Transcript: Top Senators Discuss North Korea, Iran on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Oct. 22, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace."

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And we're back now with Senators Lugar, Biden, Warner and Levin to talk about North Korea and other trouble spots.

Senator Levin, you and Senator Biden have called for the U.S. to have direct, one-on-one talks with Kim Jong-Il and the regime in North Korea. But when you see what's happened this week where the Chinese sent a top diplomat to deliver a very strong message to the North Korean regime, isn't it just possible that the president's diplomatic approach is, in fact, working?

SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH.: Well, we obviously want to work with the Chinese, and we want to try to do anything we can to get the Chinese and the Russians to put some pressure on North Korea obviously. But that is not inconsistent with our having direct talks with the North Koreans. As a matter of fact, the Chinese and the South Koreans are allies, and South Korea want us to have one-on-one, direct discussions with the North Koreans.

That can be part of a multilateral strategy. It's not inconsistent to say that we want to keep our group together and we want to coordinate with the South Koreans and the Russians and the Chinese to say that we also, since they want us to talk to the North Koreans and the North Koreans want to talk to us, to have discussions with the North Koreans.

There's no inconsistency. It's another false choice which the president has presented to the American people: We either have to go it alone with North Korea or we have to work with the other countries that have the same position we do.

Well, there's a third approach here, which is, as part of a coordinated strategy, that we talk with the North Koreans and obviously coordinate the message. And we don't have to give them anything, but one-on-one discussions would be fruitful here, and we ought to do it in conjunction and coordination with our friends and allies.

WALLACE: But, Senator Lugar, isn't that, in fact, what we already have? Hasn't the U.S. already agreed — and, in fact, haven't we had bilateral talks on the side of the six-party talks?

And does it make sense — in the end, can the U.S. really accomplish anything with North Korea? Or, in effect, do we have to make it a regional problem with the neighbors, like Japan and South Korea and China getting involved — all countries that have a lot more leverage with Pyongyang than we do?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, R-IND.: Well, it's very important we have all of the countries, but my gut feeling is, at the end of the day — and I don't know which day, which week — there will be an American presence talking to the great leader and his people and saying, in essence, in terms that they understand, "We are not going to overthrow you. We are not involved in regime change. You're going to stay."

Now, the problem is, how do we work then with the Chinese to continue to get you the fuel and the food? How do we work with the South Koreans so there's some trade, some outlet for you?

But, in essence, we're for real, and we want you to dismantle whatever you're doing at Pyongyang, and quite apart from anything in the nuclear highly enriched uranium and some verification of this, but that's the deal.

WALLACE: But you're suggesting, Senator Lugar, a stepped-up, bilateral conversation between the U.S. and North Korea?

LUGAR: I believe that is going to happen. I hope it happens sooner rather than later. But I think it is inevitable, if this is to be resolved diplomatically.

Otherwise we're going to face problems, as the Japanese have become more militant; the South Koreans go through all sorts of gyrations in their policy; the Russians stand aside, tweaking the lion's tail. This is going to be a mess.

It's useful to have everybody there, and the Chinese especially, because they really have a stake in it. Every day they're pouring Chinese resources in there to keep North Koreans from coming into China.

WALLACE: Senator Biden?

SEN. JOE BIDEN, D-DEL.: The chairman is exactly correct. He said that back in '03. I've said that back in '03.

Look, it's either you want regime change or conduct change. Let's get something straight here: You don't say to somebody, "By the way, put down the very thing that you can keep us out of your hair militarily, and, by the way, after you put it down, we're going to take you out." Just rationally, doesn't work very well.

And every single party we're working with, every one of them, from Japan to Korea to Russia, has encouraged us privately to talk directly with North Korea — Carl Levin's point.

So, it seems to me, we step up to this.

And, by the way, it would be fine if the president had an alternative plan. How's he going to change the regime? Is he going to go to war? Does he have the capacity while he's locked down in Iraq, while we're worrying about Iran?

And keep in mind, Iran is watching very closely how we handle this.

WALLACE: I want to get to Iran in a second.

But, Senator Warner, do you join the Greek chorus here, that the president's policy is wrong on North Korea?

SEN. JOHN WARNER, R-VA.: I think the president has done a very commendable job on North Korea. I really do. Secretary Rice and our negotiators have handled it just correctly.

Let's remind ourselves, I served in the Korean War in the Marines — no great footnote in history. But we have, in 1953, we reached an armistice, and we're still not able to negotiate a final settlement of that conflict.

It's in our interest to have a nuclear-free peninsula. It is in our interest not to provide a basis through North Korea's pushing ahead on nuclear weapons, to have Japan or South Korea think it.

The president was right: Negotiations must be left to the six- party talks. Conversations on the side take place, as all of us know, in diplomatic areas. That's fine, conversations. Negotiations, he's been right, leave it to the six. Because we do not want the other powers to point to us and say, "You didn't handle this right, USA. It's your fault; now you take care of the problem."

China has the leverage, as Senator Lugar said, with the energy and the food. South Korea has leverage because of their bilateral relationships. Those countries — and I think China has been very responsible in coming forward and applying pressure.

Leave it as it is. The administration did a good job.

WALLACE: Let's turn to Iran.

And, Senator Biden, you brought that up because Secretary of State Rice said this week the fact that we got this united 15-0 vote out of the U.N. Security Council, the apparent willingness to enforce it — we did see the Chinese get a little tougher than I think a lot of us expected with North Korea this week — sends a message to Iran, "If you continue with your uranium program, you're going to have problems too."

On the other hand, when she met yesterday with the Russian foreign minister, he said, "I don't support sanctions."

Diplomacy, as we now have it, as the track that we're on, is that going to work or not work with Iran?

BIDEN: It can work if we increase on that track the willingness to directly talk, as well.

And, look, John Kennedy said a long time ago, we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. The bottom line here is, if regime change is the operative element of this administration's policy, you are never going to get to the point where you end up with a diplomatic solution.

There may be no diplomatic solution, in the end. That's possible. We may have crossed the line, or they may have crossed the line.

But what's going to happen, I suggest to the chairmen, is while we fool around with this, you're going to see Japan go nuclear, and you're going to see China react to Japan going nuclear, and you're going to see a chain of events set in motion that are going to be significantly damaging to the next generation of Americans.

And so, it seems to me we should get off this wicket of suggesting that we won't talk. I mean, what are we afraid of in talking?

WALLACE: Let me bring in — it's a good question. Let me bring in Senator Lugar.

Do you also support one-on-one, direct talks with Iran?

LUGAR: I think that would be useful, but I think even more useful right now would be, as a part of our negotiations with Iran, to bring together the members of the Security Council, Germany, the nations that surround Iraq, including Iran — that is, bring in Iranians into a conversation about Iraq.

Now, regardless of whether we have timetables for withdrawal, whether our troops come back as opposed to intensively going into neighborhoods in Baghdad, there's got to be some perimeter defense here of Iraq, some physical integrity. That's important to Iran.

I would just change the subject a little bit. I would say, "Iranians, we have something to talk to you about that's very important to you existentially." And that may not get to the nuclear thing, but I think it does indirectly. After a while, you have at least some basis on which they have the integrity of their country.

WALLACE: Finally — and we've only got a couple of minutes left — I want to just talk briefly about politics. And I'd like to do it, if possible, in as nonpartisan a way as we can.


I know there's a lot of talk in the park — I know Senator Warner's going, like, "Good luck to you."

But I know there's a lot of talk: Republicans saying the Democrats want to cut and run; Democrats saying Republicans want to mindlessly, you know, stay the course.

Senator Warner, what's at stake in this election? If Democrats gain control of one or both houses of Congress, what's going to change? And, if so, what's going to be wrong with it?

WARNER: Well, the dynamics will change markedly, because you have a whole framework of new personalities taking over the committees. I happen to have a lot of respect for Carl Levin, and I do for most of my colleagues and, indeed, this gentleman on my right. We've gone toe to toe many times.

So I'm not — look, let's focus on the House. I think the reality is that the Senate...

WALLACE: But what would that mean for U.S. foreign policy?

WARNER: Beg your pardon?

WALLACE: What will change for U.S. foreign policy?

WARNER: Well, the nations of the world will have to become adjusted to the various chairmen. Let's put the Senate to one side. I'm confident we're going to hold that. The House is where the question mark is. And there you've got a framework of chairmen coming in, which gives us all a little pause to figure out just which direction is it going to go.

But that's America. The people have spoken. You've got to remember, in all of these things, the power is not in the presidency or in the Congress. It's in the people of the United States. If they speak, then we have to work within the framework that they've established with these new individuals.

WALLACE: And very briefly, Senator Biden, what's at stake, in terms of foreign policy?

BIDEN: Very briefly, if the Democrats regain control, you're going to see 12 to 14 Republicans freed up to go out and join, in a bipartisan way, to tell the president, "We are seriously off course." If the Democrats don't make gains, it will be a reaffirmation for this administration, stay the course. And I believe that would be disastrous.

WALLACE: And you think there are a dozen Republicans champing at the bit?

BIDEN: I know there are at least three that have approached me before we left.

WALLACE: I don't know — they're both...

BIDEN: No, neither one of these two gentlemen.


WALLACE: Neither one of those.

Senators Lugar, Biden, Warner, Levin, we want to thank you all so much. I thought it was a very useful conversation. Appreciate you coming in today.