This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, February 18, 2002 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
BRIT HUME, HOST: There are a few places on earth more closed and mysterious than North Korea. It is reminiscent in some respects of China before it finally began to open up about 30 years ago.
One man who has been watching North Korea for a long time and who advised both the first President Bush and before him President Reagan is Douglas Paal, who's now president of the Asia Pacific Policy Center here in Washington. He joins me now.
DOUG PAAL, ASIA PACIFIC POLICY CENTER: Thank you.
HUME: Let's talk a little bit about what the situation that President Bush faces over there. As we've noted in the report earlier, he got protests against his visit, protests in support of what he stands for there. He's gone up to the DMZ, as you know.
What is the situation between the two Koreas that he is — the president is alleged in some quarters to have upset?
PAAL: Well, I think it's less that he's upset something, that the problem with North Korea erupted some time ago.
In the middle of 2000, Kim Dae Jung, the leader of South Korea, whom the president is meeting with this week, went north to North Korea and met with the son of the previous long-term leader of North Korea now in charge of the North, Kim Jong Il.
HUME: You're talking about Kim Jong Il. There. We see a picture of him there. His father, Kim Il Song, was an unusual guy. This guy, if anything, seems to be even more unusual. And this, of course, is a picture of the famous moment when they met and shook hands there.
PAAL: They met there 18 months ago. Three months later, promises that had been made by the North to open the DMZ, build a corridor of — enterprises north of the DMZ in their territory, something the South is giving them, humanitarian exchanges and unifications of families, they reneged on all of this by September of the same year. That's four months before Bush was sworn into office in the United States.
What's happened since then is that President Kim, who had a brilliant strategy for dealing with the North, to open them up, had less brilliant tactics, and he wasn't getting enough to show the public in South Korea that he — it was worth the effort to pour money into North Korea to try to win them over to a more workable relationship and to show that he was not threatening to the North Koreans. Maybe they'd let down their guard.
Public support at the time of that summit we just saw was about 90, 95 percent. Today, Kim Dae Jung, the president of South Korea, enjoys about 20-percent support. And his opposition is arguing that he needs to be tougher in his tactics, which is something that, in a sense, echoes what President Bush was saying about the need to be tougher with North Korea on weapons of mass destruction.
HUME: Now — so what — so the effect then of the president's axis of evil speech identifying North Korea as one of the points on the axis was to, what, strengthen the hand of Kim Dae Jung's opponents?
PAAL: In part, it was that. It was part — it was also — and there's been a relationship between the president of the United States and the president of South Korea that's sort of like that between the bad cop and the good cop or, as I've written in the past, the priest and the policeman. Kim Dae Jung, a religious man, really believes in trying to win people over through a kind of accommodationist conversion.
President Bush has got a tougher security schedule. We've got 37,000 people stationed there. We're concerned about the impact of North Korean missiles ending up in Iran and elsewhere, and we've got to press our agenda, and making those two work is the trick. I think the president's going to be very careful not to give offense to President Kim Dae Jung and to identify those areas where the two sides have a lot in common during the days he's there.
HUME: Well, in the remarks that he's made so far, he speaks as if he envisions a reunification of the two Koreas. Now I take it that reunification of the two Koreas is something that everybody in South Korea wants, that that itself is not a controversial idea. The question is whether you get there by being tough or you get there by being gentle, right?
PAAL: Absolutely. A national mantra for reunification, but the North sees it as a death knell for its own regime. And so what the president of South Korea has been saying in his time in office is "We're not out to dismantle your regime. We're out to have our two Koreas co-exist in a peaceful way and expand our trade and interaction.
HUME: Well, this administration, though — the Bush administration is for regime change, it seems, in the places where's it's found membership in the axis of evil. How does that go down?
PAAL: Well, with the Kim Dae Jung government, it does not go down well. They think it's too much in the face of the North. With the broader population, which feels the North has not paid its dues and it's not holding up its end of the bargain — it's hard for the South to keep voting in years of privation money for North Korea.
HUME: Are we talking here, Doug, about what is in a sense — in essence a failed policy of Kim Dae Jung, I mean, well intentioned and — as it might have been?
PAAL: I don't think it — I think it's too soon. The leading opposition candidate himself subscribes to the so-called sunshine policy toward North Korea, but he argues about the implementation.
HUME: Well, the implementation is — in a sense is the policy. I mean, the steps that Kim Dae Jung induced the North to agree to take — if they've not been taken, something has failed.
PAAL: Well, that may — I hate to put the word "failure" on them because they're trying to hard to solve a very difficult problem.
The people who have failed are the North Koreans. They're the ones who have walked away from a good deal. They're the ones who keep denying their people access to normal international activity, who keep the country poor, and who maintain a class structure where 600,000 people have all the privileges and the rest are just worker bees.
HUME: Military, what would happen if they — if a conflict broke out?
PAAL: Oh, a conflict is to be avoided because...
PAAL: ... the concentration of firing power from North Korea on the capital Seoul where 20-million people live would be such as to be enormously devastating no matter how quickly we subsequently would win, whether in 48 hours or two weeks.
HUME: Which we would.
PAAL: We would win.
HUME: But the cost would be —
PAAL: The cost would be very high, and so it's not something you'd — our forces are there not to prosecute a war but to deter one. If the deterrence fails, then to prosecute.
HUME: I see. So the — so everything the president does is to try to cool the situation down?
PAAL: He's trying to cool the situation down but also get results.
HUME: Got you. Doug Paal, great to have you…
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