Post-Kim Jong Il North Korea Could Remain 'Dangerous in a Symbolic Sense'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: U.S. and South Korean forces are prepared for anything North Korea can throw at us. That according to General Walter "Skip" Sharp, the top U.S. military commander in South Korea. Now, the world is watching the Korean peninsula on the heels of a report the North Koreans' "dear leader," Kim Jong Il, may be dying of cancer. Moments ago, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Kissinger, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Kissinger, in April, North Korea, of course, launched a long-range missile. Then they pulled out of the talks. Then they did the nuclear test. Then they do short-range missiles. And now we hear, of course, that Kim Jong Il is sick, and we don't know how sick. But what are we supposed to do? What should the United States be doing right now?

KISSINGER: Well, we have to understand what the issue is here. Here's a country of a population of 20 million that has no foreign trade, it has no national resources, that is not in the international system, that for two decades by bleeding (ph) its own population has managed to build a small nuclear arsenal and now they're working on delivery systems. The world, by which I mean the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, has said this is unacceptable. The U.N. has passed a number of resolutions.

So if they get away with this and if they continue to have these nuclear weapons, this will mean that the non-proliferation policy is substantially in jeopardy, if not down the drain. How can we have expectation of success in negotiations with Iran if North Korea gets away with this? And under those conditions, countries like Japan and South Korea are likely to enter the nuclear world, too, and we'll be in a new world. And it will be a demonstration of the impotence of what calls itself the world community.

So that is the fundamental issue. And can we bring, can we bring about a change?

VAN SUSTEREN: Our top military commander in South Korea said that they are ready, North Korea and the U.S. is ready for anything that North Korea might throw out South Korea or anyplace else.

But the fact is that we keep talking about this, we keep talking that we're ready, that we want to have talks. But nothing has moved forward except North Korea testing weapons. That has moved forward.

KISSINGER: There have been talks, but the probably is that the North Koreans have told us the same thing three different times.

They have a plutonium reactor, which they closed down periodically for concessions. And once they have milked us for the maximum number of concessions, then they start their reactor again.

And we can't go back to that, and we have to bring about a sanction from all the surrounding countries sufficient to bring Korea to -- I would not say to its senses, because it does not have many senses, but to a recognition that this will not be accepted.

If not, we will live in a world -- if that continues, we will see a proliferation of some nuclear capability in Asia, and it was certainly be even more difficult if not impossible to negotiate with Iran.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, China certainly does not want Japan to get nervous and develop nuclear weapons. But it also seems to me that China is the only one with a sort of the power or influence over North Korea to sort of ratchet up the sanctions, or whatever.

Can we not get China to do more? We talk about it a lot, but can we actually get China to do more?

KISSINGER: Well, China has done more in the last U.N. resolution that it has ever done before. And there is a senior delegation officials coming to a regularly scheduled strategic dialogue with the United States at the end of this month.

And I would be amazed if this were not one of the topics that was given some considerable priority.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much time do we have?

KISSINGER: Well, it's really a question now -- a year?

But we cannot afford to have another series of endless talks. If talks resume, we should not do them on a bilateral basis, because it is not an issue between the United States and North Korea. It's an issue between the world and North Korea.

If the six-power talks resume, they have to be given a deadline, and they have to be in the context of the North Koreans agreeing that they will give up their nuclear weapons capability.

Otherwise, we will go back to having to buy the same concessions over and over again while the rest of the world proliferates.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happens when Kim Jong-il, Dear Leader, dies? He either passes the torch to his son, his brother-in-law, or the military. Give me your prediction on who gets the torch, and tell me what is going to happen.

KISSINGER: Well, the high probability is the torch will be given to the third son. What is not at all clear is whether the third son, who is below 30, who has no visible governmental experience, can hold together an establishment that has been in power for such a long period of time.

So my prediction would be that this young man will be appointed, and that then some power struggle will take place underneath him that may not be very visible.

But it is not impossible that under the strains of all of these decisions, the system will start cracking. It is a very strange society. You have been there, so you know.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have been there, and it's very different than the way we live. I will attest to that.

How dangerous is this situation to us?

KISSINGER: It's dangerous in a symbolic sense, that if we are really committed to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, as the president has stated repeatedly and eloquently, and if we can't manage it in a region in which the country that's proliferating has such limited resources and is surrounded by countries that are hostile to its intentions and then the ability to do it and other regions will diminish all the more.

And there will be an immediate impact on Japan and South Korea, and a longer-term impact in the Middle East. And so it is a very important issue for the world.

But we should not let ourselves get maneuvered in a position where we have to bear the entire responsibility for this. This is an issue for these six-power talks with a deadline and with a determination to bring it to a conclusion this time, and the conclusion has to be the destruction of the Korean nuclear weapons capability.

We have to remember that the North Koreans have been proliferators of their technology all of these years. They build a nuclear plant in Syria that the Israelis destroyed last year.

So they are a loose cannon in the situation. And if we can -- so this is an important test case of our ability to bring about denuclearization.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Kissinger, thank you, sir.

KISSINGER: It's a pleasure to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: I just posted a new poll on about North Korea. Go to right now and vote.

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