This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, January 8, 2003. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:
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GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By working with countries in the region, diplomacy will work. We have no aggressive intent, no argument with the North Korean people. We're interested in peace on the Korean peninsula.
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VAN SUSTEREN: The president wants peace with North Korea, but what does North Korea want? Earlier today, I spoke with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, and I asked him if he thinks there's a reasonable chance that the U.S. will be involved in military action with North Korea in the next year.
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HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't think there's a reasonable probability, but I think that the North Korean behavior is an attack on the whole international system. It's not an attack on the United States. They -- when a country with that record insists on building nuclear weapons, the whole world ought to worry about it.
VAN SUSTEREN: But indeed, the whole world -- if the whole world doesn't worry about it, at least our president certainly has focused on North Korea and identified North Korea as a place that is on the "axis of evil." So is it likely that any -- you know, the United Nations will promote a military action against North Korea in a year, or we don't think they will?
KISSINGER: Well, I believe that countries like China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, that are on the borders of North Korea, have more to fear from nuclear weapons in North Korea than we do, who will have a missile defense in a reasonable time. But if the international community permits a country like this to build nuclear weapons without doing anything about it, then we're going to live in a very tough world. And I think the United States should put this to some of the these countries in a very explicit way.
VAN SUSTEREN: But if you look at it, I mean, Japan can reached by a North Korea missile. China's right on North Korea's northern border. South Korea, which has an enormous interest, has suddenly at least seemed to have a sort of a shift in policy. They want to engage North Korea in more discussion. So doesn't that make that harder for us?
KISSINGER: Well, I don't object to South Korea being engaged in discussions with North Korea. But when the United States raises the issue that the North Koreans, who violated an agreement that has been in force for eight years and they've reopened their plutonium production, that those nations should unite and join us in asking them to do this. I think that is a very reasonable proposal from the United States, and it should certainly be the beginning. We have not had an adequate response.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of that agreement, that 1994 agreement -- going back to 1994, is that something at the time would you have recommended the United States enter into?
KISSINGER: I probably would not have recommended an agreement in which the North Koreans retained their capability and just suspended it, while we were delivering oil and other things that they needed for their rotten economy. But even that agreement, which was fairly -- very advantageous to them, they have now abrogated.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of -- what was our choice back then? Go back to 1994. If we hadn't agreed to a suspension but instead the United States had demanded a complete -- you know, that they completely rid themselves, was that an option for us?
KISSINGER: Well, we could have employed economic sanctions. And at the end of the day, we have to face the issue -- in North Korea is very similar to the issue in Iraq. And in many ways, it's more immediate. Now, I'm not saying that we need to go to war. I believe that this is an issue that can probably be handled by international diplomacy, if other nations support us in that diplomacy.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do we do about the fact that North Korea at least now is saying -- and maybe this is just saber-rattling. They're saying that if there are economic sanctions, that means war. Isn't that a shot across our bow?
KISSINGER: We're talking about a country of 20 million that cannot feed their own people, where hundreds of thousands starve to death -- literally, hundreds of thousands starve to death every year. There's a limit to the military capacity that they have. And I have noticed that their arrogance has increased to the same degree that the surrounding countries have been pleading for talking with them. I don't object with talking with them, but the fundamental problem is to get rid of their nuclear weapons production, or in two, three, four years, we're going to live in a worse situation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a difference -- because I hear this sort of batted around Washington. The Bush administration says it will not negotiate with North Korea but it will talk to North Korea. What's the difference?
KISSINGER: Well, to tell you the truth, it's a little bit too sophisticated for me. But there's going to be a very easy test. Are they going back to mothballing their nuclear reactor and permitting international inspection to go back to it, and have we made any concessions to get that? If they go back to the status quo as it was before they broke it, and if we don't make any concessions, then we have achieved a considerable diplomatic success, and that's what the president seems to be talking about.
If we make concessions, then the result is going to be that every time that they want to pull our chain we're going to see some activity around their nuclear weapons program, and then we live in the world of nuclear blackmail. But not just us, everybody else around there is going to live in that world.
VAN SUSTEREN: So predict for me, what's going to -- you know, map it out. What's going to happen?
KISSINGER: Well, I think that if we hold on our course, that we are going to achieve the return of North Korea to the status quo before. And then we can see whether there should be a real negotiation that looks towards the elimination of their program altogether.; And then we can talk about economic assistance, but not before.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Dr. Kissinger, always nice to see you. Thank you for joining me this evening.
KISSINGER: Nice to talk to you.
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