Sec Rice Interview w/ Steve Hayes, Weekly Standard
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
May 9, 2008
Interview With Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard
QUESTION: I guess I'll start with a really tough and hard-hitting question.
SECRETARY RICE: All right.
QUESTION: Since you've been in office, now since January of 2005, what are your three biggest accomplishments?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we'll wait until we're done to see where we end up.
QUESTION: To evaluate.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, to evaluate.
QUESTION: What are the things that you've done thus far --
SECRETARY RICE: But here's the things that I think we've done thus far, but I -- let me step back for a second and just say that since coming in 2001, you know, so much has happened and a lot of it, of course, revolves around 2000 -- around September 11th. But I think that our focus now on not just relations between states, but the internal composition and character of states is probably one of the big shifts that we've had. And really, it's always been there in American foreign policy, but I think it's been less of a dominant factor. And it really comes from the understanding that weak, poorly governed, almost failing states are a real danger to the international system. And of course, Afghanistan is kind of exhibit 1 --
SECRETARY RICE: -- a failed state that ended up providing a terrorist safe haven. But we've just spent a lot of time on the internal development of states. That has led us to look again at how we do foreign assistance. It has led us to be pretty demanding about which states will receive large foreign assistance and which won't: are they really devoted to good governance and democratic principles and fighting corruption? It's really led the State Department to have a different profile in what we do. We spend -- I think more and more of our diplomats are less involved in kind of relations with other foreign ministries and more involved in being in the field, whether it's in Afghanistan or Iraq, but also in places like Liberia and Haiti.
QUESTION: Did you anticipate that in January of 2005?
SECRETARY RICE: In 2005, yes, I could see that --
QUESTION: You did?
SECRETARY RICE: -- but what I needed to do was to think about how the State Department was going to take on that challenge. I would not have, frankly, foreseen it in 2001.
SECRETARY RICE: And so I just wanted to give you that context, because I think that there's a tendency to think of what we've done, what have you done state to state. And I really believe that probably some of the most important things we've done have been in restructuring the way we think about the internal composition of states and how to create a network of well-governed, democratic states around the world that can be responsible in the international system.
So among the things that I think are landmarks or -- I hate the word accomplishments, because I tend to think of foreign policy, particularly when you're at the beginning of a big, historical transformation as being something that you try pass off a foundation rather than trying to complete. I was lucky enough the last time around to be here at the end of a big, historical transformation. And of course, it's very heartening and heady even, to complete the liberation of Eastern Europe or complete the unification of Germany or, ultimately, complete the collapse of the Soviet Union. But you recognize the foundation for that was laid in the 1940s.
SECRETARY RICE: We're at the beginning, again. So with that background, I think we have changed dramatically both the alignment in the Middle East and the expectations of what the Middle East should be and will be. I would be the first to say that we won't be able to deliver the fully formed, different Middle East.
SECRETARY RICE: But I think what's expected of it and where it's headed is fundamentally different than when we came. And it's been turbulent and it's been difficult. But when I hear people talking about the stable Middle East that we've disrupted, I have to ask them, "What stability was that?"
QUESTION: Right, right.
SECRETARY RICE: Not only was this a zone of conflict since World War II and well before, but was it more -- are we talking about when Syrian forces were occupying Lebanon? Are we talking about when Saddam Hussein was in power with sanctions that, frankly, were only hurting his people, not him, and threatening his neighbors and shooting at our aircraft? Are we talking about a Middle East where authoritarian regimes left so little space for political -- legitimate political activity that the only activity was in radical mosques, so the Hezbollahs of the world were stronger and this nihilist al-Qaida grew up as a kind of bizarre form of political expression? So I don't see this stable Middle East, and I think we've begun to change the terms. Or by the way, when Yasser Arafat, you know, with one foot in terror and the other in corruption, and that was the stable Middle East?
And so I now think you have a realignment of those states that see their collective interest in a democratic Lebanon, even though they themselves -- some of them are not democratic, in a two-state solution with a democratic Palestinian responsible --
QUESTION: Which -- can I get you to specify which states you're talking about at this point?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, they're mostly the Annapolis states. You know, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States. And frankly, driven by Iran -- you know, by a common fear of Iran.
QUESTION: Right. You would not include Syria in that?
SECRETARY RICE: Syria can't decide which camp it's going to be in, you know. Maybe it's fitting that they came at the deputy foreign minister level at Annapolis, because one day they're going to be part of the solution and the next day they're going to be a part of the problem. I think, on balance, they're more part of the problem.
QUESTION: I want to ask you a little bit about some of those states that are more part of the problem and how we deal with those states, in particular.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, you didn't give me my other two accomplishments.
QUESTION: Yes, please. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Northeast Asia. I think we have stronger -- or Asia as a whole. I think we have stronger relations with Japan, South Korea than we've ever had, and yet a working relationship with China despite differences, and through the six-party talks, a mechanism for cooperation on what could have been an area of conflict between the powers. I just think we're at a very strong position in Northeast Asia.
And finally, I think that the Administration's work on -- I'll give you two more -- Africa. I think it's extraordinary, the transformation of the relationship there. And finally, NATO. I think this is just a different alliance. Our European -- our relations with our European allies are -- traditional allies, are very good. And I think they weren't in 2005. And -- but as importantly, I think we've -- through the continuous policy of enlargement of NATO, now 12 of the 26 NATO members are former captive nations, and it has fundamentally transformed the nature of the alliance.
So it's a long list, anyway.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me follow up on something you said, and then I'll get to my rogue states.
SECRETARY RICE: Okay.
QUESTION: Relations with European allies are very good and better than in 2005.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: I think that's indisputable.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Would you say that's because -- in your time at the State Department we have had -- I mean, clearly we've had a much more, I would say, conciliatory foreign policy. It's been -- I would argue you can look at that first term and it was much more confrontational. You know, critics would say it was cowboy. You came in -- in your opening statement, your confirmation hearing, you said that time for diplomacy is now. How different is it? I mean, how different do you think it is?
SECRETARY RICE: Right. Well, first of all, I was a part of that first term. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: And I actually think the first term set up what we've been able to do in the second term. I know people didn't like the fact that we liberated Iraq. It was the right thing to do. But in 2005, we weren't dealing with questions of whether we should have liberated Iraq; we were dealing with questions of how to help the political transition in Iraq and reintegrate Iraq into the international system. So it's a different context.
In 2003, 2004, people were telling us negotiate directly with North Korea. We decided that that wasn't going to get it done, so we created the six-party talks, which really found its footing, I think in September of 2005. And so you're managing that -- that now from a position of strength with allies.
I think that probably the one that maybe changed the most was I think we'd gotten ourselves into a strange situation vis-à-vis Iran and their nuclear program. I remember going to Europe in -- as my first trip as Secretary -- February 2005. Sean was there. And the first press conference that I did was with Jack Straw in London. And I expected all the questions to be about Iraq. We had prepared for all these Iraq questions. And it was overwhelmingly about Iran. And somehow we had gotten ourselves into a position where the Europeans felt they were mediating between us and Iran and we were part of the problem. And I thought, this is bizarre, because, clearly, Iran is part of -- is the problem.
And so we worked consciously to bring together a coalition of states, starting with the Europeans by supporting their diplomacy, but then bringing the Russians and the Chinese into what became the P-5+1 to give an international coalition that could get the Iranian case to the Security Council but could also, even if the Security Council resolutions were relatively weak, give cover to countries to do more about Iran. And that's where Treasury and State have worked so hard on the collateral sanctions and the collateral effects of our designating Iranian banks and the like.
But that's the one where I think we were mostly in conflict with our allies. And I think we now have a pretty robust, at least strategic, agreement about what to do about Iran, even if we have tactical differences.
QUESTION: Well, your critics would say that's because essentially we caved. You know, we are now -- President Bush said in September of 2001, we will not negotiate with terrorists; you're either with us or against us. And we are now negotiating with the state that you called the central banker of terror, which of course, was a phrase I like. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, and they are. And the good thing is we're doing something about it. Because by designating Bank Sepah and Bank Melli and the Quds Force and the IRGC and looking at what their central bank is doing, not only did we declare them the central bank for terrorism, we're treating them like it. And we have been really tough on designating their banks and it's causing them enormous problems in the international financial system.
So one of the lead elements of our policy that Treasury and State worked out together is that they will not use the international financial system for ill-gotten gains of terrorism. We're not actually negotiating with them. You know, we have a minimal contact between Ryan Crocker and his counterpart in Iraq, where we let them know exactly what we think about what they're doing and where we've delivered the message on a number of occasions that their people will not be safe in Iraq if they're trying to kill our soldiers. And we've acted on it, which is why the Quds Force commander, for instance, who was picked up in Irbil, is a real victory for that policy. And --
QUESTION: What other ways have we acted on that, would you say?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, those are two very major ways. But we have gotten three Security Council resolutions against them, which doesn't permit the Iranian -- you know, part of this is that you don't want the Iranian people to feel like this is aimed at them. And so the fact that there are three Security Council resolutions deprives the Iranian Government, the Iranian regime, of the argument that this is just the United States hostile toward Iran and its great culture. And we say, no, this is the world, not against Iran and the Iranian people, but against that horrible regime that's oppressing its own people. And so we're not negotiating with them. We're acting. We will negotiate with them if they suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activities and start down a different road. But --
QUESTION: That's irrespective of whether they're continuing to support insurgents in Iraq?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've said we would talk about everything, all right. But talking about --
QUESTION: But if they're killing -- sorry to interrupt.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: If they're killing our soldiers, I mean, you know, when I was listening to the President in September of 2001, the last thing I thought -- not to minimize the importance --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: -- of what we're doing financially --
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: But the last thing I thought was that we'd be sitting across the table from them saying, "Please don't kill our soldiers."
SECRETARY RICE: We're not saying, "Please don't kill our soldiers." We're saying, "Don't kill our soldiers or your people won't be safe in Iraq." That's a slightly different message. And not only are we saying that.
QUESTION: Are there other examples --
SECRETARY RICE: We're doing it.
QUESTION: Are there other examples besides the capture in Irbil where we are saying to Iran not only don't do this, but here are the consequences; look, you can see the consequences?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are lots of consequences, I mean, many of which, of course, happen in military operations that I'm not going to talk about. But we're on the hunt for them all the time. And we've succeeded a number of times. We also, by the way, have supported the Iraqi Government in taking down their allies in Basra, where they've lost -- you know, it was very interesting to see that, all of a sudden, the people they've been arming and supporting were actually criminal gangs and their real support is for the Maliki government. Well, that was kind of an interesting statement after they lost -- lost Basra. And now, their allies are being pursued in Sadr City.
So we -- you know, we're active against them in Iraq and we're active against them in the international financial system and we're active against them in the UN Security Council. And I think that's what diplomacy is. I -- there's a -- there's a belief somehow that diplomacy means talking, and that's not how I see diplomacy. I see diplomacy as -- negotiation is one tool of diplomacy. But what we're doing against them in the financial system, that's diplomacy. What we're doing when Ryan talks to them and then we take down their Quds Force commander, that's called coercive diplomacy. So I think, you know, you have to have a hard edge when you're dealing with a country like Iran. I don't have any desire to go into a room and just talk to them. It doesn't make any sense.
QUESTION: Does it -- I'm sure you saw John Bolton's suggestion that we bomb training camps in Iran where we know they're training insurgents. Is that crazy?
SECRETARY RICE: The President is keeping all of his options open. But you just have to be sure, if you're using military force that it's actually going to have an effect that is lasting.
QUESTION: And I would not pursue -- (laughter).
SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to say anything more. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. The -- on the surge --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: It's been reported that you were not in favor of the surge and favored a troop pullback. Can I get your reasons?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, first of all -- look, I have never been in favor of pulling back any -- pulling ourselves back from Iraq.
QUESTION: Is that right?
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I am fundamentally a believer in what we did in Iraq. I believe we did the right thing. I believe we have to win. I believe we are winning. The question that I've had -- that I had at the time when we were looking at different options, because what we were doing in Iraq was not working, was if we were going to have more forces, what were they going to do?
SECRETARY RICE: If there was going to be a surge, what were they going to do? And could we define our national interest clearly enough that we knew that additional American forces would be successful? Because I did believe that if we surged forces and it didn't make an effect -- didn't have an effect, that that was a very, very bad thing.
QUESTION: Right, right. So just to - so I'm accurate about it --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, yeah.
QUESTION: People who have characterized you as being opposed to the surge that is not correct?
SECRETARY RICE: No. I had a lot of questions about the surge. I was initially skeptical as to whether or not we could surge American forces and what would it mean to deliver population security. I'll have to say that when -- when, you know, Ray Odierno, who I knew well -- he had worked with me, and Dave Petraeus were -- believed that we could do it that was very affirming to me.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.
SECRETARY RICE: And I then spent most of my time trying to figure out how we could surge civilians and turn this building around to actually support on the civilian side. But yeah, I had a lot of questions about whether we should surge forces, a lot.
QUESTION: Is -- I'm sure you've seen -- I don't know if you've read Glenn Kessler's book about you. It's a little weird to read a book about yourself.
SECRETARY RICE: Of course, I don't read - of course I haven't read it. If it's a book about me, I don't have time.
QUESTION: One of the things that he reported was that in this senior staff meeting in January of 2007, you said, "I've got three priorities for the rest of my term, and it's Iran and nukes, North Korea and Middle East peace." And I wanted to get your sense if that was accurate reporting and, if it was, you know, why Iraq wasn't on the list.
SECRETARY RICE: I don't remember any such senior staff meeting.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't remember ever -- I usually sit in on most of them. I don't remember ever hearing --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- that list.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
SECRETARY RICE: I can imagine that what I would have said is to leave Iraq and Afghanistan sustainable --
SECRETARY RICE: -- which is what I always lead my list with.
QUESTION: Right, right.
SECRETARY RICE: Those are the countries where we committed American forces. And our allies in the world, not to mention those people, not to mention the American people who have seen us expend great treasure, human and -- human lives there, expect us to win.
SECRETARY RICE: And I always lead my list with making those sustainable. Now, what I mean by sustainable is we won't finish the --
QUESTION: Of course.
SECRETARY RICE: -- you know, stable democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan. But you know, I have spent - I have been to Iraq eight times?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, eight or nine times.
SECRETARY RICE: Eight or nine times.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's just since 2005.
SECRETARY RICE: Just since 2005.
QUESTION: Oh, really?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. I was -- I just went there. I went there because they were attacking the Green Zone and because the Iraqis had gone to Basra, and I felt it was an opportunity to help solidify the politics there. I've been there and traveled along the highway rather than by chopper. You know, I've spent countless hours with Iraqi leaders, looking them in the eye and saying Americans understand fighting al-Qaida and they understand fighting Saddamists, but they don't understand it when Iraqis are fighting Iraqis.
SECRETARY RICE: So you know, I've been -- Afghanistan and Iraq have been real -- really the highest priorities for me. Now --
MR. MCCORMACK: And also outside the capitals.
SECRETARY RICE: And outside the capitals. I mean, I've been to -- you know, I've been to Irbil and Mosul and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Kirkuk.
SECRETARY RICE: Kirkuk. I sat with the council in Kirkuk and watched them try to deal with democracy, which was very interesting. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Interesting. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. (Laughter.) And I've been in --
QUESTION: Been there myself. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Been in Kandahar in Afghanistan. So no -- but of the -- but yes, the other three would certainly be high on the list. In part, the reason -- you know, Middle East peace, I would have put in a broader context, which is that I've been very focused on the region. I've spent a lot of time also trying to build and trying to sustain this coalition of states I talked to you about -- the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan -- through something called the Gulf Cooperation Council plus two. It's now, happily, plus three because they invited Iraq. Because that's the support structure for Lebanon and a Palestinian state and an Iraq that is fully reintegrated.
QUESTION: The -- if I can jump around the world
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: You're used to doing this.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: On North Korea, obviously, we are in the middle of some pretty intense times right now. This is the one current question I'll ask you.
SECRETARY RICE: Let me -- let me just start by saying I have not lost my understanding of the North Korean regime. Okay? Nobody believes that this is a regime that you can believe. The question is: Is this a regime that, under the right set of incentives and disincentives, is prepared to make some fundamental choices about its nuclear program that would ultimately put the United States and the rest of the world in a safer position vis-à-vis the Korean Peninsula and, most importantly, vis-à-vis proliferation? That's the question.
And in order to answer that question, you have to go through negotiations with them. But you also have to have verification mechanisms because, frankly, I don't expect to be able to rely on the North Koreans telling the truth. So --
QUESTION: And what are those? I imagine you saw the Journal editorial --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, first of all, let me just correct something. Just the morning that that editorial -- the day after that -- the day that that editorial -- the morning before, I had been sitting here with people from the T Bureau, including Paula DeSutter, talking about how to get proper verification on the North Korean document. Until now, we haven't had very much to work with in terms of verification, but we're now beginning to get the stuff to actually work with.
SECRETARY RICE: So I just want to correct the record that we are involving our verifiers.
There are three issues. There's the issue of highly enriched uranium, where we have some data points but not a complete story about what did or did not happen there.
SECRETARY RICE: And it's going to take hard work to excavate and understand what happened in that program.
There's the matter of proliferation where we have been really worried about North Korean proliferation for a long time. And of course, the Syrian reactor is one manifestation of that. Obviously, we know quite a lot. And the issue there is what kind of mechanism are we going to use to prevent further circumstances like that or to learn whether there might be other circumstances like that. And, frankly, I would rather have the Chinese and the South Koreans in the room on a verification mechanism.
SECRETARY RICE: And so my trip to Beijing, my last trip to Beijing, was actually to say to the Chinese we have a problem because the North Koreans have been doing something very bad; and if we're going to move forward in the six-party framework, you, China, are going to have to work with us on verification of proliferation activities, monitoring of verification - monitoring, and presumably, acting if something is wrong. And that's why we're setting up a monitoring and verification working group for the six-party talks, in addition to the other things we've done like the PSI, Proliferation Security Initiatives.
SECRETARY RICE: The third element is the plutonium program, and there we also know a lot, but we don't know enough about how much plutonium was made, and what has happened to it. And that is a dangerous circumstance because that is material that is already made.
SECRETARY RICE: Now it is my hope that we can shut - that we can put North Korea - shut down their plutonium program, put them hopefully out of the business. We first got them to shut down the reactor. With all due respect to those who think we've done the Agreed Framework, again, that's all the Agreed Framework ever did was get them to shut down the reactor. We've gotten them to disable the reactor. And there are further steps to disable the reactor and associated facilities.
SECRETARY RICE: We're working now on trying to get to know what they made. And that is a - that's something you can actually verify, because with documentation plus access, you can actually do the forensics and you can actually verify. And that was my conversation with Patty McNerney and Paula DeSutter two days ago.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
SECRETARY RICE: And we had it with Sung Kim, who was going out to North Korea, and said, here's what you have to be able to deliver on verification. And there's an interagency working group. DOE is a part of that. So anyway, we're doing that piece. Now I also would like to see, you know, if we can then get the next phase would be to know what happened to it and there is a hope to - you know, to really have them denuclearize, which really means that the stuff comes out of the country in one way or another. But that's another step down the road.
Now in exchange for each of these steps, we have - you know, there's some fuel oil that's going -- gone to them. By the way, for ten years, we gave them fuel oil under the Agreed Framework and never got them to do more than temporarily shut - you know, freeze the production. So do I think the fuel oil is worth it? Yes, as we move through these steps. And we've not made a determination on whether or not we are - where we need to be on the declaration and verification mechanisms to go through with other steps. We'll have to make a determination about the terrorism list and issues like that.
QUESTION: Would it be possible for them to get off the terrorist list without acknowledging what they were doing in Syria as a very basic first step?
SECRETARY RICE: What we're doing is we want to look at - take a look at the totality of the nuclear - what we know about their nuclear program and the nuclear declaration. And the - at some point, we will make public these documents.
SECRETARY RICE: Because I think there's some - also some misunderstandings about what's in these agreed minutes about - and the agreed minutes are only until - they're only agreed, in fact, after we've agreed about the whole --
SECRETARY RICE: -- nuclear declaration. So, I'm not going to make any judgments until we are - until we know where we are on these issues.
QUESTION: But you could see a scenario, after looking at the totality of this, where they don't acknowledge having proliferated and they are taken off the terrorist list?
QUESTION: To send them a message that this is intolerable, there are certain lines that you can't cross and you've crossed one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: First of all, the reactor's not there anymore. So whatever benefits of cooperation there were, it isn't there anymore.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Secondly, yes, we could blow up the talks and we could put the United States back in a position of having no cooperation from China or the Koreans on what one does to deal with North Korean behavior. And we could be in a situation in which we can't do anything about their plutonium program. Yes, we could do that.
QUESTION: But it sounds to me like you're saying, and I'm not trying to put words in your mouth --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Like you're saying there's nothing they could do, then, to blow up the talks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, no, no. There are plenty of things they could do. They blew them up when they tested a weapon, tested a device, and we were, within hours, on the phone with the other five and within days passed a Security Council resolution - a Chapter 7 Security Council resolution onto which China was signed. So --
QUESTION: Which was a triumph?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Which was a triumph. So I think you shouldn't underestimate that when they cross certain lines, there is a coalition, not just the United States that can act. But will they - have they paid a price for their cooperation with Syria? Yes. Because, first of all, the thing is gone. But also, in terms of monitoring, verification, and expectations about holding them accountable for proliferation activities, we actually have the other states - China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and obviously, the most important of those is China - involved in this now.
QUESTION: And what is that accountability?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That accountability --
QUESTION: Do we see it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The North Koreans have had difficulty - and I think with this new South Korean Government they will have even more difficulty - getting benefits when they don't act. The - all kinds of assistance was cut off to them even under the (inaudible) regime. $350 million of assistance was withheld. And so, they get assistance when they move forward. They also don't get assistance when they don't move forward.
So I just want to return to the problem of what you're trying to do. This is a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program that is dangerous. And we're trying to unravel it through - to put it at an end through diplomacy. So that's what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: Okay. There's --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're getting to the point where we --
QUESTION: Close? Okay. Let me just - if I could just ask one more question.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: There's this new book out, or it's going to be out, by Mike Chinoy from CNN, who's done a lot of Korea stuff. And he talks --
SECRETARY RICE: Hmm, I didn't -- yeah, I didn't --
QUESTION: It's called Meltdown. And he talked --
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, right, yes.
QUESTION: -- quite a bit to Chris Hill.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And one of the things that was interesting - apparently, Hill spent a ton of time with him giving him the blow-by-blow of all of the internal deliberations. Makes for a fascinating read, even if I don't necessarily agree with this guy's analysis. But one of the things that Chris Hill said, on the record, several times, was that you deliberately cut out the "hardliners" in this whole process so that it was just the President, you, and Chris Hill. Is that --
SECRETARY RICE: No, that wouldn't happen to be accurate.
QUESTION: That's not accurate?
SECRETARY RICE: No.
SECRETARY RICE: First of all --
QUESTION: He's quoted - the direct quote from him is - she - this is him. "She said, 'bring it only to me.'"
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know what he's referring to, but first of all, when he was here, Bob Joseph was very much a part of those deliberations and John Rood has been a part of those deliberations. I don't cut out people of my team. Secondly, anything that I've done with the President, I've done with Steve Hadley, the Vice President and now, Bob Gates. So this has been very much an Administration effort.
Now I do not believe this is an issue about hardliners and not hardliners. This is an issue about how to deal with a very difficult and, in fact, ugly situation, which is you have a terrible regime that, for 30 years, has pursued nuclear weapons and has them. And I don't mean weapons in the sense of deliverables.
SECRETARY RICE: I mean devices of some sort. And where, if you ask people, what are your options, given the nature of the Korean Peninsula, the diplomatic option is your best option. But we've mobilized several different ways to pursue that option. One is we've mobilized other states so that it's not just the United States. I mean, the Chinese have been very active. Secondly, we have used pressure. We - you know, we did the designation of their financial institution. We've used the UN Security Council resolutions and they, by the way, are still operating under 1718. Nobody has suggested that we try to remove - even the North Koreans that we try to remove that Security Council resolution. And we have put some incentives - by the way, small incentives.
One thing that's not even understood, for instance, about the Trading with the Enemy Act and the terrorism designation is - and I don't want to - I'm not saying we will do them, but even if you did do them, the list of continuing sanctions on the North Koreans takes up several pages. So this is not a policy - I think you've heard me say that I don't see diplomacy as being the soft side of foreign policy. Diplomacy has to take advantage of the hard assets that you have in order to make it work, particularly when you're dealing with a regime like the North Koreans.
Released on May 27, 2008