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Powell Interview with Tamara Kupperman of NBC News

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Seoul, Republic of Korea
October 26, 2004

MS. KUPPERMAN: Beginning with North Korea , Mr. Secretary, based on your discussions in Japan , South Korea , and especially China , are you at all optimistic that North Korea will return soon to the Six-Party Talks and be ready to move ahead?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm optimistic in the sense that in the three countries that I visited there is a solid view that the Six-Party framework is the way to go forward. And we hope that the North Koreans in the near future will realize that they have to come back into this framework. if they have any concerns, questions to raise, this is the place to resolve those questions. And we made it clear from our standpoint that the Six-Party framework is the means of finding a solution to this problem. and we hope the Koreans, the North Koreans, will come to that understanding as well soon and we can get this going again. It's important for us to move quickly, in the very near future, in order to keep momentum up and in order to solve a problem a problem that is a concern to the international community, North Korea 's nuclear weapons programs, and it's also a way to help the North Koreans. They are in need of assistance, and that assistance will come. Some members of the Six-Party framework have already agreed to provide immediate assistance, and there are benefits waiting for North Korea if it takes the right strategic choice.

MS. KUPPERMAN: Well that actually brings me to the next question, which is, After you met with Chinese leaders, Foreign Minister Lee told a Chinese news agency "that the U.S. needs to go further to adopt a flexible and practical attitude on the issue." He said this despite the proposal that the U.S. presented at the last round. Is the U.S. prepared to be even more flexible?

SECRETARY POWELL: The U.S. has put forward a flexible proposal, we did it at the third session of the Six-Party framework. We haven't had a response from North Korea . We're always prepared to be flexible, but we're not going to put down a new proposal every couple of weeks because the North Koreans say "well, we're not sure we like the previous proposal." That's not a way to negotiate. So the proposal we put down over the summer in the third round of Six-Party Talks is our proposal. It was a change from our earlier position, it showed a great deal of flexibility, it was welcomed by all of the other parties, and we're waiting to have the North Koreans to respond to it.

MS. KUPPERMAN: It sounds like China wants the United States to go even further, though.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as I said, we put forward a forward-leaning, flexible proposal. We go into these negotiations with flexibility, we hear what the others have to say. But we're not going to get into a position where every few weeks we have to put something else on the table in order to satisfy the North Koreans. The North Koreans need to come back to the table so we can all sit around and discuss the proposal they put forward, the proposal we put forward, and the proposal the South Koreans put forward. The way to do this is at the discussion, not via press conferences or statements.

MS. KUPPERMAN: One other Korea question. Based on the hole in the fence that was found, has U.S. security posture been heightened? I know that there are reports that South Korean security posture has heightened.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not aware of it. You'll have to direct that to the military forces here. I've been in meetings. but my understanding is that there was discovered a minor breach of some kind in the fence. I don't know how serious it is or how unusual it is, so I will let the military worry about this. I don't sense that an invasion is underway.

MS. KUPPERMAN: If I can move to Iraq . The Iraqi Interim Government and the IAEA have reported that 350 tons of a potent explosive has gone missing. Senator Kerry has called this one of the great blunders of Iraq , one of the greatest blunders of the administration. How would you respond to that, and how concerned are you about the missing explosives?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't know whether we know what happened to it or the exact disposition and I'll wait for those who are looking into this to come up with the answer. So what was there, when was it discovered missing, where might it be, and I won't get into a political debate with Senator Kerry on the matter. I stay away from these kinds of political charges and countercharges.

MS. KUPPERMAN: How pervasive is the infiltration of Iraqi security forces by insurgents or terrorists, given that it certainly appears that they had inside information on some of the most recent gruesome attacks, and how do you combat this?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't quantify it. I know that most of the Iraqi troops that we have raised up, most of the police forces are out there doing their job. They're putting themselves at risk. They're being killed. There are some, I suspect, who do have feelings for the insurgency and may be part of the insurgency. But we should not let this denigrate all of those brave, courageous Iraqis who are standing in line to sign up to be members of the police force, or members of the army, or who are prepared to serve their nation as their nation strives to become a democracy, to have elections at the end of January of 2005, and to move forward. They don't want to go backward into the past, a past dominated by a terrorist such as Saddam Hussein. And so while I'm sure there's some infiltration, let's take note of the fact that most of these troops are out there trying to do the job, and we're trying to give them the training and the equipping they need to do the job well.

MS. KUPPERMAN: Forgive me, I wasn't trying to denigrate, I'm just trying to get a sense from you about the threat.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I understand that, and I didn't mean to imply that. But the point I wanted to make is that nobody can give you a percentage number of how pervasive it is. But I didn't want the viewers to think that it was so pervasive that we didn't have brave young men out there defending their country.

MS. KUPPERMAN: In such a short amount of time before the elections are expected in January and so few human workers on the ground, how can there be full, free, and fair elections there, given how long it took to get an election for one person underway in Afghanistan ?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the elections are being run by the Iraqis themselves, and they're hard at work. Their electoral commission is busy setting up polling stations, know where those polling stations are going to be, in the process of hiring workers, registration is going to start soon. And so they're hard at work at it.

Now, we need more UN assistance, and I've been working with Secretary General Annan to get more UN personnel into the country. But the challenge is security, to make sure they can get about the country and do their work safely. But we're hoping that they will increase their numbers in the very near future and help the Iraqis create conditions so that we can have a full, free, fair, and comprehensive election.

MS. KUPPERMAN: And, in the same vein, how concerned are you as we get closer to the elections that security is going to prevent a sufficient number of international monitors from going in?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the international monitors are not essential to the election, but they're very important for an election. The insurgency is a difficult one. And our military commanders and coalition military commanders and Iraqi military commanders are now taking the fight to the enemy. And we're going to work hard to recover those parts of the Sunni triangle that are under insurgent control. And we're going to try to improve the security situation between now and the time of the election at the end of January of 2005 so that people can safely go to the polls, observers can do their work, and election officials can do their work.

MS. KUPPERMAN: Here's the question you've been waiting for: Was this your farewell trip?

SECRETARY POWELL: No.

MS. KUPPERMAN: Did you

SECRETARY POWELL: You should see my schedule for the rest of the year.

MS. KUPPERMAN: I'm sorry; farewell trip to East Asia as Secretary of State.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm on no farewell trip. I'm not taking any victory laps. I'm hard at work doing my job and my job includes frequent and occasional travel to different parts of the world.

MS. KUPPERMAN: Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Tammy.

# # #

2004/1162

[End]


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