Bolton Discusses Six-Party Talks on CNN

Under Secretary of State John Bolton
Interview with CNN, Feb. 18, 2004

STAN GRANT: Stan Grant in Hong Kong. Thank you very much. Mr. Bolton, thanks for giving us your time. We've seen these talks begin and end again. What are you hoping for this time around?

BOLTON: Excuse, me. Are you talking about the six-party talks?

GRANT: The six-party talks.

BOLTON. Well, I think the United States has said for some time that we're prepared to have another round of six-party talks without pre-conditions. I think it's an excellent time to do it. We've got a lot of positive developments around the world, the Libyan decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction, and now we'll have a chance to see if North Korea is prepared to renounce its weapons of mass destruction, too.

GRANT: We've only seen North Korea say in the past it would be prepared to freeze its program. How do you move this forward if there isn't some compromise?

BOLTON: What we have said is that we want the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. A freeze, as a step on the way to that, would certainly be important, but we've got a very difficult problem since North Korea won't admit that it has a uranium enrichment program. North Korea has two routes to nuclear weapons: one plutonium, one uranium, and we need the North Koreans to admit to both of them, then we can talk about this seriously.

GRANT: Going into this round, though, if you are talking about a full disclosure of the uranium program and the plutonium program, isn't that, in essence, raising the stakes? What can you hope for to come out of this?

BOLTON: I don't think it's raising the stakes at all. I think it would subvert President Bush's intention to get a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the North Korean question, if the North Koreans don't come clean on the uranium enrichment effort.

GRANT: How united are the five parties on your side of the table when it comes to getting a resolution to this crime?

BOLTON: Well, I think the other five parties, and in fact, everyone else in the world that I can see, believes that the North Koreans should give up their nuclear weapons program; that we want a nuclear weapons free Korean peninsula. The North Koreans are the only real problem there and the issue is that when they come to the same conclusion that Libya has come to, that far from enhancing their security, the pursuit of nuclear weapons actually makes them less secure. The Libyans have given a demonstration of how to get a peaceful resolution of nuclear weapons program by renouncing it, by opening themselves up to international cooperation. The North Koreans have steadfastly refused to do that and that's why these talks have not made any progress.

GRANT: It's a bit of a murky picture though, isn't it? You're sitting down at the table with a country like China, long suspected of peddling nuclear information and technology around the world itself and will not start under the proliferation security initiative - how do you feel about sitting down with a country like China and try to get a country like North Korea to give up its program? How much more difficult does it make it?

BOLTON: I think we've made significant progress with China in terms of its appreciation of the proliferation security initiative, and certainly in its declaratory policy, that it opposes nuclear proliferation. I think the Chinese have been instrumental in convincing the North Koreans that they had to come back to the table in the six-party talks. Whether they've been successful in convincing the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons program, I think we'll find out from the North Koreans next week.

GRANT: Mr. Bolton, let's talk about your personal stake in this. Do you think that in the past, you have been a bit heavy-handed and a bit extravagant with some of the language you've used - you haven't created an environment where diplomacy can flourish - how do you answer critics who accuse you of that?

BOLTON: I think truth has its virtues and I think what I've said about North Korea has been accurate.

GRANT: Let's just remind people of some of the things you have said: that it's a hellish nightmare run by a dictator who starves his people. How does that - regardless of what you say may be the truth - how does that create an environment where you can have conducive talk?

BOLTON: Well, sir, if you don't believe that truth is conducive to a diplomatic environment I'm not quite sure how to respond to that. But, I think it's very important that we appreciate the nature of the regimes that we're dealing with and particularly, in the case of North Korea, where it's a regime that has long been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, that's one of the most dictatorial in the world and that has an aggressive campaign to pursue weapons of mass destruction. I think that tells you something about the nature of the regime and how to deal with it.

GRANT: Let me move to the next question, and that is, why should the regime be allowed to exist in any case, if you hold those beliefs?

BOLTON: Well, our view has been, for decades, across American administrations of both political parties and many political persuasions, that we seek the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. What we seek at the moment, in connection with our nuclear weapons program, is the peaceful elimination of that program. That's why President Bush has emphasized the importance of the diplomatic initiative that we see in the six-party talks.

GRANT: Mr. Bolton, nice to speak to you. Thank you again for your time.

MIKE CHINOY: How much hinges, in terms of the six-party talks, on the way North Korea handles the uranium enrichment program and whether it's willing to admit it and send a signal to the U.S. that it's willing to address it?

BOLTON: I think the uranium enrichment program is the 800-pound gorilla in the negotiating world. You can't solve a problem if you deny that it exists or if you wish it away. And as I say, I think the essence of President Bush's approach, diplomatically, is to find a peaceful way to eliminate North Korea's nuclear program, of which there are two parts - one is plutonium-based; one is uranium-based and you have to deal with both of them.

CHINOY: What are the prospects for the negotiating process if the North sticks to its denials and won't signal a willingness to address this particular issue?

BOLTON: Since the United States has called for a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North's nuclear program, that would pose considerable difficulties. First, is the word complete - if it's going to be a complete dismantlement it has to include both the plutonium side and the uranium side. Verifiability is absolutely critical here - if the North denies that it even has a program, obviously it's difficult to discuss the question of verification. So, and irreversible goes without saying if you haven't taken steps, it's not going to be made irreversible. So, I don't think that President Bush's very firm desire to have a negotiated settlement here can be carried out if the North doesn't come clean on what the totality of its nuclear program is.

CHINOY: How significant a boost to the U.S. position was the admission of Abul Qadir Khan's nuclear dealings with North Korea?

BOLTON: What AQ Khan said was something that we had suspected for some time about the range and the scope of North Korea's uranium enrichment procurement efforts. This is the kind of thing that can't be explained away by the typical North Korean denials. This is the kind of external corroboration for what we've been saying, and we think highlights why the six-party talks have to deal with the uranium as well as the plutonium programs.

CHINOY: Will the U.S. envoy in Beijing have any more flexibility in his brief this time around than Assistant Secretary Kelly's had earlier dealings with the North?

BOLTON: It's not a question of flexibility, it's a question of making it clear to the North Koreans why the dismantlement of their nuclear weapons program is critical to any further movement in the talks, and I think that the real issue of flexibility is not American flexibility, the issue is whether North Korea makes the same decision Libya makes and concludes that the pursuit of nuclear weapons doesn't make it more secure, it makes it less secure.

CHINOY: Where does the proliferation security initiative fit in going forward - would you see - particularly if the talks don't go well - a more aggressive, muscular approach to try and interdict North Koreans exports of dangerous materials?

BOLTON: President Bush called last week for the proliferation security initiative to be expanded, to go after more aspects of international trafficking and weapons of mass destruction. PSI is a global program, its support is growing, its membership is growing, the scope and breadth of its activities is growing and it will continue to grow regardless of the negotiations, as long as states are proliferating, as long as other states and terrorist groups seek weapons of mass destruction, the PSI will be very active.

CHINOY: To what extent do you feel that regime change is still perhaps the most certain way to ensure a non-nuclear North Korea in the long haul?

BOLTON: Well, our objective here is the peaceful dismantlement of North Korea's programs, that's what we've pursuing in the six-party talks.

CHINOY: Do you think going forward would be a good thing if the North Korean regime seeks to exist?

BOLTON: The United States has believed for 50 years that Korea should be reunified peacefully with a democratic society. That's obviously still the objective.

Thank you.