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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > August

Interview by Regional Syndicates

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
August 1, 2003

QUESTION: North Korea.


QUESTION: You know, you talked about this is essentially a multi-party kind of thing that's supposed to happen, but isn't the United States a big gorilla, thousand pound gorilla in the room? Really when it comes down to push and shove, it doesn't have to be a direct negotiation between us and them.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it has to be a negotiation among six parties who have equities. I would not say that China is not a gorilla in using your context, not my context. But what North Korea has been doing is in direct contravention to understandings and agreements they have with some of their neighbors, especially South Korea, and it is the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, who said at Crawford last fall that the Chinese policy is a denuclearized peninsula. And therefore, North Korea has to explain and answer to China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States the nature of their policies and everybody has an equity. So I think it is quite appropriate, in fact, I think it is essential that all of the parties be involved.

Now once we are at these meetings, many conversations can take place. A formal setting is six, but I have been in many diplomatic settings where different parties among those in attendance can talk to one another, one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three.

As I have said to the North Koreans, most recently at the ARF meeting in Phnom Penh -- and I said this openly to 20-odd nations that were represented there -- anything we say to the North Koreans would be known to our friends and partners. There will be no secrets. And anything the North Koreans say to us will be shared with our friends and partners, because this is going to be an open, transparent process with our friends and partners.

So I've been trying to make it clear to the North Koreans that no particular benefit is gained by insisting on a one-to-one discussion or one-to-one negotiations as they like to say. But there will be certainly an opportunity is a six-party meeting for them to say something directly to us if they choose to do so and for us to backwards. But the formal setting will be six.

QUESTION: Is a non-aggression pact an option? There seems to be a bit of confusion about whether --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, there's no confusion. We've said we're not doing non-aggression pacts. We don't have any. I don't know of a single non-aggression pact that I can think of. And we, as a practice, don't do that. But there are ways to talk about security, and there are ways to talk about intent that don’t include a pact that would require some form of Senate confirmation or some form of legislative procedure.

It's also important to point out that the North Koreans were given various assurances by the previous administration on a number of occasions beginning with the agreed framework. The North Koreans entered into an assurance agreement with the South Koreans two years before the agreed framework. And in the last several years of President Clinton's Administration, there were communiqués issued and other statements made that certainly demonstrated no hostile intent on the part of the United States. And in the face of that, the North Koreans went ahead and created a second track of enriched uranium capacity.

So I believe that there are ways, and I have some ideas which I am not prepared to share with you today, on how their concerns about security and U.S. intent can be dealt with and dealt with within a multilateral framework.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the other parts of the package, other things they are interested in like economic aid, diplomatic relations?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President has --

QUESTION: End of sanctions.

SECRETARY POWELL: The President has said very often that he cares about the North Korean people and the terrible situation they find themselves in with respect lack of food, an economy that is not functioning well. Others of our friends who follow North Korea have the same concerns, the Japanese, the South Koreans of course, the Chinese who provide $500 million a year -- we estimate -- in aid, direct aid as well as economic activity and 80 percent of their fuel. And so all of us are concerned about the plight of the North Korean people.

And the President has made it clear that he is willing to assist them in relieving the difficulties that they are having. Japan has said so. In fact, last year Prime Minister Koizumi had even made rather specific generous suggestions or offers to what Japan might be able to do.

So as we go forward, and as you look at what we're calling it -- what was our nickname for it? Was it --

QUESTION: The comprehensive approach?


PARTICIPANT: The Bold Approach?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Bold Approach. Yeah. There are benefits for North Korea for moving away from this kind of activity. And that's what Mr. Kelly went to tell them last October.

QUESTION: There has been talk in theory about, I believe it was Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz talked about fairly recently about the regime being on the verge of collapse. People have been talking about that for years. Wouldn't the collapse of that regime be utterly disastrous in terms of how to deal with -- to interact with twenty-some odd million -- thirty million -- many of them -- legions of them undernourished. There would probably even be a refugee run, the likes of which we haven't seen in years.

Wouldn't a collapse like that be something of a disaster?

SECRETARY POWELL: It would depend on what it collapsed into or what filled the vacuum. But people have speculated about collapse of this regime, as you say, for many years and the regime is still there. I don't have a basis for saying there is an imminent collapse. My challenge is to work with not a collapse that may or may not happen, but the situation that’s there.

Right now there is a government there. It's been there for a lot of decades, and that's what I have to deal with. So I can't speculate on what the situation might or might not be. What the situation would be following a catastrophic collapse, I don't really know. I don't think it's anything that any of North Korea's neighbors at the moment wish to see.

QUESTION: What's your --

SECRETARY POWELL: They clearly do not wish to see it. And our policy, the President's policy, is to work diplomatically with our partners and the North Koreans to find a diplomatic political solution to the problem.

QUESTION: What's your sense of why Kim Jong Il did this? Why is it in his self-interest to do it at this time? They've been resisting this for a long time.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don’t think -- I think it's best that I not try to speculate on his decision-making process or what went through his mind. Let me just not totally duck your question by saying that clearly he must have seen that it was somehow in his interest to engage with his neighbors and with the United States in this multi-party forum, and we welcome that. The President is optimistic, as we said earlier today, that progress can be made.

QUESTION: Do you think China is now prepared to apply the kind of leverage that you would like them to? I mean they seem to have the most control. But they also are somewhat at least -- somewhat restricted into the tension that you put on those levers, because they --

SECRETARY POWELL: I think China is applying its influence. Let me use the word influence rather than pressure and leverage. But they are using their influence with them. And North Korea, in a very effective and positive way -- it was through Chinese efforts that we got to the trilateral step, and through Chinese efforts that we are at this next step.

We seriously started to engage the Chinese on this I would say last year when President Bush and Jiang Zemin met at Crawford. And then earlier this year in February, when I went to China, I encouraged the Chinese to get more directly involved. Until that meeting in Beijing I had with them, the Chinese were taking the position, even after Crawford, look, you guys have to go talk to the North Koreans. And we kept saying, no. We're all going to have to go talk to the North Koreans. And the Chinese kept saying, you don't understand, they won't talk to anybody but you. And so the only solution is you have to talk to the North Koreans. And my answer was we did talk to the North Koreans last October, and we ended up with a difficult problem in that they acknowledged that they had a second nuclear weapons program.

And so this went back and forth, and finally the Chinese came and said we'll try. They tried, and they were very effective. And they sent senior leaders to Pyongyang and presented the case and succeeded in arranging for the trilateral discussions. We thanked them for it, and we told them at that time that this is a start, but we really want to get to a fuller forum, a bigger forum where all parties are represented who have an interest.

Remember, our initial idea was nine. We could think of nine countries that might be a part, the more I remember. We had Australia – we had quite a few -- the EU might have been a member.

And so we went back and we did the three, the trilateral in April. We said to the Chinese, if we go down this road, it has to be expanded. And why not? Because we're going to tell our other friends that is going on. Transparency.

The last time it was done, the South Koreans weren't really (inaudible) a role in the commitments that were being made and all the negotiations that were taking place. This time, openness and transparency.

And the Chinese came here two Fridays ago in the next conference room. We talked for two hours and 40 minutes, and I laid out a way to get to multi-party discussions that went beyond trilateral and told them I think this is a way a lot of interests can be served. And the Chinese left last Friday night and came back the day before yesterday with President Hu speaking with President Bush and saying we got something. And then in the last 36 hours it's been confirmed through multiple channels.

And so that's the Chinese using their influence, their leverage, if you wish.

QUESTION: So the deal is now the non-aggression pact is off the table. It's food and other aid --

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't say that.

QUESTION: I thought -- let me get straight. You said we don't do --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, you're suggesting -- we don't do pacts, that's right. That part's fine.

The question that was asked was, do you expect that there will be a way for you to assist in the future with economic assistance and whatnot?

We already provide food to North Korea. And I think I answered that, but I don't want to answer it quite the way you asked to suggest that we're going over there with a shopping bag and there's a trade -- trading is about to begin at the very next meeting.

If we solve this problem --

QUESTION: This problem being?

SECRETARY POWELL: Nuclear weapons and other behavior of theirs that is troublesome -- drugs. There are other issues, proliferation of weaponry and technology. So there are a number of issues that have to be solved. And as we go forward, this issue, if we see progress in this set of discussions, then I believe opportunities do open up for us to help the people of North Korea. But I don't want to quite answer it the way you asked it, that bing, bing, bing, bing.

QUESTION: Question on a different topic – Iran? I don't expect you to say that there are negotiations going on, but there are, Mr. Secretary, reports that the Iranians are willing to turn over some senior al-Qaida people that they have, but then in return they want us to take further action against the MEK in Iraq whether its disband, eliminate, whatever term you want. Is that a fair description of the situation? Is that a deal worth doing considering the MEK is on your own terrorist lists?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are in, as you can imagine, this is a sensitive issue let me just say. Using appropriate interlocutors, we are in touch with the Iranians on both of these issues.

QUESTION: Are you optimistic?

SECRETARY POWELL: We'll wait and see. Want to go back to that one?


QUESTION: Let's sort of stick with the subject, the flavor of the minute here on Iran. A lot of people are theorizing that they are now the model state for developing nuclear capacity sort of in the modern transparent world. You get to within 12 to 18 months of a program by claiming and essentially disguising it as a civilian energy program, and then when you feel the moment is right you back out of your treaties and then you plow headlong towards a weapons program. And virtually, I mean, the press is loaded with certainly with analysis that would seem to indicate that. What is your take right now on Iran's nuclear energy project? And how concerned are you about where it's going?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are concerned. We expressed that concern repeatedly throughout the course of this administration. We are particularly engaged with the Russians on their support of the projects such as we share. The Iranians, in recent months, have been found to be doing a number of things that we didn't know they were doing before that have now been brought to the attention of the IAEA. Some of the facilities that the IAEA is now looking at and wants more access to.

I think the Russians now share our concern and have used that word "We share concerns you have," that we have to be very careful going forward. As a first step, the international community is asking Iran to sign on to this additional protocol. Iran may or may not do that. We would not be satisfied until not only is the protocol signed, but any other indication that they might be using nuclear power activity for development of weapons has been dealt with.

As you rightly say, you can enter into lots of agreements and then back out of them. We want to see whether or not Iran is so committed to creating an indigenous fuel cycle that they don't need outside help after a while. And we believe that the international community is more and more coming to the conclusion that we have to do everything possible to persuade the Iranians one way or another that this is not the direction in which they should be moving. It doesn't do much for the their people. It's destabilizing to the region. And benefits await the Iranian people at some point in the future if they abandon this kind of activity of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and they foreswear support of terrorist activities. And this is a policy we have maintained for some time.

I think what's changed in recent months is that whereas it used to be just the United States sort of crying alone in the wilderness on this one, in light of recent revelations and information that's become available to IAEA and others, other people now share our concern.

PARTICIPANT: We have time for one or two more.

QUESTION: Senator Graham of Florida was in our office yesterday, and you probably heard all this before, but he says with the war in Iraq we – the United States – basically has its priorities wrong, that it lost the momentum on the war on terrorism. What do you say to that? And has the trail gone cold on Usama bin Laden?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know if its gotten colder or warmer than it was last week or the week before. I know he’s still somebody we want to get our hands on. But it's hard to agree with the assessment that we've lost the (inaudible) on the global war on terrorism when we see our friends, as well as the United States, still hot on the trail. And with each passing week, there are a new series of arrests or cells being broken. The Saudis are now totally engaged in the process and doing quite a bit of effective work in recent weeks especially since the May bombing. And so we're still hard at work. No priority has been lost on a global war against terrorism. And as you've heard me and my colleagues say, we believe Iraq was part of that global war. Afghanistan is now finding its way forward as a new democratic nation on the face of the Earth. It's got difficulties, but it's amazing how far we have come in just about 18 months.

Yesterday morning is show and tell in the Oval Office. Even old generals can play show and tell. I brought the President a piece of the asphalt road that is now going in that will really change things in Afghanistan. And the more you improve the situation of the people in Afghanistan, the more you stabilize that country, the less hospitable it will become for Taliban and for people like Usama bin Laden to appeal to disenchanted people who are no longer disenchanted because their life has gotten better than it ever was under the Taliban. And they will no longer wish to be hosts for this kind of terrorist activity.

So what we're doing in Afghanistan we did in Iraq, and what we're doing with friends around the world either through intelligence activity, law enforcement activity, military activity, the global war on terrorism is alive, active, and chasing them down.

I might also point out that we have done a heck of a lot of work on the demand side of the global war against terrorism by improving the way in which we watch our airports, and the way in which we have knowledge of those who are coming to our country, the visa changes we have made, the INS work that's underway, the investment that's been made in the Department of Homeland Security and the work that Governor Ridge has been doing. All of this is on the demand side, if I can put it that way, of the global war on terrorism.

So we're going after it in every dimension imaginable.

QUESTION: I believe at the start of the week you were asked about another resolution on Iraq.


QUESTION: In when you spoke to Reuters and said you hadn't yet made a decision. Has that changed at all --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it's still under consideration. I have to -- I'm still in discussions with my foreign minister buddies on the Security Council, and we think we have all we really need in 1483. But that's not a closed issue. There are some nations that might provide forces who indicate they need some additional mandate either as a result of -- either in the form of a request from the governing council or some international organization, not necessarily the UN, or a UN resolution. But it's not an overwhelming case yet that a new UN resolution is needed for those purposes. And a UN resolution always starts off a new UN battle. And so I have to constantly weigh, okay we go for a UN resolution to achieve this purpose, but how much does it take to get such a resolution passed, and what might others expect in such a resolution.

You had a small foretaste of that earlier this week when there was a debate under the Spanish presidency say about a presidential statement. And I could already see just -- they didn't finish it yesterday and then the presidency ended and we have a new president today -- Syria.

QUESTION: I don’t think it will get done this month.

SECRETARY POWELL: Don't be too sure. Don't be too sure. But we're reviewing it constantly, and presidential statement resolution, but we're taking our time. I'm taking my time. I don't find that there's any particular time pressure on this deliberation. And many of my Security Council colleagues are sort of taking August at a slightly slower pace than I usually take August.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. There's a lot of talk on the Hill that we're traveling with the Saudis. A) How much of a mistake would it be if the Senate got together, got the authority in terms of votes that it needed to declassify the now infamous 28 pages? And B, is our relationship with the Saudis now, our current relationship, is that sustainable?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the first question, President doesn't leave -- it should be classified at this time. Maybe it will change at some point in the future. That remains the administration's position.

Our relationship with the Saudis is a good one. They gave us support during the Iraq war through the use of facilities and whatnot. They have become much more aggressive in the global war on terrorism. They are a major oil producer in that part of the world, and they make sure that there is a steady supply of petroleum that we need. We pressed them to change some things they have done in the past with respect to how charitable contributions have previously been funded -- been funneled to certain religious organizations that are teaching more than religion. And they have been responsive to our concerns.

We had a number of child custody cases that a difference of approach and policy would resolve a number of them. There are many more yet to be resolved and we're working with the Saudis in a cooperative manner. They were very helpful in the Sharm el Sheik summit as we got the roadmap underway. And so I think we have a good relationship with the Saudis. They are doing more for us and we -- when they are disagreements or policies that we think they need to take another look at, we engage with them as friends of 50 years.

Okay, guys, have a good weekend. Have a good summer.


Released on August 3, 2003

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