Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gov. Richardson on The Situation Room with Wolf (Chris) Blitzer

A transcript from the show:

"Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson. He spent time in North Korea as an envoy and as former U.S. energy secretary, as well.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in. Is there blame -- do you blame the Bush administration's refusal to deal directly with North Korea? The North Koreans wanted respect, if you will. Do you blame the Bush administration for the current predicament?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: It's a combination of factors, Wolf. I think three things have to happen. The Bush administration needs to, one, push for the sanctions of military technology, financial transactions at the United Nations, get international support for our position.

Secondly, China has to step up and put real pressure on the North Koreans. They've refused to do that; I think now is the time to do it.

The third step that I would take, which the administration has not done, is send their very capable negotiator, Chris Hill, to talk directly to the North Koreans, to negotiate the deal that we had a year ago, which basically says, in exchange for North Korea not getting attacked by the United States in the six-party talks, they dismantle their nuclear weapons.

So it's a matter of psychological warfare here, but by ignoring North Korea, by not talking to them, by being obsessed with our Iraqi policy and not confronting the major problems in Iran, and in Syria, and North Korea, as James Baker has said, we should talk directly. This is what I would do.

BLITZER: The administration does point out correctly that there have been direct talks between U.S. diplomats and North Korean diplomats within the framework of bigger negotiations on the sidelines, as the diplomats call it. What's wrong with that?

RICHARDSON: Well, nothing's wrong with that. The trouble is that the North Koreans have not gone back to the talks, and what is needed now is a direct face-to-face approach. You don't have to give anything by talking directly to the North Koreans.

And failure to do that, Chris, I think has made the North Koreans more belligerent. They have proceeded with a missile test, now a nuclear weapons test. There's an arm race in Asia. I think what you do is you shift gears. You're not necessarily changing policy, because at one point we did talk directly to the North Koreans. But, quite frankly, we've refused to do so for sometime.

Chris Hill is a very good negotiator. I'd send him out there immediately to talk turkey about dismantling their nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: Here's what you said, Governor -- we did some checking -- back on January 12, 2003, when you were on ABC. You said, "You know what always happens when you negotiate with the North Koreans. There's always the private position and the public position. Right now, they're intensifying their rhetoric; they're laying out their cards; they're being belligerent in preparation, I believe, for a negotiation. They always do that."

Do you still believe that?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I do, but I think the window is closing. I do think that they feel that their direct talk's potential has diminished. They feel squeezed by financial transactions and squeezing of their Macao bank accounts -- I think properly so -- by the administration.

Now the time has come to, I believe, offer a carrot-and-stick policy. The carrot is you dismantle your nuclear weapons, we don't attack you, and you get food and fuel from the six-party talks. That deal was negotiated about a year and a half ago. That's a good deal. Let's just move forward and get it done before this escalation continues, and an arms race in Asia continues, and North Korea has time to develop even more nuclear weapons. They probably have anywhere from three to six.

BLITZER: You know, there are some Republicans out there who are criticizing the Clinton administration for being "duped" by the North Koreans back in '93-'93, when an earlier deal was made to provide them light-water reactors for civilian purposes, a lot of humanitarian assistance. The North Koreans said, yes, they used that material, supposedly, though, clandestinely to help them with their current nuclear program.

Here's what a report for Dennis Hastert in 1999 said: "Through the provision of two light-water reactors on framework under the framework, the United States will provide North Korea with the capacity to produce annually enough fissile material for nearly 100 nuclear bombs."

You served in the Clinton administration. With hindsight, was that a huge blunder to offer the North Koreans that kind of assistance, nuclear assistance, humanitarian assistance, economic assistance, given their track record as a Stalinist regime?

RICHARDSON: No, it was not a blunder. In fact, it was a success for eight years, because of the agreed framework agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration, the North Koreans did not develop any nuclear weapons. They didn't enrich uranium. Look what's happened since then, because we have not talked to them directly and negotiated directly.

Now, it doesn't make sense to blame each other. I think we've got to move forward in a bipartisan way, because these are nuclear weapons. We have 38,000 American troops in the Peninsula. We've got treaties with South Korea. They've got missiles pointed at South Korea.

Let's just shift gears, stop the blame game, get the politics out of this issue. Talk to them directly. Get sanctions at the United Nations. Build an international support. And get China. I mean, China has enormous leverage with food and fuel assistance. Get them to do something. That is diplomacy, all of that, carrot and stick, talk smart diplomacy.

We've failed to do that. Instead, we call them "axis of evil." Let's talk to them directly. They've got good negotiators in that administration. Chris Hill is one of them. Send him to Pyongyang tomorrow to try to get this thing straightened out. Couple that with sanctions, and get the Chinese to do things. That will at least bring some stability to the issue.

It's not going to resolve it, but being right now strong-headed, we don't talk to regimes that have bad behavior, that's not working. Look at the tension that this bomb has caused. BLITZER: All right. Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, thanks very much for joining us. Always good to have you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

RICHARDSON: Thanks, Chris.

BLITZER: Wolf, not Chris. I don't know who Chris is, but it's Wolf.

RICHARDSON: Wolf. Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: Thank you."

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