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Special Report

North Korea Takes Center Stage

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Today, the foreign minister a nd I discussed the evolving situation on the Korean peninsula in light of the reports from North Korea, state-owned media, on the death of Kim Jong Il. We reiterate our hope for improved relations with the people of North Korea and remain deeply concerned about their well-being.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think it's very possible that the military or simply, who hold the real power in North Korea, are simply not going to accept this 20-something newly minted four- star general as the inevitable successor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the man known as "Dear Leader" in North Korea, Kim Jong Il, died Saturday of a heart attack. The news being spread by state-run media. His successor, his son, 27-year-old heir, Kim Jong Un. As you heard John Bolton talking about, we don't know a lot about him. He was educated in Switzerland. He's a basketball fanatic, but otherwise he's an unknown commodity. And there are some worries he may try to do something to provoke or at least show what he would think is his strength as the new leader there. We're back with our panel. Charles, what about this?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the honest answer is we don't know, but unlike a lot of other issues, we are not alone in not knowing because it's an incredibly opaque regime.

What we do know is that when Kim Jong Il, the dead "Dear Leader", took over, he had been working closely with the father for about 10 years. So we know he already acquired authority in the military and elsewhere. This guy, our new guy, Mr. Un, is coming in without any experience whatsoever. The grooming began only about a year ago. In fact, the people of the country hadn't even heard of this guy or seen a picture of him until about a year ago. So he has no relationships.

There is also a little squiggle in this where the sister of the dead "Dear Leader", leader has been given authority and her husband. So you've got a kind of regency here, a Shakespearean situation in which the young one ends up in the tower of London or worse. In the end it's probably the military, and they will decide which of the Kims will reign, if any. But the idea that somehow this will hasten or bring about the collapse of the regime I think is a doubtful one. It's incredibly stable over time and has defied all expectations of collapse for many decades.

BAIER: Juan, I should point out today, North Korea fired two short range missiles, Russian variety from the back of vehicles, not the same long range that we have seen the multistage, like the Taepodong-2. But Juan, there is still this thought that we don't know what is coming in the weeks ahead.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: WILLIAMS: We have no idea. Nobody today in Washington, including Secretary of State Clinton had any idea. She is talking with people who were involved in the six-party talks that broke down, principally China, and saying what do you know, what are you hearing? Do we have any control here. And the answer so far is no. There is no control. No one knows him as Charles was saying.

And the fear really boils down to the fact that not only are they firing off devices but that they continue to have nuclear weapons and that they have more uranium than ever for their enrichment, which means if this man is of a mind to begin using those weapons against South Korea, we could be in for some real trouble.

Remember, this comes at a time when China is trying to enforce that -- the idea, that it, not the United States, not anybody else is in control of that whole south Asian region. And if that is the case, the question then, you know, we understand that the Chinese are afraid of a rush of people across the border should this country become unstable. But why won't the Chinese act in such a way, as to gain control or force some kind of talks at this point of transition?

BAIER: That may change quickly. We have 28,500 U.S. troops along the border there, South Korea.

DAVID DRUCKER, REPORTER, ROLL CALL: Of course, China likes the idea that North Korea causes us fits, and I think that's why they don't ever try and do too much about it, in addition to the fact that they are worried about a rush across the border.

North Korea is kind of like a disease that is sort of in remission but always ready to rear its ugly head and cause us problems. And I think especially as we're heading into the presidential campaign season, it's a reminder of how volatile certain parts of the world are and the fact that either President Obama could be dealing with this, a new president could be dealing with this, and we still have no answers.

BAIER: Turn topics, quickly. The man who led the Velvet Revolution, Vaclav Havel, distant playwright, man who spent years in communist jails, former Czech president, died. Charles, his significance for the freedom movement, really?

KRAUTHAMMER: He was one of the great heroes of human liberty and of the Cold War. At the nadir of the democracy movement, meaning in the mid-'70s when the Soviets were ascendant and strong and America and the west in retreat, he authored the Charter 77 of the year 1977, which declared that sort of the dignity of man against the communist authorities at a time when everybody imagined it was simply a lost cause. And he turned it by the moral example and the courage he and others who signed it set and by the counterparts in Poland, Valencia, and the worker revolution there essentially liberated Eastern Europe from within, one of the great successes and heroes of our time.

BAIER: Juan, a lot of people put him in the ranks of even Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, for Eastern Europe. Mandela was in jail and Havel was in jail. You think how they wouldn't allow Mandela writings, and clearly the letters from Ulga, which are the letters from Havel to his first wife and talked about picking up on this theme of the individual denying a lie, just tremendous power.

DRUCKER: I think we take it for granted that the Soviet Union and the iron curtain ended up on the ash heap of history, as Ronald Reagan once said and, said it was going to happen. But it wasn't necessarily destined to be. I mean, that was for the first half of my life -- we didn't think could go anywhere. It's individuals like this that over time by sticking with it helped bring that about from the inside

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for a new holiday ad overseas.

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