TRANSCRIPT

President Trump's North Korea strategy

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," April 17, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say we are going to do this in four weeks. It doesn't work that way. We will see what happens. I hope things work out well. I hope there's going to be peace but they've been talking with this gentleman for a long time. They have all been outplayed by this gentleman. And we will see what happens, but I just don't telegraph my moves.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Over the past 18 months North Korea has conducted two unlawful nuclear tests and an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests, even conducting a failed missile launch as I traveled here for this visit. The era of strategic patience is over.

KIM IN RYONG, NORTH KOREAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Tensions are on the rise with North Korea. The vice president there in the demilitarized zone just over the past 24 hours. This as any many people are trying to characterize what's going on here, The New York Times writing this, "A Cuban missile crisis in slow motion and North Korea."

"What is playing out," said Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who tracks this potential deadly interplay, "is the Cuban missile crisis in slow-motion, but the slow-motion part appears to be speeding up as President Trump and his aides have made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the incremental advances that have moved Mr. Kim so close to his goals. While all historical analogies are necessarily imprecise, for starters President John F. Kennedy dealt with the Soviets and Fidel Castro in the perilous 13 days in 1962 while the roots of the Korean crisis go back a quarter century, one parallel shines through," writes The New York Times, "when national ambitions, personal ego, and deadly weapons are all in the mix, the opportunities for miscalculation are many."

With that let's bring in our panel: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, your thoughts on this write up.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's a silly and alarmist analogy. The difference between the Cuban missile crisis and this is that the soviets in 1962 had an active, deployable, utterly devastating nuclear arsenal. That was at stake. And this was Armageddon was at stake. As of now, the North Koreans don't have an operational nuclear force, which is what is driving this entire issue right now. So the stakes are infinitely lower.

It seems to me the administration has made a decision that the North Koreans are accelerating their rush to breakout to the point where they have a nuke on a missile that could reach the United States or even just reach Japan, and they're not going to allow it. The problem is it is accelerating. They've been doing more tests at a faster pace and have developed an entire panoply of missiles that were on display over the weekend that surprised a lot of analysts.

So it's not as if we can stand by as we did for 30 years and hope that this is never going to end. It will end soon, meaning end with a deployable nuclear weapon. And this administration is trying to either slow the pace, that's the lower objective, the more modest objective, or to end the program totally.

And I think it is likely we are not going to see a preemptive attack. We have talked about this before. I think it is likely we will see a shoot down by the United States of a North Korean missile within maybe a year, year and a half.

BAIER: Because Mara, this leader in North Korea is not stable.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Not stable, and he seems to see having nuclear weapons and a delivery system for them as the only way he can ensure his survival. And that's what makes this incredibly complicated. During the campaign, candidate Trump said he would talk to Kim Jong-un, he would say he was he was going to negotiate over a hamburger. Since he's come into office he's gotten some new information from the Chinese who have told him apparently it's not so simple. Even if the Chinese wanted to, they couldn't necessarily get him to give up his nukes.

So this is pretty complicated. And any kind of preemptive strike would cause tremendous casualties on the Korean peninsula. There's 28,000 U.S. troops there and a lot of South Koreans are really worried about its prey

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: I do think this is a legitimate nuclear threat, maybe not because of capabilities right now so much as because of the issue of the instability of the regime. This is a quasi- mystical religious cult with some totalitarian communism built on top of it. There usually is some sort of instinct towards self-preservation among nuclear powers that we don't have much indication exists with North Korea. These people believe that their leader is the deity. We haven't seen a lot of assurances that they're worried about retribution, so this could be some kind of global murder-suicide pact. So whether it's targeting Japan, or, God forbid, the west coast of our country, this is something that definitely needs to be taken seriously. And there have been many decades of problems leading to this point from many different administrations.

BAIER: Privately U.S. officials are not disabusing the thought or the theory that they had something to do with this failed missile launch over the weekend. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Did the U.S. sabotage dismissal?

K.T. MCFARLAND, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Now, Chris, you know we can't talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations that might've happened. So I really have no comment on that and nor should I.

I do think we are entering a whole new era not just with North Korea but with everybody. With any major country, we are entering a cyber-platform, a cyber-battlefield. That is where a lot of the wars of the future are going to be fought.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Do you buy the sabotage thing?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I don't think so, but I wouldn't rule it out.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BAIER: Mara, obviously they are pulling out all the stops to prevent anything from going forward.

LIASSON: I think if they could blow up a missile on the launch pad, they certainly would, but they also want the North Koreans to think that we can. That's really important too.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: We've been working 30 years to develop systems that would shoot down missiles upon launch, in the air, in the atmosphere, and on the way down. Except for the fact that Democrats since Reagan announced it in 1983 have assiduously tried to stop the program, they are going to have a lot to answer for. It's advanced enough that we have what's called a THAAD system. Right now in Alaska, we don't know if it works, but that is our line of defense. If the North is able to develop a missile that is intercontinental and could hit the west coast, we're going to have to hope and pray that we can shoot it down from the THAAD system in Alaska.

BAIER: I want to turn quickly to Syria. This is the national security adviser on the need potential for more troops on the ground there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think we need more U.S. troops in Syria?

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That remains to be seen. I don't think so. I think what we are doing now is supporting partner forces in Syria and certain portions of the country, including the northeastern part of the country along the Euphrates river valley. It is a matter of time only until ISIS is defeated there. And was going to be really critical, though, is what forces can then establish enduring security in those regions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Mollie, H.R. McMaster there, he's over in Afghanistan now, but that is the end sentence there is really the big question all along, who takes over if and when ISIS is driven out of there?

HEMINGWAY: And this seems to be the question people keep on getting wrong. We have invaded multiple countries with very limited objectives, invading Afghanistan in order to get rid of the Taliban and put up a western friendly democracy, invading Libya with the intention of punishing Gadhafi and getting a better situation there. Iraq, also we had pretty limited goals, and everything ends up in quagmire.

So I hope that people who are very wise to be thinking all of these options on the ground at the same time people should be really careful about understanding what the U.S. interest is in Syria and preparing for all of the things that could happen that are not anticipated.

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