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Powell Interview on The Tony Snow Show

Interview on The Tony Snow Show

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 22, 2004

(9:07 a.m. EDT)

MR. SNOW: Secretary Powell, welcome.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Tony. How are you today?

MR. SNOW: I'm doing fine. You are heading off to Asia. One of the things you want to do is to persuade the North Koreans, once again, to get involved with the six-party talks. I -- if you could help us out, Senator Kerry has been saying, and I know you don't want to be drawn into politics, so I'm not asking for a political angle on this, but there is a significant difference between negotiating one on one with North Korea and having the neighbors involved: The Japanese, the Russians, the South Koreans and so on involved in the talks.

The six-party talks are designed to ensure that there is maximum pressure on the North Koreans to behave when it comes to their nuclear program. Can you explain why it is preferable to have six-parties involved in the talks as opposed to two?

SECRETARY POWELL: The simplest reason is that North Korea's neighbors are at far greater risk to North Korea's misbehavior than the United States is, so why shouldn't the Japanese, and the South Koreans, and the Chinese and the Russians be as concerned about this unacceptable behavior as the United States is?

North Korea always wants us to make this a U.S.-North Korea problem, and people are forever accusing us of being unilateralist. Here's a case where we got those nations most directly concerned and most directly at risk from North Korea to live up to their responsibilities to do something about this problem. And I'm pleased that they all have signed up to this and all have agreed. And even the North Koreans, the sixth party in this set of talks, even the North Koreans have agreed that we want a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. The North Koreans agree to that.

What we're debating is how to get to that point and what compensation the North Koreans should receive from whomever might be prepared to give it. The Japanese and South Koreans said they're prepared to give them some energy assistance right away. We're not about to do it right away, but in the long term, the President has made it clear he has no hostile intent, no desire to invade North Korea. And we want to help the North Korean people who are having great difficulty, and we are essentially in a negotiation in which me must show patience.

Others think that the right thing to do is just to go directly to the North Koreans, ask them what we must pay them to get them to stop, and we're not going to do that because that's what was tried once before. And the North Koreans said, this is a pretty good deal, and they stopped what we knew about, but they continued to move in another direction to create another means of developing a nuclear weapon. So the Agreed Framework policy of the previous Administration did not work.

MR. SNOW: What you're referring to is the fact that the North Koreans, having received nuclear -- the promise was they'd get a couple of nuclear plants, but ones in which they could not develop weapons-grade plutonium. Fine, they said, and then they went off on the side and were developing weapons-grade uranium.

SECRETARY POWELL: Exactly. That's exactly what they did. And so it was a marvelous act of misdirection, and the North Koreans said, gosh, if we got them to pay for it once, let's do it again and see if we can get them to pay for it again.

And President Bush has made it clear that we're not interested in invading North Korea, we want to help the North Korean people. But that help will only come when they have, in a way that is fully verifiable, gotten rid of their nuclear weapons programs. And they have agreed to the proposition that they need to get rid of their nuclear weapons program.

We're essentially in a discussion, a debate, a negotiation, as to what they might get in return from different parties, and they want to make sure that they are not going to be invaded. And they keep throwing this out as the United States displaying hostile intent toward them, and it's a nice little cover line that they use. And I'll be discussing this with all of our friends in the region on this upcoming trip I'm leaving on today with the -- I'll be meeting with Japanese, Chinese and South Korean authorities, and they have been steadfast. They recognize that this is a responsibility of all the neighbors, as well as the responsibility of the United States and the North Koreans to work this out. And this is a typical diplomatic negotiation where you have to have steadfastness and patience.

MR. SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell with us on the Tony Snow Show.

You mentioned patience. The North Koreans are famously squirrelly. They like to bang the shoe on the table, and they like to threaten to walk out, and probably, there is no more blustery negotiating partner in the entire world, at least in this day and age, than the communist government of North Korea.

So one of the things they're saying now is, well, we're not sure George W. Bush is going to win; we're not sure Colin Powell is going to be Secretary of State; maybe we'll just run out the clock for a little while. How do you put on the pressure so that they start making moves now that might yield fruit later?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as I said to the North Korean Foreign Minister when we met a few months ago in Jakarta, Indonesia, my instructions from the President are to continue to work on this as hard as we can and not to worry about the election. And I said to the North Korean Foreign Minister that's what I would be doing, and I was quite confident we'd have another four years to work on it after the election with the same President.

And so they may well be waiting for the election. That is their choice to make, but the election is coming up. We'll have it in about 10 or 12 days' time, and then the North Koreans can see whether or not it's time for them to make a move.

I think the six-party talks are the way to go. It's the only way to go. And the North Koreans have been told that repeatedly. They have had it demonstrated to them that the President is not going to blink. He is not going to be pushed into a negotiation merely because the North Koreans are acting truculent.

MR. SNOW: Secretary Powell, also, when it comes -- I want to switch gears here a little bit. I want to talk a little bit about what's been going on in the Middle East.

We now have a situation in which it appears that at least there is kind of a tenuous peace in the region. It also appears that the use of force by the Israelis may, in the short run, have tamped down on some violence, and we also see signs the Palestinians have said to Yasser Arafat, we've had it with you. Are we actually moving closer to peace?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wish that were the case and I would like it to be the case.

What we have seen in recent weeks is the Israelis have cracked down on the Palestinians who shoot rockets into Israel and Gaza. They have now pulled back out of Gaza and Prime Minister Sharon is concentrating on getting his disengagement plan through his government. That will lead to the elimination of settlements in the territories for the first time, which is what the Palestinians want.

We're trying to tell the Palestinians, you need to reform your government, put in place a prime minister who has authority. If it's the current prime minister, then give him the authority he needs to put in place the political structure and the security structure that will be ready to take over Gaza when the Israelis leave and ready to engage with the Israelis as part of the roadmap. And remember, four settlements in the West Bank will also be evacuated.

So the President holds tight to his vision of a Palestinian state, the first president who has really put that down as a formal objective. And I hope that if the Prime Minister of Israel is successful in getting this disengagement plan through, and if the Palestinians will act in a more responsible manner, then we could be on our way to an engagement in the roadmap and on our way to a Palestinian state, which, really, is what we want to see happen.

But you know, in the Middle East, hopes are dashed against Iraq as a reality on a regular basis. But you must never give up that hope, and we will remain engaged in this process and try to get something moving.

MR. SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell with me on the Tony Snow.

We were talking a little bit ago about the North Koreans and about a second Bush term. There's a lot of speculation about whether you're going to stay on. Have you made any decisions at this point?

SECRETARY POWELL: There's a lot of speculation. I serve at the pleasure of the President, Tony, and that's where I leave it in order not to fuel any further speculation.

MR. SNOW: So, in other words, if he says stay, you'll stay?

SECRETARY POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the President, Tony, and let's just get the President reelected. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I'm all for that.

Oil-for-Food scandal: The UN, Kofi Annan says he wants a full investigation. Just how much has this hurt the United Nations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is a real problem for the United Nations right now. And I know that Secretary General Annan realizes this and that's why he's put, with our concurrence, Paul Volker to head this commission -- a very distinguished American. And Paul is hard at work on this and I'm sure he'll get to the bottom of it.

Until he gets to the bottom of it, we should continue to express our concern, but really withhold judgment until we know who exactly, who is responsible for doing what. But clearly, Saddam Hussein was taking advantage of the Oil-for-Food program. He was getting around the program constraints. He was violating the sanctions, and he was getting away with it. And people were making money on his misbehavior and his violation of the sanctions. We've got to get to the bottom of that.

MR. SNOW: All right, and a final question here: Iran. Anything we can do?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are waiting to get a report back from our European friends who met with the Iranians yesterday in Vienna. And what they essentially said to the Iranians is, you've got to stop your enrichment activity. You've got to suspend it for a long period of time or cease it, but you can't keep moving in this direction without risking further action on the part of the international community.

We believe that further action is required now and the matter should be referred by the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Security Council. And we think it's in Iran's best interest to move away from these programs and enjoy the benefits that will come from having better standing within the international community.

MR. SNOW: All right.

SECRETARY POWELL: And we hope that that's what they will decide to do. But you know, they are also a difficult country to understand or to reason with in such matters, and the international community stays engaged.

MR. SNOW: Okay, Secretary Powell, thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Tony.



Released on October 22, 2004


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