Who is North Korea's Kim Jong Il?

Published January 03, 2003

| FoxNews.com

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, January 2, 2003. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  What I worry about is in a leader like Kim Jong-Il is somebody who staves his people.  The United States of America is the largest -- one of the largest, if not the largest, donor of food to the North Korean people.  And one of the reasons why the people are starving is because the leader of North Korea hasn't seen to it that their economy be strong or that they're -- they be fed, and -- you know, we've got a great heart, but I have no heart for somebody who starves his folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  He's the head of a million-man army, he's sitting on top of a growing nuclear program, and he's thumbing his nose at us.  So who is this man who is taking on America?

Joining us here in America, chief news analyst for United Press International, Martin Sieff.

MARTIN SIEFF, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL:  Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Kim Jong-Il, president of North Korea.  Dangerous?

SIEFF:  Yes, very.

VAN SUSTEREN:  How dangerous?

SIEFF:  He can't be contained.  He doesn't have a wild craving for an uncontrollable war continually, as Saddam Hussein does, but he could turn out to be even more dangerous.  He's killed two million of his own people already.  How dangerous can you be?

VAN SUSTEREN:  How did he kill two-million of his people?

SIEFF:  He let them starve.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And what do you say that -- I mean, I'm sure that, if he were here today, he'd say that he didn't let them starve, that they just starved.  Did he do it intentionally?

SIEFF:  No, but it -- neither did Stalin starve 10-million Ukrainian peasants potentially, but he still starved them and he maintained the policy that starves them.

Kim inherited from his father -- Kim's -- the founding father of North Korea a policy called chuchi of being completely self-dependent and self-contained.  North Korea had to produce everything it needed in the world because the entire world, especially after the collapse of communism, was regarded as being inimical and evil to North Korea.

The policy didn't work.  It collapsed.  People starved.  Large numbers of people starved.  The policy was maintained ruthlessly through all of this.  We estimate that 10 percent of the total population of North Korea has starved to death, two-million people out of a population of somewhere over 23 million in the last 10 years.

And he sat through all of this.  He maintained the government.  He maintained the policy.

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know, it's almost as though this is sort of like a hermit country or like a paranoid country because, I mean, they have no interaction with the world, it seems like, except for in some instances to sell weapons.

SIEFF:  You're absolutely right, and this is what makes them most dangerous.  They are, in fact, known in Asia as the hermit kingdom.

The one country they have any kind of real relationships with is China to their north and to their east.  And, in fact, China is a significant supporter of them.

I think we're whistling at the wind if we expect China to pull our chestnuts out of the fire here and bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang, on Kim Jong Il.  They're not going to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN:  You say he's dangerous to his people.  He's already let two million starve.  What...

SIEFF:  Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Is he dangerous to us?

SIEFF:  He can be.  And, indirectly, he's already dangerous to us.  Directly, he wants to be very dangerous to us, pushing ahead with intercontinental ballistic missile plans so that they can have a capability of hitting American cities, certainly on the West Coast, possibly even further as well down the line.

It's not that they think they want to destroy the United States, that's not part of their ideology, but, at the very minimum, they want to have that deterrent capability, and one can't rule out the possibility that they could use that capability somewhere down the line.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Right now, they can hit Seoul in South Korea, right?

SIEFF:  Oh, yes.  They can hit Seoul.  They can hit Tokyo.  They've got the missiles to hit Tokyo.  They tested them over Japan a few years ago.  They test fired one of the missiles over the Japan Sea.  They've got the range to hit Tokyo.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Any active progression towards -- I mean, in the last, you know, 50 years, any active aggression against any other country?

SIEFF:  In terms of military invasion, not since 1953, no, none.  But in terms...

VAN SUSTEREN:  How do you -- how do you account for that?

SIEFF:  Because, first of all, they're limited.  They don't have an ideology like Baathism in Iraq of widespread expansion or creating empires or toppling vast status quos, but they do have a record of terrorism on a ruthless, sustained scale through the 1980s -- even as late as the mid-1980s -- against South Korea.

It's become a lot better in the last decade, partly because of the collapse of communism, they felt isolated, it constrained them, but more especially because Kim Dae-jung, the current outgoing president of South Korea, followed a sunshine policy of warming up relations with the North.  So tensions eased.

But they have a great capability both in conventional military terms and in terrorism that, in the past, they have used against the South.  They have assassinated many members of a South Korean cabinet in the past.  They've kidnapped South Korean people.  They've blown up South Korean airliners.

VAN SUSTEREN:  What strikes me about North Korea is that they're willing to sell weapons, I mean...

SIEFF:  Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  ... I mean -- and when you have a country that I consider a rogue nation...

SIEFF:  Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  ... selling weapons -- I mean, who are they selling to?

SIEFF:  Pakistan, Iran, probably Iraq.  Certainly Iran.  Iran's missile program, which is ultimately aimed against us and has certainly probably already got Israel within reach is largely provided for them by North Korea.

The North Koreans are much more advanced in missile technology than the Iranians, and they have a close relationship with them.  They also have a close relationship with Pakistan, and China has helped expedite those relationships.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And, in terms of nuclear weapons, how far away are they from having nuclear weapons today?

SIEFF:  Our best analysis -- when I say "our," I don't just mean UPI, but our understanding of what U.S. intelligence estimates are -- they may already have two.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And in terms of -- I mean, Saddam Hussein has shown an aggression towards another country, at least in the last 15 years.  He invaded Kuwait.  This country has not, but this country has nuclear weapons.  So who is more dangerous?

SIEFF:  Excellent point.  I think they're both enormously dangerous.  And we allowed a further point.  We know that Saddam Hussein has a biological warfare capability, that -- it's the smallpox concern.  The...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Doesn't North Korea?

SIEFF:  Yes, that's -- absolutely, Greta.  In fact, their program in developing smallpox goes -- and by other biological elements goes back at least a decade earlier than Iraq's goes.  It's well established.  So they're very dangerous.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Give me a -- do you -- give me a sort of thumbnail sketch of what he's like, the president of North Korea.

SIEFF:  He is -- the common saying is reclusive.  He likes the ladies.  He was something of a playboy in his youth.  He grew up in a very weird limited background because his father was already the founding father of North Korea.

He grew up basically as the prince and heir apparent to a paranoid society that had no knowledge of the outside world whatsoever.  Saddam Hussein is a sophisticated cosmopolitan compared to Kim.

VAN SUSTEREN:  In comparison.  Wow.

SIEFF:  Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN:  What a difference.

Martin, thanks.  I hope you'll come back as we follow this unfolding story.

SIEFF:  I guess so.  Thank you very much, Greta.

Click here to order the entire transcript of the January 2 edition of On the Record.

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