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Transcript: Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published July 09, 2006 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the July 9, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: With North Korea topping a list of hot spots around the world, we turn now to the man who oversees U.S. policy in every region, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who joins us from Boston.
Mr. Secretary, our main diplomatic response to North Korea at this point is to push a resolution in the Security Council, which would ban all countries from trading in weapons-related material with that regime.
Now, just today Japan's foreign minister has said that they plan to push for a vote on this resolution tomorrow. Is that the plan?
And, secondly, have we gotten an agreement from China that they will either support the resolution or at least agree to abstain from vetoing it?
UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, Chris, we're operating on multiple diplomatic tracks here in an attempt to try to get the North Koreans to come back to six-party talks, to give up their nuclear weapons, which is what they agreed they would do, and their weapons of mass destruction.
So, yes, we're operating at the Security Council. We have a very strong Chapter 7 resolution in place right now. It will be voted in the next couple of days, we hope.
We also have — President Bush and Secretary Rice have been in contact with all of the major regional leaders. Our ambassador, Chris Hill, our assistant secretary of state, is in the region. He's in Japan today. He was in South Korea and China in the last two days.
And I think the most important step today is that China has decided to send a senior-level delegation to Pyongyang this evening. And it's time for China to exert its influence that it does have on North Korea.
So I think you're going to see over the next couple of days all these tracks proceeding forward with one intention, and that is to convince the North Koreans that they're isolated, that they have no support in the world, and they've got to come back to this six-party framework and the agreement they made with us, and that is to denuclearize.
WALLACE: Secretary Burns, you say it's time for China to exert its influence. Is China the key player in getting North Korea to bend on this? And in a sense is this a test of just how reliable a partner China will be for us in the diplomatic arena?
BURNS: China is certainly a key player. It has a relationship with Pyongyang.
WALLACE: The key player?
BURNS: It is certainly a key player — I said "a key player" — because it's got a relationship with North Korea, however complicated from the past, where it has more influence, certainly, in trade and in political relations than the rest of us have.
So Secretary Rice was on the phone with Foreign Minister Lee yesterday and has obviously pushed the Chinese to use that influence and to convince the North Koreans to cease and desist not just from these missile tests, but to redeem the commitments that they made to us nearly a year ago.
So we're trying to bring a great deal of pressure to bear on North Korea from China, from the U.N. Security Council. We're certainly using American influence in Asia, which is considerable, to press our allies to send the same messages to the north.
And I think we're beginning to see a congealing of this international effort, and we hope to have some success in the next several days.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask one marker of this, and this is a simple yes or no question. Has China agreed that it will not veto that U.N. resolution?
BURNS: I don't think we've heard the last word from China. I'm not sure the Chinese have figured out exactly what they're going to do. It may depend on what the Chinese hear in Pyongyang from the North Korean leadership.
So I don't think, with all due respect, the question is as simple as that. We're engaged now in a very complex series of diplomatic steps from multiple directions, all pointed in giving that same message to the North Koreans and having the same impact on North Korean behavior.
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, what is the regime in North Korea up to? What do they want from us and the rest of the world?
BURNS: You know, Chris, we gave up a long time ago trying to divine the intentions of the North Korean government. We're just going to have to judge them on what they do. And we are obviously outraged...
WALLACE: You're saying seriously as...
BURNS: ... outraged by these missile tests...
WALLACE: You're saying as the undersecretary of state...
BURNS: ... over the last couple of weeks.
WALLACE: You're saying as undersecretary of state you don't know what they want?
BURNS: No, I answered the question the way I wanted to answer it. You said what does this regime want to do, what are their intentions. And you know, we don't have a diplomatic relationship. We don't have an ambassador in Pyongyang.
We have very limited contact with the North Korean government. So it's not in my interest to try to help you guess what's in Kim Jong-Il's mind. But I can tell you this: We have a very clear view of what American national interests are here, and that is to put the North Koreans back into a place where they denuclearize, where they dismantle their weapons of mass destruction.
They committed to that on September 19, 2005. They have an obligation now to the rest of us, including China and Russia, to make good on that commitment, and that's the basis of our policy.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, because given the fact that we have made a number of agreements with North Korea over the years, and we're putting several of them up on the screen — in 1985, in 1994, in 1999 — and they have broken every single one of them, Mr. Secretary, if we could make a deal, what makes you think that they would abide by it?
BURNS: Well, it's not a question of trust here. It's a question of verification and of understanding exactly what the North Koreans are doing. So if we make — we made a commitment and a deal with the North Koreans in the six-party framework back in September of last year.
Obviously, verifying if the North Koreans are in compliance is the first order of business, and right now they're not in compliance.
That's why we are suggesting and co-sponsoring this Chapter 7 resolution of the United Nations. That's why we have our lead diplomatic official, Chris Hill, in the region now. It's why Secretary Rice and President Bush have been so active over the last several days.
WALLACE: I want to play for you a clip from the president's state of the union speech back in 2002 in which he laid out part of the Bush doctrine on foreign policy. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, since then, by all estimates from intelligence sources, North Korea has only increased its nuclear stockpile. Iran has gone ahead and developed more of its nuclear program.
Is it the policy of this president that he will not leave office allowing those two dangerous regimes to still threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons?
BURNS: And, Chris, since the president spoke those words in 2002, he has created and sustained two major international coalitions designed to prevent both of them from becoming nuclear weapons powers — in the case of North Korea, to dismantle their nuclear apparatus; in the case of Iran, to deny them a nuclear weapons capability.
And you know, we have in the case of Iran now — it will be a very important week. We have Iran fairly isolated. China and Russia and the European countries have all agreed that if Iran can't accept this conditional invitation to negotiations, that they can't suspend their nuclear programs, then they're going to face another path, action in the Security Council.
We didn't have 15 months or 24 months ago this kind of international consensus on Iran that we have now, and that is certainly in our interest that we've been able to build that coalition.
The same is true of North Korea. We have a six-party framework. Five of the parties have a clear-eyed view of what the end result is here. So as the president said two days ago, sometimes diplomacy does take time, and it just isn't accurate to take a snapshot on a Sunday morning in July and say well, they're succeeding or they're failing, because the world is more complicated than that.
And we think we're on the right track in this diplomatic track with both North Korea and with Iran, and we think we're isolating both countries on the world stage.
WALLACE: But let me ask you — we're not taking a snapshot, with all due respect, Mr. Secretary, on a Sunday in July. I mean, that was 2002. We're now in 2006. It's 4.5 years later.
Can you honestly tell the American people that the situation on the ground in Tehran and Pyongyang — that they have fewer weapons, that they are less threatening to the rest of the world?
BURNS: I think we can certainly say that the situation with Iran is much better today. We're much better positioned to be influential with the Iranian government than we were four years ago.
The president has created this coalition with President Putin and with the Chinese leadership and the European leadership. The Iranians thought they could divide us, and they miscalculated.
Until very recently, they felt they were going to be able to steam forward with their nuclear research activities at their plant at Natanz, to engage in the kind of enrichment activities that would eventually give them the scientific knowledge to create a nuclear weapons capability.
We are now creating a coalition to stop them from doing that. So yes, I think we're far better off in dealing with Iran now than we were just a couple of years ago.
WALLACE: Well, let's follow up on Iran. A number of countries — the E.U. and the U.S., China and Russia offered Iran a package of carrots and sticks on June 6th, and at that time your boss, the secretary of state, said that Iran had weeks, not months, to respond.
This Tuesday it will be five weeks, and Iran's top negotiator continues to reject any deadlines. Isn't Iran involved in a classic stall? And at some point isn't the west going to have to set a deadline?
BURNS: Oh, I think you're right that the Iranians are trying very hard now not to give us a clear and unambiguous answer. And they have a meeting on Tuesday with the Europeans. Secretary Rice is going to be in Paris to meet with the Europeans and the Russians and Chinese on Wednesday.
And the time has come for Iran to respond to the offer that was made on June 1st back in Vienna. And the Iranians need to understand that if they can't answer this question clearly, there is another path available to us, and that is to work in the Security Council to increase pressure and action against the Iranian government.
We offered them two paths, negotiations or Security Council action. The Iranians can choose, but the time to choose has come.
WALLACE: You say "the time to choose has come." Does that mean there's a deadline?
BURNS: The time to choose has come. There's going to be a meeting Tuesday. Let's see what Dr. Ali Larijani, the Iranian national security advisor, says to the Europeans on Tuesday. Secretary Rice will be in Europe the next day to evaluate that with her European, Russian and Chinese counterparts.
And I think by then we'll have a fairly good idea of whether or not the Iranians are serious, whether they're going to respond and accept this offer for negotiations or whether they're going to try to filibuster and delay things for months. We won't accept that. We have another option available to us, and we'll travel down that road if we have to.
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, one final area I want to get into with you. We've got a little over a minute left. The president has decided to break with decades of U.S. policy and to allow Russia to store tons of spent nuclear fuel from around the world, which is a very profitable business.
Has Russian President Putin done so much to help the U.S. on Iran, on North Korea, on agreeing with us about democratic reforms in Russia, to deserve such a reward?
BURNS: Well, Chris, we are currently talking — in fact, right now, talking in Europe today, Sunday, with the Russians about a variety of issues that we may or may not be able to agree on, so let's just see how successful those negotiations can be.
But certainly we have an interest to work as a nuclear power with Russia to try to limit the spread and the proliferation of nuclear materials in the world. That's in the American national interest, and that shouldn't surprise anyone.
And as the president goes to St. Petersburg to the G-8 summit over the weekend, we will be arguing to sustain and strengthen the fight against proliferation of all nuclear materials in the world, not just with Russia, but with all the other countries at that table.
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, we want to thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks again.
BURNS: It's a pleasure, Chris. Thank you.Full-page "'FNS' Interview" Archive