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Condoleezza Rice Interview With Japanese Press

Interview With Japanese Press

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Tokyo, Japan
October 19, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I don't have a statement. I'd be happy just to start with your questions, which I think leaves the maximum time for what's on your mind.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, there's a bunch of newspapers saying that there might be a six-party foreign ministerial meeting in Beijing. Can you confirm or deny this?

SECRETARY RICE: No, it's not my expectation that there will be. The invitation, of course, remains open for a six-party ministerial at any time, but I don't have any expectations that one is about to take place.

QUESTION: And there's some reports also that top Chinese diplomats are now in Pyongyang to discuss with North Korean officials on the nuclear issue. Now, what is your understanding? And if you can confirm the report, what is your expectation from the Chinese diplomats' visit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have also heard the reports. I have not myself confirmed them. It would not be surprising. China, of course, has a close relationship with North Korea and it's in large part the reason that it's so important that China be an active member of the coalition of states that is trying to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. China has both ways to bring incentives and disincentives to North Korea for its current behavior.

I will say that China has come a very long way in this regard. I think it would have been unthinkable for China to have a Chapter 7 -- to support a Chapter 7 resolution against North Korea with sanctions, when China in general does not like the imposition of sanctions.

And I think it just shows the level of concern that China and other states have about North Korea's behavior. So I'm here to talk to all of the parties, first with the allies, Japan and South Korea, to make absolutely clear the U.S. defense commitment and the solidity of those defense commitments and our capability and will to carry them out. Secondly, to talk about how to fully implement Resolution 1718. And we are going to have, as we have had here in Japan, working level talks, high-level working talks about how to have effective enforcement of 1718.

I want everyone to know that there remains a path open for diplomacy and that we hope that the North will return to the talks but this time return really willing and ready to dismantle its weapons program. The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the purpose of those talks.

QUESTION: Just a question. But to what are you confident that North Korea will come back to the negotiations? Even -- I'm afraid that just Kim Jong-il has crossed the river and never come back?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can't judge North Korean motives or behavior. I do know that what we've done as the other five parties and as the Security Council and international community is to set up the situation in which the North, if it wishes to have access to the international community at all, really has no choice but to return to talks and denuclearize because it's getting more and more isolated. We, I think, will have an effect on their ability to even carry out the elements of their program because with efforts to block financing for it, to block knowledge for it, to block parts and access to technologies for it will start to have an effect.

But there is a very much better way, which is the six-party statement of September 19th, 2005, which was a very comprehensive way for denuclearization to take place. And I hope now facing the will of not just the United States and Japan but also of South Korea and China that the North will take a hard look at its options and decide to return.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, there's reports about another test, a North Korean test. Japan is going to go for another UN resolution possibly with more sanctions against North Koreans. Would the United States be ready to co-sponsor the resolution? What would the United States do of the concrete measure if there is another test?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't want to speculate because I think we would want to have very close consultations with all the parties. But clearly another test would be just another indication that the North has not yet come to the determination that the best road ahead is one that is cooperative. And then there are, as you well -- as you noted, further measures that could be taken. The resolution itself, 1718, says that it would return to consider further measures.

So I think that if the North does -- not or if the North does test, then we have to consider further measures. Now I wouldn't want to get out ahead and try to say what those might be. I want to be very clear. The United States is not trying to, and we have no desire to escalate this crisis.

In fact, we think that all the parties have very real ways to de-escalate this crisis, but a lot depends on when the North finally comes to a conclusion that there really isn't a path ahead that will get what -- get them what they want. They want greater security. They're not getting greater security under this situation. They want economic assistance. They're very much putting at risk economic assistance. They want energy assistance. They're putting at risk any thought of energy assistance. And so this path is not paying off for North Korea, and I think sooner or later North Korea will come to that conclusion.

I should mention that there are for the United States further measures that will go into place automatically because once a test is considered or is judged by the intelligence community to be nuclear, there are sanctions that are automatic under U.S. law. And so since our intelligence community has recently judged this test to be nuclear, there will be some further steps that the United States will take.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we understand, of course, the United States doesn't have any intention to attack or invade North Korea at this moment. But if it continues its missile nuclear tests despite the will of the international community, then will you think it appropriate at some point for the United States to consider a regime change of the current administration?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that we believe that there is a lot of -- a lot left still on a diplomatic front. The President of the United States isn't ever going to take any of his options away. You don't want the President of the United States to do that. But we've been very clear, because the North has tried to make this an issue between the United States and North Korea -- the United States is threatening the North, the United States wants to attack Korea -- the United States has no intent to do any such thing. We, in fact, want a peaceful Korean peninsula. Our forces on the Korean peninsula are there for deterrent against North Korean aggression, and we have no intention of escalating the tensions on the Korean peninsula.

I think what the Security Council resolution says is that the North's behavior is a threat to international peace and security, that you can't have a Korean peninsula that is both stable and nuclear. And that is fully agreed to by all the members of the six-party talks. And so I think if we just stay on our diplomatic course, if we bring enough pressure on the North to recognize that they cannot gain any benefit by pursuing nuclear weapons, by testing nuclear weapons, by trying to blackmail the international community, if they recognize that this is getting nowhere, that it is a dead end policy, then I think they will have to change course. And we are committed to the diplomatic course that we're on.

QUESTION: Could you tell us the midterm U.S. strategy to make North Korea give up their nuclear ambitions if the sanctions against North Korea turn out to be not so effective. What will be its concrete measure in the midterms?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the sanctions are one part of a more comprehensive strategy in any case for dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. First of all, we have very strong alliances in the region that give us confidence that we can deal with any North Korean threat. That's why it's extremely important for the United States to reaffirm its commitment to the defense of Japan. And that could not be a stronger commitment and it's -- we would use our full range of will and capability to -- for that purpose. We have commitments as well to South Korea and a defense alliance there. And so the balance of forces, if you will, in this region is one that favors peace because it favors the alliances that we have built over the last almost 50 years. So that's the first point.

The second point is that we have a number of defensive measures that we were taking even prior to the Security Council resolution through, for instance, the Proliferation Security Initiative, which was cooperative -- is a cooperative effort of states to use intelligence sharing, to block the transit of North Korean materials, goods that relate to weapons of mass destruction in particular to nuclear weapons. And that's a program now that includes I think it's about 90 states that are involved in this, and it is a very effective tool for sharing information. We've made agreements with a number of flag states, states that flag vessels for consensual boarding. We've made a number of efforts with states to make clear that when we get information that something is happening that they should hold the ship in port or denial overfly rights. So we've had in place.

We're improving and working on detection capability which can detect radiological signals which will help us to know if the North Koreans are trying to move something. And so that's another aspect.

Now, then, on top of that with the Security Council resolution it puts more states in the mix and that makes the obligation to prevent the transit in these materials. We have yet another layer of an important defense. We also, of course, with our allies, are talking about matters like missile defense to make it more difficult for the North Koreans to even believe that they would gain anything from their weapons systems. So the Security Council resolution is extremely important, and it's particularly important because it signals China's deeper participation. But it's important to recognize that it's not the only element of our need to deter North Korean behavior and to make it really not fruitful for the North to pursue nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: There are two key (inaudible) going on in North Korea. One is tourism programs that (inaudible) the other is (inaudible) and it seems that South Korea is reluctant to stop those programs. How do you feel about it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, South Korea will to make a determination of how the current increase in the North Korean threat will affect the integral Korean dialogue. I fully understand the desire of the South Koreans to bring about a peaceful Korean peninsula and to diminish tensions. South Korea lives next door to North Korea and we all understand.

We were told by the President of South Korea when he was in the United States that a nuclear test would mean a re-evaluation of all of South Korea's relations with the North. And I assume that re-evaluation is going on. I don't want to speak to any one aspect of it, but it is very clear that everyone ought to be holding at risk things that North Korea cares about in order to show North Korea that there is going to be no benefit from pursuing a nuclear weapon and, in fact, that there is going to be a strong downside, in fact, strong penalty for pursuing nuclear weapons.

And so I think that's how we have to think about this. We have to think about how countries use their relationships with the North to provide the North very clear disincentives to continue on the road that they are on, in other words holding at risk things that they care about. And I'm sure that the South understands that and we can have further discussions, but I can't comment on any specific action item I've taken.

QUESTION: Hi Dr. Rice. There is some resentment of (inaudible) in Tokyo and Seoul that there must be something on in North Korea and Kim Jong-il (inaudible). And I'm wondering whether you could shed the light on it in this regard and how he's losing his power or if there's something going on eventually or if there's something (inaudible) there. And also my second question is about Japanese nuclear options and how you see still kind of (inaudible) Japan should think about nuclear option because it doesn't work anymore nuclear kind of approach and we could better pursue the India-Pakistan region of nuclear model. And since you are Russian expert, back in Cold War, they in European countries (inaudible) missile. And then causing to deploy then they got their option deal with Russia and they are something should be (inaudible) in this region. What kind of discussion is being spread out among Japanese region. So I wonder whether you could respond to those points.

SECRETARY RICE: Sure. On the first, there is probably no more closed and difficult to read place than for North Korea. So I would just tend to discount or tend to put aside any discussions of what might be going on inside of North Korea. I am, you're right, an old Soviet specialist and we didn't even know what was going on inside the Soviet Union let alone what was going on in North Korea. So I think it's probably not likely that we know very much.

I think what we do have to do is to put considerable pressure on the regime is to let it know that the things that it values in terms of what it can get from the international system is not going to be available to it if it continues down this road and to see then what responses that brings from the North Korean regime.

As to the Japanese nuclear option, I think the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have already spoken to that, that that is not the route that Japan will pursue. I believe that the U.S. commitment -- defense commitment, umbrella if you will, is a very powerful commitment to Japan, and it is one that we fundamentally will carry out.

The United States has had a defense commitment to Japan. We have been working on modernizing our defense capabilities, particularly over the last several years. I have myself sat in now on our so called 2+2 talks where Don Rumsfeld and I joined the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister of Japan. We've worked hard on all aspects of our defense relationship, and I do not think it could be stronger. It is a very, very strong relationship. And because this region cannot be stable -- if North Korea believes it can take advantage of our allies, and because an unstable Northeast Asia would be a threat to the security of the United States, the United States has every reason for its own security to be firm in its commitment to Japan and to South Korea. And I think if you understand it in that way, it's not just a U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan, it is that the U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan is essential for American security. That's how we see it. And so I think Japan can feel secure in America's commitment.

We would like to do more work on missile defense. We would like to do more work on sensor technologies, on intelligence sharing. These are all ways that we can make our alliance stronger. But absolutely no one should have any reason to doubt the very firm commitment of the United States has to the defense of Japan.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, following up on his question, last night you said that United States would meet (inaudible) and you underscored (inaudible). Could you kindly be more specific about that so that the Japanese layman can understand? And my second question is the Chinese Government stated that it will not interdict cargo ships. When you meet with Chinese officials in Beijing, are you going to -- are you prepared to downgrade your demands or are you prepared to further demand the Chinese cooperation in that regard?

SECRETARY RICE: Let me take the issue of declaratory policy first. And I'm an old nuclear hand and what is very important is that the Japanese people understand that what is meant by that statement is that we consider an attack on Japan or a threat to attack Japan as a direct threat to the United States itself. And so it's the firmest of commitments.

What is important for North Korea to understand is that the United States has a full range of capabilities that can respond to a full range of North Korean activities. And I think that it's best left at that. Now, I think the North is not confused about what that means. But the key here is that no one in North Korea should doubt that the United States will defend Japan, and no one in Japan should doubt that the United States will defend Japan, because the Mutual Defense Treaty, in effect, means that our security

and that of Japan are interlinked.

As to the Chinese, the obligation under 1718 is to do everything possible to prevent the North Koreans from transiting in, shipping, trafficking in materials, weapons, technologies that would relate to a nuclear program, and to prevent financing for those activities. It does not prescribe precisely how this will be done, although obviously one important method is to inspect cargo, particularly suspect cargo, that may be moving between a North Korean port or land border and someplace else, or from someplace to North Korea.

I think the Chinese clearly understand that they have an obligation to carry out 1718, and so I think the important discussion that we should have with China is how can we have an effective regime for enforcing 1718, how can we make certain that North Korean cargo is getting the kind of scrutiny that it needs, the kind of oversight that it needs to make sure that nothing is being transited.

I think in part what happened was that the resolution passed very quickly, in record time for the United Nations frankly, in just a few days, and some of the issues about the implementation of 1718 I think still need work because there was an immediate assumption that we were talking about a blockade or some kind of quarantine. I heard people talking about the Cuban missile crisis. This was not ever anticipated and I think it may have made some nervous that this might in fact escalate tensions and cause by

nature a military confrontation.

And so part of the goal here is to begin to look at what realistically we want to do to have a comprehensive and effective means by which to deal with the enforcement of 1718, and I have every reason to believe that the Chinese want to enforce 1718. I fully understand that nobody wants there to be an escalation of the crisis because of the enforcement mechanisms.

There are many things that can be done. One of the things that we are talking with people about is we have a number of port security initiatives -- the United States has. There's an initiative for radiological detection at ports where containers can be inspected before they leave port. There is the use of sensors for inspection. There is the sharing of intelligence so that you are targeting specific cargoes where something looks like it might

be amiss and you can get a flagging country to allow that ship to be consensually boarded.

So there's a whole range of things here and I am -- I fully believe that together with China we can come to some conclusions on how to have effective enforcement. In fact, last night Bob Joseph, who is the Under Secretary for Security Affairs at the Department of State, had a working group meeting here with his Japanese counterparts to talk about enforcement. People will have different ideas. We are not going out and making a

proposal to people that you do this, this, this and this. China has a lot more experience with the land border than we do, and we would like to hear from them how this enforcement should take place.

QUESTION: To what extent do you think the North Koreans' capability to weaponize their nuclear material? And to what extent do you think it's serious threat in the context of the Japan defense or South Korean defense at this point?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't think anyone has a very good estimate on weaponization. Weaponization, of course, is not easy but the North Koreans have been at this for quite a long time. We have to realize that this is a decade's old program for North Korea and I'm probably going back as far as 1960, certainly going back to the late 1970s.

Obviously, a -- the weaponization, given both their capabilities to build a nuclear weapon and if they have capabilities to build a nuclear weapon and their tests of everything from short-range to medium-range to long-range missile technology constitutes a changed environment in Asia which is why I think we've got such powerful resolutions basically. First 1695 on the missile defense and now even more so with 1718. And I was asked the other day, "Well, you said it's unacceptable. Are you now prepared to accept it?" No, of course not.

But there are several ways that you have to deal with it. The first is, again, reaffirming defense commitments because the North should know that whatever level it reaches, it will never be able to take advantage of our allies and of our interests. Secondly, to be very clear that we will use active defensive measures to prevent its transfer. The President has said that North Korea will be held accountable for the transfer of materials of nuclear weapons to other states or to non-state actors. And other states would probably want to think about their relationships with the North if they're contemplating any such thing.

And then finally, we fully believe this is reversible. When a state decides it is not in its interest to pursue nuclear weapons -- there are examples of countries that have turned to another course, the most recent was Libya which decided that it couldn't have the kind of integration into the international system that it sought and pursue weapons of mass destruction and turned around. So that option is still there for the North. But of course this is a major challenge for the region. It's a major challenge for global partners. And it's a major challenge to the non-proliferation regime as well.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?


QUESTION: Since you have mentioned Libya, that means that in your opinion Kim Jong-il can remain in power if he will decide to give up any nuclear mission?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's not for me to know what's going to happen to Kim Jong-il over the long-term. I do know that our hope at this point, and I think we've been very clear, is to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. And we've also been clear that we're not going to invade or attack North Korea. That and the fact that the September 19th statement contemplates a new role for North Korea in the international system if it is willing to denuclearize suggests that there are ways for all of us to ultimately deal with this regime, but it's got to take a different course than it is on now.

Now that said, we have to be wary of other aspects of this regime too. This is a regime, after all, that abducts innocent people. It has abducted them from Japan. And so the United States has not been silent on the humanitarian issues. This is actually noted in the resolution itself. It is a very sad existence for the people of North Korea who are always on the edge of starvation and but for the international community would have starved. It's a regime that has been extremely repressive of its own people. And that shouldn't be forgotten.

I do believe if we can denuclearize the Korean peninsula, perhaps there is some possibility for an opening up of that regime more, opening it up to the international system and perhaps life will get better for North Koreans because it's the 21st Century and it's unfortunate the population would have to live in that way.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, how satisfied are you so far with the Chinese response? I mean apparently they're stopping trucks on the border. But do you expect them to go as far as stopping (inaudible)? And how far do you expect them go?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, on food, I mean none of us want to see humanitarian assistance denied to the North Korean people, food aid. The United States does not believe in the use of food as a weapon. And given these people, the sad state of the North Korean people, I would sincerely hope that food aid can get in. One of the problems is that North Korea so lacks transparency in how food aid gets distributed, and so food donations have been downed because these people don't know what happens to the food when they sent it in.

In terms of fuel oil and other aspects, hey, I think we have to allow here some recognition that states may know best how to use their own leverage with North Korea. And -- the United States is not all-knowing about how to deal with North Korea. And what we are -- what we do know is that everybody ought to be doing everything they can to convince the north that they are on the wrong path and that this path is only going to lead to isolation and deprivation.

But I'm not coming out with a list for South Korea or for China to say you must do this, you must do that, you must do that. All of us have obligations under 1718. They are very powerful obligations. They are Chapter 7 obligations. The very fact that China has signed on to Chapter 7 obligations says to me that China takes this very, very seriously. I do not think that they would have put at risk their relationship with the North by signing onto Chapter 7 resolutions if they didn't intend to bring pressure on the North to change its ways. So these are consultations. It's not a set of dictates from the United States on how to do this.

QUESTION: Going back to the joint statement of the East after the September -- last year's September six-party talks, it clearly stated that the United States affirmed that they would not -- they didn't have any intention of attacking North Korea. Does it still stand or are you tilting towards the stance that all options are open now that North Korea took different approach?

SECRETARY RICE: It stands. We don't have any intention to attack or invade North Korea. Why would we? One has to ask why would that be in the U.S. interest or the interest -- it's only in the interest of North Korea to appear that somehow they are under threat from the United States in order to have a rationale for pursuing their isolated and hostile policies. And so we're not going to give them a platform to do that. It's one reason that they are determined that there should be bilateral negotiations. It's because they don't want to face the United States and Japan and China and South Korea and Russia all together. They'd rather just deal with the United States. And if they break an agreement, as they did in the '90s, then it's just the United States that they broke the agreement with. We need to stay united as the five parties of the six-party talks, and I think we will make progress here, but it requires that we all use our respective leverages in order to bring the North Koreans to a different place.

All right, thank you very much.


Released on October 19, 2006


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