This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," April 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't know if this sends a message. It doesn't make a difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of. I will say this -- I think China has really been working very hard.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think the president, to his credit, is doing the right thing in trying to put pressure on President Xi to put pressure North Korea.
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The bottom line is North Korea has got to change its behavior.
HAN SONG-RYOL, NORTH KOREA FOREIGN AFFAIRS VICE MINISTER (via translator): We are taking into account the most aggressive and dangerous option that the U.S. might come up with. We will go to war if we choose.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The sights and sounds of the North Korean tension as you take a look at the region. We can tell you that the vice president, Mike Pence, is heading there to South Korea. This is reporters have been told to gather in Pyongyang to be taken somewhere. We are told it may be a parade of some sort. They also may be doing a sixth nuclear test, they may fire some sort of missile. We don't know with North Korea. But we do know that the U.S. has the USS Carl Vinson strike group and it is in the area, in the region, ready and willing to act if so needed. The president has talked about dealing with China and dealing with this diplomatically, but things are tense in that region as of tonight.
Let's bring in our panel: Tom Rogan, columnist for National Review and Opportunity Lives; David Catanese, senior politics writer for U.S. News and World Report; we welcome Jon Conradi, political editor of Lifezette. Tom, first to you. Your thoughts on the back and forth, the rhetoric really on both sides on this issue?
TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, I mean, it is a very serious issue, that goes without saying. But because of the unpredictability of the regime in this case -- you look at Iran, for example, there's a long-term political agenda where it is informed by Iranian theology. In the case of the North Koreans with the essential power centered around Kim Jong-un himself and the unpredictable behavior, whether it be redoubt or statements he said before, when that kind of individual has that much power, especially vis-a-vis Seoul, but in the longer term, the development of the ballistic missiles, it is a major threat.
What do I think is happening? Number one, there is this pressure both over and behind the scenes on China. Looks like the Trump administration is optimistic on that. And then the second point, there is the slow buildup of assets in the region to be able to take military action if the president deems it necessary.
BAIER: We have seen China turn away some coal imports from North Korea. They are saying and talking like they are going to help the Chinese foreign minister on this standoff, says "Amid challenge there is opportunity and the tensions. We will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks. Whoever provokes the situation, whoever continues to make trouble in this place, they will have to assume historical responsibility," issuing their own warning, if you will.
DAVID CATANESE, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: And speaking of dark clouds gathering over the region, it is fascinating that you have China and Russia put out a statement today trying to be the peacemaker here and deescalating the tensions between the two countries.
But frankly, this is par for the course for North Korea. For decades, they have been in for bellicose language, provocative threats that, in many instances, they cannot follow through with about going to war.
BAIER: They just want to get them back to the table so they can get food and supplies.
CATANESE: Absolutely. And I also think it is how they position themselves of strength in the region. They scare people with rhetoric. The difference, I think, the unpredictable, the North Korean regime, I think the difference is the unpredictability of Donald Trump. We don't know how Donald Trump is going to react. I think what you sited there with China, it looks like --
ROGAN: It's helping him with China.
CATANESE: It looks like he wants a diplomatic out here and doesn't want to start a war, but we just don't know how Donald Trump makes the decision and who is in the room with him this weekend if he has to make it.
BAIER: But, frankly, is that part of the reason that China is coming off the ball? Because we don't know what President Trump is going to do as opposed to the administration before that couldn't get China to act at all on North Korea?
JON CONRADI, LIFEZETTE: What we do know is something that Donald Trump has already done this week, and he took some heat for his decision to not label China a currency manipulator. People said that that was a reversal from his campaign pledge. In some ways, it seems to have already paid dividends in terms of getting China into the game to help isolate the North Korean regime.
The North Koreans have also acted bellicose because they knew that the Chinese had the back. If China is truly isolated from the North Koreans, and the North Korean regime is out on an island, they are going to be in big trouble, and they know that the conflict is not something that they can win or that they are going to want to fight.
BAIER: I want to play this sound bite from the State Department and also former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MARK TONER, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think there is a realization that the time for talk, the time for some of this -- if I can put it in this kind of long-term negotiation strategy and engagement, has passed.
PANETTA: If we were to try to attack them, they would virtually wipe out Seoul and 20 million people who live in Seoul. And if it became a nuclear war, which is likely, millions of lives would be lost. And that is the reason we haven't pulled the trigger.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
ROGAN: I think the particular issue at the moment is that compared Kim Il- sung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un is seen as someone who very potentially might be mentally ill. And I don't say that is a flippant comment. That introduces a whole -- it puts everything in the past, the bellicose rhetoric --
BAIER: In other words, his father was really out there, but he is way out there.
ROGAN: He might actually welcome more. The particular issue here, I think the U.S. military in the event of a conflict, there's no question the United States would prevail. But the cost to Seoul, Seoul would be overrun. It wouldn't be totally destroyed, but thousands of innocent civilians would die. And the components then of what North Koreans do along the DMZ with American forces, it makes it a very, very challenging situation.
The ability, though, I think has to become push the Chinese, make this a priority one issue for the United States. I think Trump is right on trade in doing that because it is so serious. And whatever the Chinese tell us, help guide policy. And if we can determine through manifesting this source buildup, do it. But it's an immensely challenging situation for a new president.
BAIER: David, this also comes obviously after the actions in Syria, the 59 tomahawk cruise missiles, and this MOAB, which technically is 'massive ordnance air blast," this massive bomb, not the "mother of all bombs." That is the nickname. But it is psychological.
This is a sound bite actually from back in 2003 when this bomb was created, actually for the Iraq war. This is then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And look closely at one of the reporters in the front row there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a psychological component to this massive new bomb?
THEN-DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: There is a psychological component to all aspects of warfare. The goal is to not have a war. The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates. Short of that, an unwillingness to cooperate, the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraq he military to fight against the coalition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Pentagon officials are saying that this was a local decision, the commanders on the grounds, to deploy this particular attack.
CATANESE: Yes. And the White House won't even say if Trump signed off on that or not. I think in a larger context, though, who is better at political theater and intimidation than President Donald Trump? He is the master of it. I think the question is, if there is some sort of test, either a missile test or this sixth nuclear test, how does Trump respond? Does he go back to economics? Does he just fire off tweets? Or is there a military response? I think that is what is unclear, and that's what makes the next 48 hours really precarious.
BAIER: Yes, because we are already into Saturday in North Korea, which is the day that they honor the grandfather, who was the founder of North Korea. Last word.
CONRADI: The day after that, you're going to have the vice president be in South Korea sending an unmistakable message to U.S. allies in the region that the United States will back them up 100 percent no matter what the North does.
BAIER: We will follow it. You can see all of the developments here on the Fox News Channel.
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