OTR Interviews

Could Food Be Used as a 'Weapon' to Force North Korea to Give Up Its Nuclear Weapons Program?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 18, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is here. And we asked him about North Korea's critical food shortage. "On the Record" is taking you deep inside North Korea. We're shown you firsthand the farmers and the struggle to harvest crops. But what should the United States do about the crisis? Do we get involved? Earlier today, the former secretary of defense and author of "Known and Unknown" Donald Rumsfeld went "On the Record."

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VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Secretary, nice to see you.

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone in North Korea and a U.N. food program tells us that beginning in June, they are going to run out of food. I'm curious the United States hasn't made a decision yes whether to give food. How decide when to use food as a weapon to get them to do something? We want them to get rid of their nuclear weapons.

RUMSFELD: Using almost anything has been unsuccessful in terms of that goal of getting them to end their nuclear programs. It appears to me, observer over a long period of time now that they basically see their nuclear program as a legitimizing the regime. They are one of a handful that has those weapons and it gives them stature and standing and makes other countries pay attention to them. I don't think anything that can be done with food is going to change that.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm only reporting what they say, what they said to us is essentially, look, we're still at war with your country, meaning the United States, my country. We have a cease-fire but we are still technically at war. You have 30,000 troops on our border that are Americans. We fear Japan is going to give us trouble again. You have called us the axis of evil, you have already invaded Iraq. We need that to keep all of you out.

RUMSFELD: Well, if you think about it, the countries in the region that have nuclear weapons are China and Russia and North Korea. South Korea doesn't, Japan doesn't, Taiwan doesn't. It is an argument, in my view.

But that regime is such a repressive regime and so brutal to their people. And their demeanor, their handling of their government is what leads to starvation and the fact that their people are under nourished and their economy doesn't function, and they have to get up every morning and ask themselves how can they keep themselves in power? That's what a dictatorial regime like that has to do to keep trying to perpetuate itself in power. And they don't do anything for its people. It is a tragic situation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right now they are saying the reason why they are running out of food is they had a frigid winter and flooding. However, if they had a market economy they would have other means to buy food on the market if you go farther down the chain. We have to make a decision, our country as to whether we give the humanitarian or hold out. What do we weigh? How do you make that decision? We give things to lots of countries that we don't have perfect relations with.

RUMSFELD: Sure. The problem is with a country like North Korea is to the extent we or other countries help that government, it doesn't go to the people. It goes to the government. It goes to the military. I goes to the privileged in that society.

They do not allow their people to benefit from the externally given food, or money, or other things. We've seen that. In fact they often times won't allow the people who are giving the food or the assistance to see the end user. They put a buffer in between.

So I think one of the unhappy aspects of this is, to the extent you help a regime like that, it helps the regime maintain itself in power. The real solution is for that regime to end and for the people of North Korea yet to have the kind of tunes the people of South Korea do.

You've seen the satellite picture, the same people in the north and the same in the south, the same resources north and south in the south, that country has 11th or 12th biggest gross domestic product in the world. In the north they are starving. The only reason is because of the nature of that regime. You have to ask yourself, do you want to help ha regime stay in power? Do you want to help that regime and benefit them, not the people of North Korea, but the regime?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, we have much more with secretary of defense Rumsfeld. Would he send food to the people of North Korea? He's back in a minute.

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(WEATHER BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's the grim news -- they cannot do it alone and they do not have enough food. But the United Nations World Food Program is launching an emergency operation to help feed some of the people in North Korea. But how does the group know where their food is going? We asked the director to the DPRK.

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VAN SUSTEREN: One of the issues in any humanitarian aid program, especially one here is transparency, that people know where the food is going watch is the situation with the world food program and transparency in this country?

CLAUDIA VON ROEHL, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: We have signed with the government now monetary agreements which are the most stringent and thorough in 15 years. It includes that we have 24 hours notice to go and see the entire supply chain from the ports to the warehouses to the factories where we produce together with the government, nutritious food and also to the households. We can go, once in the countryside, we can go to any household and visit the families.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you satisfied that you can get any information that you need to monitor your program? Are you personally satisfied?

VON ROEHL: Yes, I'm quite satisfied. Also, we have Korean speakers on staff now this will help greatly. Overall, I think it is the most transparent and best operating procedures, operating conditions we've ever had here in DPRK.

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VAN SUSTEREN: So what does Donald Rumsfeld think about this impending crisis? Here is more of our interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: We spoke to a woman at the U.N. world program. She said, I'm repeating what is being said they have more transparency now. They just signed a recent agreement with North Korea, they have more transparency than they've ever in determining food gets to it final destination. Our state department tells me they are dissatisfied with the transparency issue. The vice foreign minister of North Korea says we will provide that. Almost like there is so much disconnect on that issue.

RUMSFELD: There's a pattern of nongovernmental organizations, humanitarian organizations, even news organizations, I'm thinking what CNN said in Iraq, they knew about the brutality and didn't report it because they didn't want to get thrown out of Baghdad.

These NGO's know if they tell the truth about what the circumstance is, they will not be able to be there and not be able to do the kind of good things they can hope they can do. And therefore they are reluctant to say anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know if I agree with that because I've worked with some. Samaritan's Purse -- I've spent a lot of time -- -- I agree that all -- everyone gets a story. When we were in North Korea, we were never alone. We can even use the bathroom alone. It is never alone.

But to the extent they tell me they are now getting this information. The woman from the U.N. World Food Program told me that they go out to orphanages and they meet the children who are getting the food. They don't go along alone. I suspect they are not picking the orphanages. But they are doing their best to get, you know, get the right information and get the food to the right places.

RUMSFELD: You know there's a pattern of deception. When you arrive, the hotel, the things they take to you see are planned. By the same token, they deceive these humanitarian organizations. Now, you know, had you to think about what you would say about the North Korean situation while were you there. It is a natural thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I knew when I interviewed a worker if I were as probing as I might like with you or someone else I was putting her life at risk. I didn't want to have her hurt within her own country.

RUMSFELD: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nothing is worth hurting someone like that.

RUMSFELD: No, but the same dynamic affects those nongovernmental organizations there trying to help. They know if they say the truth they will be either denied the opportunity to do what they doing, and people will suffer as a result, they fear.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do we let them suffer by starving? What do we do? We are boxed in. Did we turn our back on these people? This is not government. These are the people going to starve. The government is going to be fine. How do we make the decision about what we can do and should do?

RUMSFELD: I think the calculation has to be, you don't cast it, should we use food as a weapon or not use food as a weapon or a punishment? It seems you have to cast it is, if we cooperate with that regime, does it perpetuate the problem or lead to a solution to the problem? And the problem in the north is the regime.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess -- take Pakistan. We are not war, they are an al life we give them $7 billion in aid and they double deal us all the time. But we do that because we think in weighing what we get out of it versus what we don't we would rather have them deal with us than Iran.

RUMSFELD: We also don't want to see a large Muslim state with nuclear weapons a failed state and go over to radical Islamists. We also don't want to have that country end up denying us base rights, denying us over- flight rights, ground routes into Afghanistan. We also don't want it to behave in a way towards Pakistan so the radicals within that country, they are there, let there be no doubt, take over the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do we want to book the North Korean government in by starving their people when they've got nuclear weapons. We have considerations about that as well. In many ways it is the same. We want to protect our troops and ally many do we want to starve these people and run the risk they are going to break bad, for lack of a better description?

RUMSFELD: It the American people or the American government or the west that is starving the people in North Korea. It is the regime.

VAN SUSTEREN: I agree with you. I'm not so sure in this hermetically sealed country that the people realize that. I think the government is quick to blame us. Every place you go, I heard about these imperialistic Americans are trying to get food to them.

RUMSFELD: A regime can only maintain power through repression and brutality that is what they do. They kill people who are trying to escape the country. They manage their affairs in a way that people starve. They perpetuate themselves in office and I think that the calculation has to be, as I've suggested, it is not pleasant. But I don't think that we advantage the people of North Korea, to the extent we help the regime in North Korea perpetuate itself.

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