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Rice Interview on ABC's World News Tonight

Interview on ABC's World News Tonight With Charles Gibson

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
October 10, 2006

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what's the present belief? Was it a nuclear test the night before last or wasn't it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we're still trying to confirm, Charlie, what actually did or did not happen there. But we have to take seriously the North Korean claims and, of course, their claim is, in and of itself, a threat to international peace and security, of course, coming on the heels, as it does, of a missile test just a couple of months ago. And so we'll take the claim very seriously. We will eventually find out what actually happened.

QUESTION: The President said a couple of years ago, "We will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea." That's a pretty declarative sentence, "We will not tolerate," and it seems a lot stronger than, "Well, we're going to try to get some sanctions passed."

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are going to get sanctions passed because we can't tolerate a nuclear North Korea and we're not the only ones. The important thing here is that you're getting universal international condemnation, but most importantly, you're getting condemnation and urgency and action from states that have real leverage, states like China and South Korea, that can put at risk a lot of what North Korea survives on.

Now I do think you'll have a strong Security Council resolution, but the North Koreans also know that we signed a joint statement in September of 2005 that gave them, were they willing to denuclearize verifiably, an entry point into the international system. That's still available but for now the international community is going to pursue the sanctions route in the Security Council.

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QUESTION: But they had to know we'd go to the United Nations if this happened. And they have, in effect, by having this test, thumbed their nose and -- in effect, at the international community and at the UN. Unless you get the Chinese, if we have guarantees from the Chinese that they will cut off oil that the North Koreans need, can sanctions really do anything?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we finally actually have, as a part of this coalition, the Chinese and the South Koreans. That's what this president has spent the last several years building. When we went at this problem before, we did it bilaterally with the North Koreans. And when the North Koreans cheated on the so-called Agreed Framework, they cheated with the United States. And we didn't have the full weight of others who had real leverage, real influence with North Korea.

We'll see how long North Korea can really tolerate the isolation from even those who are closest to it. But I do believe that we have the right configuration now both to make an agreement stick if we get one, but also to pressure the North Koreans to take a different course.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese said to us, "Yes, we will cut off their oil and the other trade that is most critical to them?"

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Chinese have said that they will take serious steps to deal with the North Korean problem. We're going to have a sanctions resolution in the Security Council. We'll see how the North Koreans react to that. We'll then see what other measures may be necessary. And I should note, Charlie, that it's not just a matter of assistance. It's also a matter of whether or not we organize ourselves through, for instance, the Proliferation Security Initiative, to interdict dangerous cargo that the North Koreans might be trying to transfer.

It is important that our security alliances make very clear to the North Koreans that we will not permit a deterioration of a security environment in this region. We have many arrows in our quiver and we'll start to use them.

QUESTION: Then there's the converse question, which is that a lot of people say, "The weaker North Korea is, if they are weakened by sanctions, the more dangerous and unpredictable they become," that indeed, it's a double-edged sword with sanctions and we could actually be hurting the situation.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's certainly a regime that is, in one sense, very weak in that it's basically without economic activity and growth of any substantial proportion. It's a regime that has had, from time to time, to starve its own people; that is completely dependent on the international community for a variety of goods. Yes, there are serious weaknesses there, but we have a way for North Korea to engage the international community and to not be pushed into a corner. It just has to take that way out.

But I think for now, Charlie, the way to convince North Korea that this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated is what you've seen in the last 24 hours, which is a strong response from the international community as a whole and particularly from some of the states that have been closest to North Korea.

QUESTION: Tony Snow today was talking about inducements to the North Koreans to try to get them to moderate their behavior. Isn't that exactly the kind of thing that the Clinton Administration tried, of which you and the others in the Bush Administration have been critical?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what was being talked about there, being referenced, is that there is a joint statement of September 19th, 2005, of the six parties about what the six parties would do. And that means Japan, Russia, China, South Korea, and the United States in conjunction with North Korea. And the big difference here is that this is a multilateral agreement. This brings the weight and the influence of China, the weight and the influence of South Korea and, to a certain extent, even of Russia into the picture.

When we had the Agreed Framework, the North Koreans were able to violate it with impunity because, of course, it was really an agreement with the United States and they didn't risk the ire and the condemnation of China or, for that matter, others who would have been party to that agreement. I know that there was a consortium to provide some of the assistance to North Korea, but essentially, this was a bilateral deal. And we have to remember too that even as the diplomacy continued bilaterally with North Korea into the late 90s, the North Koreans went right ahead and tested a missile, leading to a real military confrontation in the region.

So this is a state that behaves badly when it's one-on-one with the United States. If it behaves badly when it is in a multilateral arrangement, at least there are others to bring pressure.

QUESTION: So you would reject what your predecessor, Republican Jim Baker, who was former Secretary of State, said over the weekend, that we should be talking to our enemies, nothing wrong with talking to our enemies one-on-one?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there's a misconception here. Of course we've talked to the North Koreans. We talked to them in New York. We've talked to them within the context of the six-party talks. Chris Hill had dinner with the North Korean representative to the six-party talks, just the two of them.

But we didn't want to bring it outside of the context of the six-party talks because if we -- if Ambassador Hill, who is our representative to the six-party talks, just disengages from the other parties and just talks to the North Koreans, the North Koreans have exactly what they want. They can bring pressure on the United States to do things. They can use others to bring pressure on the United States. This way, they face a united front of all of the parties that have influence. We've also talked to others with which we disagree as well. It's not a matter of talking. It's a matter of whether they respond.

QUESTION: And what's your read on what Kim Jong Il's game is here? Is he trying to use this as a threat or is he trying to use it as a lever to get himself some leverage with the international community?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, far be it for me to try and judge his motives. If what he wants is an entry point into the international system, if what he wants is movement toward better relations, greater assistance, that's available to him through an agreement that we signed in September. If what he wants is assurance that the United States doesn't intend to invade or attack North Korea, the President has said that multiple times, including standing in South Korea.

So it's all on the table, but the North Koreans sometimes have a tendency to want to bully instead -- to want to intimidate instead, but this time their efforts at intimidation have brought, roundly and universally, condemnation from the international system.

QUESTION: And do you honestly think that sanctions have a chance of getting him to give up or moderate his nuclear program?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly think that sanctions and pressure have a chance to get him back to the six-party talks with a plan for implementation of the joint statement. That's what we're looking to do, because the joint statement itself allows for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula verifiably. So that agreement is already in place. What we need to do is to get him back to those talks so that that implementation can move forward.

And frankly, Charlie, without the help of China and South Korea and others, it's not going to be possible. That's why this is a much better configuration, this six-party configuration, than trying to do this one-on-one with the North.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if I can presume upon your time for just a couple of more minutes, there's one other thing I want to ask you about. The case of Anna Politkovskaya in Russia; what pressures are the United States bringing to get to the bottom of who killed her?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first let me say that this woman was a real heroine. She was somebody who was in the best tradition of journalist, who went to the most difficult issues and tried to find out the truth. And it was a sign of a new Russia that she was doing that.

It's a very sad event and one that needs to be fully and totally investigated by the Russian Government that she was killed in this brutal way. I would hope that the Russian Government understands that everybody is watching, that an investigation of this event is absolutely necessary, because she was the embodiment of what a free press meant in Russia.

QUESTION: We've had 13 journalists killed since President Putin assumed that job and we've had zero cases solved. A: do you really have any confidence it's going to be fully investigated? And B: do you have any reason to believe that the Russian Government is simply killing its critics?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't have any reason to believe that -- or any evidence that the Russian Government is involved, but I think the Russian Government does have a heavy burden to demonstrate that it is both interested in and determined to find the killers of these journalists. You're right; there have been too many of these and there have been too many that have been unsolved. And so one has to be concerned about the atmosphere and one has to be concerned that the Russian Government will do everything and I just -- I know the international community is saying to the Russian Government that this case and others really, really need to be resolved. There are a number -- the case of Paul Klebnikov is another case where resolution would make a very big difference.

QUESTION: You know Russia well. Is there any free press there left?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are multiple small newspapers, but you know, we've been very concerned about the fate of the press in Russia. We've been very concerned especially about the electronic press, where one gets minimal criticism of very sensitive issues any longer. Russia's a strong country. It's a country that is in transition and it's a country that can stand, that can tolerate, that would benefit from a free press.

And so when we talk to the Russian Government about the need for a free press, it isn't because anybody wants to see Russia weaker. It's because it's our firm belief that a free press would actually make Russia stronger.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I appreciate your talking to me and thank you for letting me take a couple of extra minutes. I appreciate it.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thanks very much, Charlie.

QUESTION: All the best to you.



Released on October 10, 2006


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