North Korea Watch

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: North Korea tests fires yet another short-range missile today. And just in to FOX tonight, Defense Secretary Robert Gates now saying that the U.S. will not accept a nuclear North Korea, saying, quote, "We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds a capability to wreak destruction on any target in any region or in the U.S."

That's a total of six missile launches that we've seen now since the rogue nation set off some kind of large explosion on Monday. Now, we say "some kind of explosion" because a senior U.S. official is telling FOX that tests done on an air sample collected by an Air Force plane over that test site have come back as inconclusive in terms of whether or not that explosion was indeed a nuclear blast.

U.S. officials still, however, are being cautious. They're treating the explosion as if it were a nuclear test right now.

So how dangerous is this situation? Major General Bob Scales is with us now. Always good to have you with us. Good evening.


MACCALLUM: All right, so talk to me a little bit about earlier today, and then we'll get to what Secretary Gates is saying tonight. But earlier today, North Korea said, We will act in self-defense if we are provoked. What are they talking about? I mean, they seem to be the provocative party right now.

SCALES: Well, I think what they're concerned about, Martha, is some discussion going on between South Korea and the United States about interdicting ships that leave North Korean ports that might be carrying missile parts or nuclear weapons parts. And perhaps if there's intelligence that tells either South Korea or the United States that these ships might be leaving the port with these devices, then they might be intercepted. And North Korea would view that as an act of war.

MACCALLUM: All right, so it would seem that North Korea is a bit peeved, to put it mildly, that South Korea has joined this initiative with the United States and that they have -- and as part of that initiative, they have the right to stop a ship. So that says to me that North Korea really wants to get some things on ships out of there and perhaps sold to other countries. And they're doing quite a bit of advertising lately, aren't they.

SCALES: Well, that's exactly right. And one of the reasons they fired these missiles is to demonstrate to their allies, people like Iran and Syria, Yemen, and so forth, that they have the technological capability to do this because, you know, they make several hundred million dollars off of sales of missiles and missile parts every year. And it's that money that then fuels their nuclear weapons development and their missile development. So they need this money to keep coming in, in order for them to keep producing these weapons.

MACCALLUM: All right, so what you think so far about the Obama administration response to all of this?

SCALES: I think it's been good, Martha. You know, the first rule of thumb is, Don't overreact. Remember, all this is, is just blackmail. It's an attempt by Kim to intimidate the West so he can blackmail the West into providing the million or so tons of foodstuffs that they need to keep the population from starving every year. And this administration, I think, has done it right. Don't overreact. Try to create a consortium to respond with sanctions. Focus on taking away the money, rather than interdicting food, fuel and fertilizer. It seems about -- a policy that looks to be about spot on.

MACCALLUM: But General, you know, we play this game, you know, once every year, once every couple of years with them, and generally, it breaks down to the point where they do receive more aid. So aren't we -- you know, you think about the way you treat a child in this situation. If you keep reinforcing that behavior, it's going to continue.


MACCALLUM: At what point -- and are you concerned that it's entering the danger zone?

SCALES: Well, a couple of things are different this time, Martha. First of all, the Chinese are very upset about this. I mean, they -- they want to keep North Korea as a viable buffer state, but now, all of a sudden, they're more worried about a nuclear-capable North Korea. That's the first thing.

The second thing is Kim has really overstepped his bounds here. And the intelligence that we've all received suggests that what Kim is most worried about is maintaining his grip on power. As you know, he's had -- he's been very ill. He's had a stroke. He's worried about succession and so forth. So perhaps this temper tantrum, this series of temper tantrums that he's incited, has a more sinister objective to it.

MACCALLUM: All right. We'll see. Bob -- General Bob Scales, thank you. Always good to see you.

SCALES: Thank you, Martha.

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