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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

North Korea Standoff

Aired February 13, 2003 - 08:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: So can diplomacy resolve the growing nuclear crisis with North Korea? Ambassador Wendy Sherman was a special adviser on North Korea in the Clinton White House. She joins us from Washington.
Welcome back, Wendy. Good to see you.

AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER ON NORTH KOREA: Good morning, Paula.a

ZAHN: Well, first off, when you heard the CIA confirming that yesterday, was there a part of you that said we needed to have done much more during the Clinton administration to have prevented this from happening?

SHERMAN: We actually worked very hard on the missile issue, and we're very close to reaching an agreement at the end of the administration, when we simply ran out of time.

I, in fact, personally briefed now Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on what we had done, where we were in the negotiations, and had really hoping that they would pick up those negotiations because the news that was made yesterday was really old news within the community and a declassified report of at least a year ago, there was information that North Korea probably had the capability of reaching the West Coast.

ZAHN: Do you believe that Kim Jong-Il is prepared to launch a missile strike against the United States?

SHERMAN: Kim Jong-Il actually has held to the missile test moratorium that was negotiated during the Clinton administration, and as long as he can't test his missiles, it degrades his program.

Now, North Korea deals with these things quite differently than we would. They might go ahead and try to launch an untested missile if they felt that they were threatened.

I think they know from the report this morning, however, that they would get a very, very tough and strong reaction not just from the United States, but from Japan, who really feels very threatened by this. In August of 1998, when North Korea tried to launch unsuccessfully a three-stage missile, it overflew Japan, and the Japanese population went absolutely batty, which is quite understandable.

ZAHN: And what was the purpose of that test? SHERMAN: That test, the North Koreans said, and our intelligence confirmed, was to try to put probably a communication satellite into the world, into the atmosphere above us. But it also brought up our intelligence short, because we didn't know they had a three-stage capability, and it was that that really got us very concerned, and why the Clinton administration, up to the very last minute, tried to get an agreement for them to stop their missile development program of these long-range missiles.

The reason this matters so much, as we can see, is not the missiles per se, which are bad as a conventional weapon, but long- range ballistic missiles can carry nuclear weapons, and we know that North Korea has a nuclear capability, so you put the missiles together with the nuclear weapons, and you have a pretty dangerous situation.

ZAHN: This morning -- Mrs. Ambassador, we just have 15 seconds left. But what do you make of the countering theories that basically the North Koreans are using this as a bargaining chip for economic aid, and then the reverse of that is that North Korea is determined that its security would be best served by having these nuclear weapons on hand?

SHERMAN: I think both are true. I think they're pursuing both roads at the same time, to see where they can get and what's going to happen. We need to take it seriously. We need to deal.

ZAHN: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, as always, good to have you on air with us.

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