions with North Korea have continued to rise over the past several weeks. Chris Hayes discusses the threat of North Korea with his guests Sue Mi Terry, Mattea Kramer, Spencer Ackerman, and Mattie Duppler.

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

>>> north korea has been a problem for not just the region, for many years. we, as you know, are undergoing joint exercises with the south koreans now. we are doing everything we can. it only takes being wrong once. and i don't want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once.

>> let's welcome to the conversation suh terry, expert in korean policy.

>> thank you.

>> it's hard to make sense of why tensions seem to ratchet up when they do. people seem to know about the korean peninsula and about the korean regime, but then it seems every two years or march in the spring around the joint exercises.

>> holiday, they love to ruin all holidays.

>> what is accounting right now, why are tensions so high right now?

>> i think for two reasons. first of all, i never thought i'd say this, but kim jong un jr. is making me nostalgic for his father. he was more of a known entity. right now, two reasons, because he's still trying to consolidate his internal support, and second reason is because obama administration is not playing ball like previous administrations. meaning that this patience thing, we're not responding to north korea 's provocations, not going back to the negotiating table.

>> explain that, explain that. the strategy from north korea has been they provoke and we negotiate.

>> we concede. we start to, you know, from us. this has been a negotiating strategy. this is what north koreans love to do, and they've been doing this for decades now, except the obama administration this time said since he came in from the first six months when he came into office, look what north koreans did, they responded by this is how they greeted this administration by this launch nuclear tests, withdrawing from the six party talks, pursuing uranium enrichment program. the obama administration said we're not going to play ball , we're not going to talk to you guys for talking, you have to denuclearize.

>> here's my question. so, i came upon this op-ed today, which is written in 2006 by ashton carter , who is a very high-ranking pentagon official. in fact, probably the highest ranking pentagon official with real korea expertise, and i was kind of amazed by this and think it might account for the defiant posture of the obama administration towards north korea . this is ashton carter while he was out of the government add have catting for a strike on north korea . if north korea persists, the united states should make clear intentions to strike and destroy the north korean taepodong missile before it can be launched, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high explosive warhead. the effect would be devastating. is carter a --

>> you saw who he co-wrote the op-ed with. they wrote a lot about trying to detain north korea . i remember that op-ed very well. the idea was before they get to a preliminary stage where they perhaps get something into space that could be a precursor, just blow it up on the launch pad . the amount that can go wrong when you do that is tremendous, and you're not gambling with american lives, you're gambling with south korean and japanese lives if something goes wrong there.

>> here's what i'm hearing and learning in real time , which is fascinating, the way we think about what changed in the equation that's creating this movement is the changes on the north korean side, but what i'm hearing from both of you is there's changes on american side, changes in the american policy and the way america has dealt with north korea is part of what's bringing about this moment of tension.

>> well, it makes me wonder, too, this discussion we had earlier about how this is just posturing, we've heard this before, maybe the rest of the world doesn't think so. maybe they are taking it seriously. are we just too jaded from what we've heard before? maybe this is a turning point for us.

>> it seems the u.s. is mobilizing in ways it hasn't in other moments of heightened tension.

>> let's put it in context, it's not like we are going to do any kind of preemptive strike , let's also put into context, north koreans are not going to attack us. this is a lot of posturing, i know it sounds scary, they look scary and sound a little bit crazy, but they are not crazy, they are not suicidal.

>> that's what i wanted to hear as i ended my night here. i didn't want the surprise of tonight's segment would be actually we should be preparing --

>> they are not suicidal. their utmost priority is preservation.

>> spencer ackerman , the other thing i wanted to end my night on was an amazing statistic you had on defense cost overruns .

>> this is an example of what chuck hagel was talking about in his speech today, if you just tally up one year's worth of cost overruns for the 96 most important defense programs, in one year, that's $74 billion. which, if that was its own country, would be the third largest defense budget in the world, more than russia spends.

>> sue terry, spencer ackerman , mattie duppler, that is "all in" for this evening. rachel, sorry i'm throwing it to you late, but i know how much you love defense overruns.

>> if you're going to be five seconds late because we have to learn that our cost overruns alone are the third largest defense budget in the world and we learn it from spencer, i'm with you.