Meet the Press   |  April 07, 2013

Mitchell: North Korea has a ‘cartoon leadership’

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Fmr. Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., Michele Flournoy, and Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., tell David Gregory that China needs to step up their role in calming the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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

>> andrea, a more basic question. it's very hard to explain to your children how north korea can exist this way in the 21st century and yet we continue with belligerent lead ership, with a starving population, with a country completely isolated from the rest of the world . how is had this possible?

>> the question for your children and all children, for all of us, who are really children in watching this because it is so inexplicable. it is a cartoon leadership. it has to be done through china. i think the new chinese president , she is the only leverage that we have. there have been some promising signs and conversations according to secretary kerry. i'll be with him on this trip next weekend. we'll be on sunday morning in china. and the whole hope is that he is finally and the new leadership, but this is a critical time, is trying to prepare to exert maximum pressure because as bill richardson and senator graham and michele flournoy have said, no one knows really what is motivating him except trying to assert his leadership. who is the puppeteer? the military more than likely. is he going to do something irrational or will there be a miscalculation? i've been there a couple of times, to pyongyang with bill richardson , and the proximity, 800,000 forward deployed north korean troops and south koreans and americans, we would object lit rate north korea . you have 35 million people living within miles.

>> how dangerous -- you once said that north korea was as dangerous as iraq the last decade. do you still think they're that dangero dangerous?

>> crazy people and nuclear weapons , those who pro-liver yate throughout the world are incredibly dangerous. that's why we need to stop syria from getting chemical weapons . the one thing i'm trying to stress is the politics in south korea are strained. there will be no more tolerance for sinking south korean naval vessels or killing civilians by north korea . they need to understand that. that's my biggest fear, guys, that if there's a provocation, south korea is not going to take it anymore. and the reason they don't have nuclear weapons and japan doesn't, they trust us . and so i appreciate what this administration is doing, staying with our allies.

>> michele, what do you do with the south koreans right now from a military point of view to tell them to trust the united states , as the senator says, and not act too rashly?

>> i think we hold them as close as possible. we do as much as we can to rae assure them. the fact that we have gone ahead with these annual exercises that we sent b-2 bombers, a sign of our extend ed deterrence, strategic deterrence to south korea , all that have is in incredibly important. we've also done extensive planning with them on how to deal with various scenarios of provocation and how we would respond together as an alliance so that they don't feel that they have to lash out unilaterally by themselves.

>> a quick question about diplomacy. it's great to say negotiate with the north, but bill clinton 's white house tried to. george w. bush has trade to. they got the deal on blowing up their yongbyon reactor . he seems to take the grain, take the fuel, take the money, and then go right ahead and break agreements or at least this regime does. so diplomacy is really a big challenge with this regime.

>> a big challenge but we have to do it. what's the alternative? i think we have to recognize probably the longer range threat is the spread of nuclear materials . you don't want north korea selling enriched uranium to iran. they did it to syria, pakistan. that's -- and i remember asking north korean leader, are you guys exporting nuclear materials ? he said, maybe. if you continue sanctions we've to get foreign exchange . now, you know, that's pretty devastating. so, look, i think diplomacy has been tried. i think president clinton probably was the most successful getting an agreement done. president bush , i think, started to negotiate with him. they're very difficult but i think we need a new negotiating track and i think the key is going to be the united states and china. south korea is a major player but i think for domestic