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Gov. Bill Richardson Defends Clinton Administration's Handling of North Korea

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 11, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Incredibly, as the president is trying to unite the nation and the world to impose sanctions against the rogue state of North Korea, the Democrats and Mrs. Clinton attacked the president of the United States and accused him of being responsible, when the fact is that it is a failure of the Clinton administration policies, that I was heavily involved in at the time, that have caused us to be in the situation we're in today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Well, that was Senator John McCain on this program last night, blaming the Clinton administration for the current nuclear crisis with North Korea.

Joining us now to respond, former United States ambassador under President Clinton, New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson.

Governor, no plutonium development under Clinton, no nuclear bomb during Clinton. An agreed framework that even Colin Powell praises delaying what North Korea could do. And yet they want to go back and blame an agreement that happened 13 years ago. Do you want to respond?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: Well, I'm very — well, yes, I'm very surprised and disappointed at Senator McCain's comments, because he's usually very independent. He knows foreign policy. Obviously, somebody has primed him to say that.

But the reality is that Ashton Carter, an assistant secretary of defense, a foremost Harvard nuclear weapons expert, said that, had there not an agreed framework with the Clinton administration, North Korea would have had 50 nuclear weapons today. Today it has maybe three to six to eight.

But, you had know, we shouldn't get into this blame game. When it comes to foreign policy, national security, a nation with nuclear weapons, we should fix the problem.

And the reality is this will be my last partisan comment, is that this administration has been in office for six years. And, you know, you just can't blame another administration.

And what we should do is work together to proceed with bilateral negotiations with North Korea, where we're tough and smart and we deliver tough messages to them directly.

COLMES: Yes.

RICHARDSON: We should go with sanctions that the U.N., military technology sanctions. We should press China to press North Korea. They have leverage over it.

But we shouldn't be getting into this blame game. Let's fix the problem. This is serious. These are nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula.

COLMES: Let me ask you, how valid is the argument that Kim Jong-Il cheated on the framework and there had to be better due diligence to make sure that he didn't cheat after that agreement was signed?

RICHARDSON: Well, he did cheat. He did cheat. And what was happening is the agreement was expiring and, like he always does, he tries to increase his leverage by expelling inspectors, by making outlandish comments, and this agreement was going to be renegotiated.

But, again the Bush administration developed another policy which was a policy of basically hardening, and they had a right to do that towards North Korea.

But now I believe it's very important that we use a combination of tough diplomacy and sanctions. And we shouldn't get this into partisan politics.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Governor...

RICHARDSON: I really think this is a...

HANNITY: Governor.

RICHARDSON: Yes.

HANNITY: And I love you to death. And I don't think you're anywhere near as partisan as many in your party. You want to talk about who made this partisan? Blame Hillary Clinton. Blame Harry Reid, who instantaneously came out and demanded an investigation. You know, the same people that have been calling Bush a liar for all these years.

I didn't hear you criticizing Ted Kennedy. He told our troops Bush concocted a war for political gain. We've heard nonstop partisanship from your party for the last six years, and five of which we've been under war and under attack. So you know, I think the lecture belongs to your party.

RICHARDSON: Well, I'm going to pay a complement to the Bush administration on North Korea policy. While I want them to talk directly to North Korea, and they should, they did develop, the Bush people, under Colin Powell and the assistant secretary, Chris Hill, about a year ago a framework for a deal.

And the deal goes something like this. In exchange for North Korea dismantling its nuclear weapons, there is a peace agreement, an armistice agreement where North Korea is not attacked and where the six party countries, China, South Korea, Japan...

HANNITY: Absolutely.

RICHARDSON: ... give them fuel.

Now, that was a good deal. What we need to do is return to that deal instead of driving away from it.

HANNITY: Well — I...

RICHARDSON: That's what we need to do. And it was the Bush people that put that together. And they put together six-party talks, which makes sense. Multilateral pressure on North Korea.

HANNITY: Listen, I think we've got to go further in terms of deploying missile defense systems in places like Japan and Taiwan and South Korea. I think we've got to rearm the Japanese. I think they've got to develop their own nuclear deterrent, Governor.

But I'm going to tell you something: this framework of which we discussed in 1994 set the stage for this problem. And I'll tell you why.

Because under the Clinton-agreed framework we literally gave this dictator billions of American tax dollars. We gave him the fuel to run his systems. We gave them the technology, the light water reactors.

And the only thing that Clinton extracted from him was a promise from a dictator not to use it for nefarious purposes. In retrospect, that is insane to me.

RICHARDSON: Sean, look, for eight years they built no nuclear weapons.

HANNITY: According to who?

RICHARDSON: They had no enriched plutonium.

HANNITY: No, they didn't. They didn't abide by their agreement. We gave them billions, the technology and the fuel to run it all. That's nuts.

RICHARDSON: There was — look, there was stability in Asia. There was no threats as there are now for Japan to rearm, for South Korea.

HANNITY: But it set the stage. But why did we trust a dictator? Why would we give him the fuel, the technology, the money and everything else and believe his promise that he would never use it for evil purposes? That — isn't that the fallacy?

RICHARDSON: No. No, no, no. Sean, what happens is the policy changed and President Bush, he was elected. He came in and he said, "I want to harden my policy towards North Korea. We're going to try to isolate."

HANNITY: You're blaming Bush.

COLMES: We've got to — Governor, we have to take a break. We thank you very much for coming on and talking to us tonight.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

COLMES: Always great to see you. Thank you, sir.

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