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Powell IV on CBS's Face the Nation, John Roberts

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC December 29, 2002

MR. ROBERTS: Good morning to you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, John.

MR. ROBERTS: The administration has been very careful not to characterize the North Korean situation as a crisis, yet here we have a country and a leader who possesses at least two nuclear weapons, he's restarted a plutonium extraction plant, he's threatening to restart a reactor that will produce plutonium, he has threatened his neighbors in the past. How is this not a crisis?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's not a crisis because I believe there are still diplomatic tools that we can use to deal with it and because nobody is mobilizing armies, nobody is threatening each other yet. We are involved in a very serious situation. Some have called it a crisis. I think it's a serious situation. And what we're trying to do is control it. We're going to control it, I think, by working with our friends and allies in the region, bringing international pressure to bear. North Korea is already paying a price for its misbehavior. The Japanese, which were moving toward normalization with a huge economic package for North Korea, have stopped moving. They have to. The South Koreans, who would like to do more for the North Koreans, have just elected a new president who is committed to unification and helping the North, but he has had to speak out strongly about North Korean behavior. The European Union has just said this is a problem between North Korea and the whole world, not just North Korea and the United States.

So North Korea has created a problem for itself and is in the process of isolating itself, and I think we can use that increasing isolation to the advantage, frankly, of the North Korean people by persuading Kim Jong-il that you're not going to get anything from this kind of behavior. What he wants is for us to believe we are in a state of panic and therefore we have to give him whatever he is demanding and have to appease his bad behavior. And that's what we're not going to do. We are going to be patient. We are going to continue to apply pressure. We are going to consult with our friends and allies and we are going to hope that common sense will ultimately prevail. We are going to keep channels open in case that there are messages coming from North Korea. We want to communicate with North Korea and wait for an opening to solve this diplomatically.

MR. ROBERTS: You'll keep channels open, but you're not willing to talk directly with North Korea?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have talked directly to North Korea. I talked directly to North Korea in Brunei at the end of July. I had a meeting with the foreign minister of North Korea and pointed out to him that the United States was prepared to assist his country in many ways, but not in the presence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and not if they were participating in the kinds of programs that at that time I knew they were participating in.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Secretary, you were one of the proponents of dialogue with North Korea when other people in the administration were saying, well, wait a minute, let's tape a step back and take a look at this. Is economic isolation the appropriate course here, or should there be ongoing dialogue with Pyongyang?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am always an advocate of dialogue. And what we did at the beginning of our administration was to say let's review our policies, let's look at North Korean behavior before we move forward with dialogue. We did that. And we looked at everything that had been done by the previous administration. We looked at what the North Koreans were doing. And then this year, the President made a clear statement that he had no hostile intent toward North Korea, and he said that in South Korea earlier this year. And then he authorized me to begin discussions with North Korea. I began those discussions in Brunei with a brief meeting over coffee with the foreign minister of North Korea. And then we sent Assistant Secretary Kelly in in early October. And Jim Kelly went in not to threaten them, but to begin a dialogue and to let them know that if they would stop this kind of behavior then benefits awaited them. And it was at a time of considerable promise, with the Japanese initiative, with the South Korean initiative, soccer teams going from north to south. A lot of things were in play to help the North Koreans.

And when he presented them with the evidence that we had that they had violated the terms of the Agreed Framework and we knew that they were beginning programs to enrich uranium, another way to develop nuclear weapons, rather than saying no, we're not and prove it, they said yes, we are, what are you going to do about it? Well, that is not exactly a formula for successful dialogue.

MR. ROBERTS: No, but it's typical North Korean behavior. We're capable of behaving in a very bad way. What are you going to give us so that we don't?

SECRETARY POWELL: The answer is it is typical North Korean misbehavior, and you don't reward misbehavior of this kind by asking them, "What will it take you to stop misbehaving?" We found that that's what was attempted with the Agreed Framework. It did work. I give credit to the Clinton Administration for freezing the Yongbyon facility for those eight years. But at the same time, within a few years of that agreement, the North Koreans had already started working on another way of developing nuclear weapons. So they were violating it long before this administration came in office, and now what we have to do is to persuade the North Koreans that you may have the capacity to go from two weapons from five weapons, but we are not going to be any more intimidated and we are not going to find ourselves in a sense of crisis or a period of crisis where we have to reward your misbehavior in order to get you to behave well.

MR. ROBERTS: I want to get on to some other topics, but I need to ask you this question. In 1994, the Clinton Administration nearly went to war over a very, very similar issue. Why is military action an option that's off the table?

SECRETARY POWELL: Military action is never off the table in the sense that it is not an option. The President has every option available to him. We just don't think the circumstances at this time require us to point a gun at someone's head. We believe that we can mobilize the international community.

We also have to be quite considerate of the views of our South Koreans friends who are not anxious to see a crisis break out at a time of transition from one president to a new president, and we have to be considerate of the views of the Japanese, the Russians and Chinese. So we believe there are other tools available to us that we can use in this time of seriousness, short of threatening somebody with a weapon. And it's fascinating that this administration, which is often criticized for being unilateralist and always reaching for a gun, in this instance is, by some measures anyway, being criticized for not threatening somebody with a gun.

MR. ROBERTS: Well, on to the issue where you are taking some heat for reaching for the gun, on Iraq. Do we have a commitment from Saudi Arabia for their cooperation in the event of war to be able to use air bases command-and-control facilities?

SECRETARY POWELL: Saudi Arabia has been a good friend of the United States for many years. It has been very forthcoming and cooperative in the campaign against terrorism. I don't want to get into any specific issues on bases or things of that nature because it really belongs to the Department of Defense. I don't want to --

MR. ROBERTS: Are you getting everything you want?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are in consultation with the Saudi Arabians on all of these issues. The President has made no decision to use military force.

MR. ROBERTS: Understood.

SECRETARY POWELL: So the issue of what they might or might not provide in the event we are going to use military force is really not before us at the moment.

MR. ROBERTS: But you're not unhappy with what the Saudis have offered?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I am not unhappy with the level of cooperation we have received from the Saudis on all aspects of the global war on terrorism and what we are doing with respect to Iraq.

MR. ROBERTS: Now, you have been there before, safe to say. Are you comfortable? I mean, obviously we have overwhelming military force and Secretary Rumsfeld has said we could win this war decisively, it not swiftly. But are you comfortable, Mr. Secretary, that the administration has a concrete plan for not the morning after, but the morning after the morning after?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are spending a great deal of time considering what would be required in the event of a conflict on the day after that conflict. We would want to put in place, with the international partners that we hope we would have with us, a government that is representative of the Iraqi people and that will use the wealth of the Iraqi people for their own benefit and not for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

And so we are in contact with people outside of Iraq, Iraqis outside of Iraq. A conference was held in London recently bringing all of those groups together. We are in touch with groups inside Iraq as to how they would help put in place a government that is representative of the people.

MR. ROBERTS: But when you have the Shiites in the south, the Sunnis in the middle and you have the Kurds in the north, is there not a real potential here for the Balkanization if Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is that risk. We are sensitive to it. We do not believe that would be in the interest of anyone. So we are committed to keeping Iraq intact and not allowing it to break up into three Balkan-like pieces. And any government we would support would be supported because it had such a commitment.

MR. ROBERTS: Some Members of Congress have said the White House has failed to make its case against Saddam Hussein. We keep hearing about this so-called evidence from people in the administration, yet we've seen none of it. Isn't it time that the American people saw some of the evidence that you have that Saddam Hussein does have weapons of mass destruction that would be a causus belli to go to war?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have put out a great deal of information. We have briefed the Congress extensively with classified information. The CIA has put out an unclassified white paper. The United Kingdom has put out an unclassified white paper. I think the case has been made, maybe not to the satisfaction of all, that this is a regime that has pursued weapons of mass destruction in the past, has had weapons of mass destruction in the past, and we believe continues to have weapons of mass destruction and has lost none of its desire to produce them.

MR. ROBERTS: But are you saying what we've seen so far is all we're going to see?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I think that the inspectors are still hard at work and we are providing additional information and intelligence information to the inspectors, and we'll see what they are able to come up with. Now, Saddam Hussein says he's not doing it, he's stopped it. Well, we'll establish whether or not that is the case. We do not believe he has stopped. But the inspectors are hard at work and we have intelligence information that we are sharing with the inspectors to assist them in their work.

MR. ROBERTS: We are sending over two carrier battle groups. We are sending over two amphibious landing groups. We're sending over the Hospital Ship Comfort at some point in the near future. Secretary of State -- Secretary of Defense -- I'm sorry -- Rumsfeld had said perhaps Saddam will get the idea that the game is over. Maybe he'll just take his family and leave Iraq.

From your experience with Saddam Hussein, is that something he is likely to do or do you think that, as he did in 1991, he'll take this all the way?

SECRETARY POWELL: From my experience with Saddam Hussein, I wouldn't predict what he would do. I think that if military action has to be the way out of this situation, it will be decisive, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said. There's no doubt about the ability of the Armed Forces of the United States and other likeminded allies nations being able to prevail in such a conflict. And if I were Saddam Hussein and saw that these forces were coming after me, it would certainly be an option I would keep on my table.

MR. ROBERTS: Secretary of State Powell, thanks for being with us this morning, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you. Happy Near Year.

MR. ROBERTS: Appreciate your time. Happy New Year to you, too.

[End]

Released on December 29, 2002

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