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North Korea may have crossed the red line

<em>NBC  News’ Washington bureau chief and host of "Meet the Press" offers insight and analysis into politics past, present and future.</em></p>

MSNBC:  Tim, the congressional testimony this week from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers -- about how the United States military is stretched thin by Iraq and Afghanistan and it will be very difficult for the U.S. to fight another potential conflict -– has become rather worrisome now, in light of nuclear development news coming from North Korea

Tim Russert:  Well, we’re pinned down in Iraq.  There’s no doubt about it, we have 135,000 American troops there.  We’re having a hard time recruiting for the National Guard and the Army Reserve – even the Marine Corps. 

It is important that we be open about it and recognize that there is a price to pay for these kind of commitments around the world.

General Meyers went on to say that we could eventually fight another war and be successful in another war, but it would be very difficult.

MSNBC:  If there is concern that America has a military that may be too small for the kind of world in which we exist in today, what kind of efforts might be undertaken to expand the military -– and with recruiting levels so low, how can it be done.

Russert:  Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, actually proposed expanding the size of the military during his presidential campaign.  Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, has been saying it for several years.

The costs, of course, are significant.  And, with the budget deficit that is already near record levels, it’s something else that has to be put into the equation.

But, more and more people are saying the current force, as it’s constructed, can not meet the demands being placed on it by a new and complicated world.

MSNBC:  Now we have satellite photos of North Korea, appearing to show some extensive preparations for a nuclear weapons test.  But, on the other hand, it could just be more game playing by North Korea.

Russert:  Our situation with North Korea continues to deteriorate.  What is not "game playing" is the fact they have at least four nuclear weapons -- maybe six and probably 10 by the end of the year.

The head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency says the North Koreans have the capability of miniaturizing a nuclear weapon and they have a rocket to put it on which could reach at least the west coast of America.

The North Korea situation is dead serious.  Why?  Because a madman, Kim Jon Il, has nuclear weapons.  And they could not only use them themselves, but they could turn around and sell them to the highest bidder.

How about Osama bin Laden and al Qaida offering tens of millions of dollars for a nuclear weapon from North Korea?  What a nightmare.

MSNBC:  This might be one of those situations where some say, “Well, there may be a reason for some kind of military intervention, somewhere along the line, if there’s fear they might try to use that type of weapons against, say, South Korea or Japan, or if they have the capability of striking American territory.

Russert:  The concern is the North Korean program is so developed that any attack would create a fallout of radiation that could very well spill over into Japan and other countries in the area.

Secondly, America isn’t sure it could find their weapons.  So, it’s a very difficult and complicated situation.  It may have crossed the red line – it may have gone too far now in terms of development, where there is no quick military solution.  It’s getting more and more harrowing as you play out the various scenarios.

MSNBC:  Switching topics quickly.

John Bolton, President George W. Bush’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, faces a confirmation hearing this week after a somewhat surprising delay.  Has he picked up any support?

Russert:  Yes, Bolton has picked up the support of Richard Armitage.  Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s number two is now saying, ‘He’s my president’s choice.  I support my president.’  And Sen. Richard Lugar, R-IN, and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee says he has the votes.  We’ll know May 12th, but it looks like, unless something else emerges over the next week, that John Bolton may in fact squeeze by.

MSNBC:  Who will we see Sunday on Meet the Press?

Russert:  We’re going to tackle all this -- the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world.  Former CIA agent Gary Schroen was assigned the task of finding Osama bin Laden.  He has a new book out about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq – what been going on underground, trying to put together the pieces and take down that terrorist network.  He’ll offer an inside look at that, which is particularly in the news now with the capture of the third-ranking al Qaida leader, Abu Farraj al-Libbi.

This is the real deal and we’re going to try to bring to our viewers a sense of what’s really happening in the war on terror.

Then, of course, politics -- We can’t forget John Bolton, Tom DeLay, Social Security and more.  So, we have a Mothers’ Day special, James Carville and his favorite mother, his wife, Mary Matlin, side by side, and we’ll try to make sense of the political atmosphere here in Washington, Sunday, on Meet the Press.