John Bolton: US must show that we stand with South Korea

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 10, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TRISH REGAN, GUEST HOST:  To South Korea right now, protests erupting after a controversial president was impeached, not the thing you want to see with North Korea lobbing off missile tests right and left.

How big a concern is North Korea now?

Joining me right now, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.

Ambassador, good to see you.


REGAN:  I keep hearing these concerns right now about North Korea's ability to take out our electrical grid.  What is North Korea really capable of?

BOLTON:  Well, I'm not sure they can do it yet, but the commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the South Korean military in the past year have said repeatedly that North Korea is close to being able to miniaturize a nuclear device.

And they have detonated five, putting it on top of an intercontinental missile, intercontinental ballistic missile, and hitting targets on the West Coast of the United States, some estimate as early as next year.

REGAN:  Wow.

BOLTON:  So whether it was an EMP strike or a more conventional nuclear strike, or, let's be clear, something that could hit either our forces or civilian targets in Japan, this is something to be very concerned about, especially, as you note, given the political turmoil in South Korea.

REGAN:  What would an EMP actually do?  Explain that.

BOLTON:  Well, it's a -- it's a -- effectively, it could destroy information technology systems and systems that rely on electricity, which is pretty much everything, if it can knock out power generators, if it can knock out backup generators and a whole host of things.

In a society dependent on electricity and everything that goes with it, that could have a pretty devastating, including killing people in physical destruction.  It's not just a question of moving some electrons around.

So, it doesn't look like a conventional nuclear strike, but many fear that, done properly by the aggressor, it could actually be more significant.

REGAN:  Let me ask you.  Let me go back to South Korea for a moment and President Park there.

Her -- her impeachment is causing these riots there in the street.  What does that offer North Korea in terms of political advantage?

BOLTON:  Well, certainly, it offers political instability.

Under the South Korean constitution, there would be an acting president for a short period of time until elections that -- likely in May.  So, in that period, you have an unelected president, acting president, in effect.

We have got, as you noted earlier, the firings of numerous North Korean missile tests.  And to play on that uncertainty to interfere possibly in the election campaign, something that we have been discussing in this country, and the prospect -- at least the political prognosticators are saying that the next South Korean president may return to the sunshine policy of the -- of 10 years ago, much more favorable to North Korea than President Park's view.

She took a pretty dim view of North Korea's growing missile and nuclear capabilities.  The opposition doesn't see it that way.  So, that could be a real setback for the United States.

REGAN:  So, Ambassador, what do we do right now?  What would be your policy advice?

BOLTON:  Well, I think in the short term, what we have got to show is, despite this political chaos in South Korea, we don't -- we're going to be determined to stand with the people there.

We're not going to tolerate adventurism or belligerence by the North Koreans.  We're going to continue with the deployment of the THAAD anti- missile system.  And we will see what the result is in South Korea.  I think, actually, it could end up being a fairly close election because a lot of the conservative forces were hoping against hope the president wouldn't be removed from office.

That is gone now.  They are going to have to concentrate on the election.  
But this is no time to allow China or North Korea to think there's any daylight between us and the South Koreans.

REGAN:  Ambassador Bolton, good to see you.  Thank you very much.

BOLTON:  Thank you.


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