CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Interview With David Albright
Aired January 12, 2003 - 10:33 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now more on the crisis in the Korean Peninsula. Some expert perspective now from David Albright, who wrote the book "Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle." He is also a former weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and he is joining us from Washington now. Good to see you, David.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER IAEA WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Good morning.
WHITFIELD: All right, well, the assistant secretary of state, James Kelly, is in Seoul for talks. What likely is going to be the objective here?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it's very important that the United States and South Korea get their -- get agreement on what they're trying to accomplish. I mean, they have very different takes on how to solve the problem. But I think given how quickly this crisis is escalating, it's very important that they sit down and come up with a common set of positions and goals.
WHITFIELD: But isn't that, certainly, the major hurdle, agreeing on anything, agreeing on whether to have dialogue, agreeing on whether to negotiate? And it really does seem like it's getting down to a battle of semantics.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think certainly it's a good sign that the Bush administration is starting to shift its position toward negotiations. And I think they're going to continue to have to shift that. And I hope that in this visit that Kelly actually goes a little further.
It's also very important for the United States to start telling North Korea in detail what it wants. I mean, a lot of these things that have been talked about by the United States are very general. Senator Lugar made a very important point this week when he said North Korea has to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I think it's very important that the United States and South Korea start working out, what it is that North Korea has to do to reverse this crisis. And also, what it may expect to get if it makes certain types of steps.
WHITFIELD: And in fact, one Asian unnamed diplomat is being quoted as saying that it's unclear what the Bush administration wants, just as it's equally unclear what North Korea really wants.
ALBRIGHT: I agree. I mean, increasingly I believe North Korea, no matter what, is going to try to get a small nuclear arsenal. I think they can be dissuaded from doing that, but I think they're on that path.
But the Bush administration is harder to figure out. There's so many -- in fact, there is so much conflict right now. And one faction really would just say do nothing, isolate them, let this play out. The other faction that wants to engage has a much harder time creating something, a plan of engagement, how to implement that plan. And I think that it's going to be very important for President Bush to weigh in very soon and solve this and decide what exactly is the U.S. is going to do. Is it going to engage more directly? Is it going to offer the North Koreans something if they back away in a concrete way?
WHITFIELD: But then, wouldn't that be negotiating? And the U.S. has already said it doesn't want to negotiate.
ALBRIGHT: But I think the U.S. cannot maintain that position much longer. And also it's a risky strategy. Many more people are going to start to take part, and governments -- and those governments may not have the same goals as the United States.
And so I think it's very important that the Bush administration get control of this situation and direct it.
Finally, it's always been best when the United States directs what's going on in north Asia. Certainly you want to be very fair about it, consult with the allies, but it's very important that the United States seize the initiative and take the -- or make sure that the direction that this crisis is headed into, or the solution of this crisis is headed into is in a direction that serves U.S. interests.
WHITFIELD: Perhaps you are encouraged, or how encouraged are you that there was at least a direct talk between a North Korean diplomat and former U.N. ambassador and now currently New Mexico governor, that that dialogue took place face to face? Even though Bill Richardson says he is not acting as a Bush representative. He is formerly of the Clinton administration. He was asked to be part of these talks by the North Koreans. How encouraged are you that that at least took place?
ALBRIGHT: I think it's very important that those talks do take place. I mean, if the United States government isn't talking to North Korea, others have to. And messages need to be given to North Korea that perhaps the Bush administration is not as hard line as they may think. There is a solution to this crisis. I mean, the North Koreans need to be reassured, too. I mean, they're very paranoid in many cases, and so it's very useful what Ambassador Richardson did.
That being said, still, this crisis will be solved, I think, by the United States, and I do hope that they take Bill Richardson's words to heart, that let's start negotiating.
WHITFIELD: David Albright, thank you very much. Always good to hear your perspective. Appreciate it.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
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