SPENCER MICHELS: President Bush wrapped up his trip to South Korea today, mixing criticism of North Korea with renewed calls for dialogue with the communist state. At a news conference in the capital, Seoul, President Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung said their talks today had been "frank," a diplomatic term reflecting their differing approaches on how to deal with North Korea.
President Kim, who met with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Il, almost two years ago, has persisted in his "sunshine policy" to reunite with the North, while President Bush has included North Korea in a so- called "axis of evil." Mr. Bush said today he backed the sunshine policy and explained why he has been so critical of North Korea.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We're peaceful people. We have no intention of invading North Korea. South Korea has no intention of attacking North Korea, nor does America. Some in this country are... obviously have read about my very strong comments about the nature of the regime.
And let me explain why I made the comments I did. I love freedom. I understand the importance of freedom in people's lives. I am troubled by a regime that tolerates starvation. I worry about a regime that is closed and not transparent. I am deeply concerned about the people of North Korea, and I believe that it is important for those of us who love freedom to stand strong for freedom and make it clear the benefits of freedom.
And that's exactly why I said what I said about the North Korean regime. I know what can happen when people are free. I see it right here in South Korea. And I'm passionate on the subject. And I believe so strongly in the rights of the individual that I, Mr. President, will continue to speak out.
Having said that, of course, as you and I discussed, we're more than willing to speak out publicly and speak out in private with the North Korean leadership. And again, I wonder why they haven't taken up our offer.
SOLDIER: Sir, there's a joint security area...
SPENCER MICHELS: President Bush made a lunchtime visit to the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between the two Koreas. One of the world's most heavily guarded borders, it has divided the peninsula since a 1953 armistice ended the Korean War. That conflict began half a century ago when the North invaded the South. More than 30,000 American soldiers and more than one million Korean military and civilians were killed.
Since then, the two countries have remained technically at war. Today, President Bush met some of the 37,000 U.S. soldiers who help protect South Korea from its northern neighbor. They told him a story about a 1976 attack by North Korean soldiers, which killed two U.S. servicemen. The President talked of that incident.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: They have a peace museum there, and the axes that were used to slaughter two U.S. soldiers are in the peace museum. No wonder I think they're evil.
SPENCER MICHELS: Later, the President spoke at the Dorasan train station, the last South Korean stop on a North-South railway line severed since the Korean War. He said he hopes to see the peninsula reunited one day.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: President Kim has just shown me a road he built, a road for peace. And he's shown me where that road abruptly ends right here at the DMZ. That road has the potential to bring the peoples on both sides of this divided land together.
SPENCER MICHELS: While President Bush was traveling through Korea, in Seoul, scores of protesters demonstrated against his tough stance on North Korea. President Bush travels from South Korea to China on Thursday.
JIM LEHRER: More now from James Lilley, an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the first Bush Administration, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea during the Reagan Administration; Wendy Sherman, special advisor to the President and to the Secretary of State for North Korea Policy during the Clinton Administration; and Selig Harrison, former journalist; he's written extensively about Korea. His latest book is Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement. It will be published in April.
And how well do you think the President did today in handling this North Korea evil issue?
SELIG HARRISON: Well, he's made it worse. Until there's some indication that the United States is ready to negotiate with North Korea in a productive way, that is, not just laying down ultimatums about what they have to do but indicating what we might be willing to do to cooperate with them to solve the problems we have, I think there's going to be a lot of tension in South Korea because there won't be... between South Korea and the United States because there won't be a resumption of negotiations with North Korea, and there will always be a danger of drifting into tensions over nuclear inspections and over the missile issue.
If the President wants to... if he doesn't like North Korea, what he should be doing is trying to open up dialogue with North Korea. And although he says he is, if you look at what he is saying and what other people in the administration are saying, they're really not talking about a negotiation; they're talking about a court proceeding, a trial in which North Korea is the defendant at the bar and, you know, the United States is the judge, the jury and the executioner all wrapped up into one and the verdict is already in: They're bad guys.
So there's been nothing to suggest that we're willing to carry on the process of normalizing relations that Wendy Sherman helped to begin to negotiate. And so I think that his visit, while it dampened down some of the tension between the U.S. and South Korea and Kim Dae Jung didn't want it to be serious, so he played it very cool, I think that things are not going to be good.
JIM LEHRER: Not going to be good?
JAMES LILLEY: No, I think they're going to be good. I think this has started us off on a new track. The agreement between President Kim Dae Jung and President Bush was outstanding. The joint statement showed no light between the two. This has been the case when they met in Shanghai and in the case when they met in Washington last year in March. I know it's been blown up by people saying there was insults. That was not the way it happened.
JIM LEHRER: But on the North Korea issue specifically the use of the word "evil," the axis of evil thing in the State of the Union, his use of it again several times today or in this trip, is that a good thing or is that a bad thing? Does that make things worse or better?
JAMES LILLEY: I think he calls a spade a spade. I know that if you actually went to the South Korean population and asked them this, do they think the North Korean regime is evil I would say probably 80 percent would say it was. I think 70 percent would think the use of the term right now is perhaps inappropriate, a very soft word.
They know the North Korean regime very, very well. They know the track record of murder, assassination, sabotage, killing. It went on and on and on. They are now willing to go with them and President Bush has given 100 percent support for President Kim Dae Jung's sunshine policy. He did it in March last year.
JIM LEHRER: Explain the sunshine policy.
JAMES LILLEY: Sunshine is engagement with North Korea. It's five points linking up the railroads, setting up an industrial zone, reunification of families, and there's two others. But it's a whole business of getting together and Bush says I'm behind you 100 percent. In addition to strengthening your position, I'll sit down with them any time anywhere and talk unconditionally.
JIM LEHRER: You disagree with Selig Harrison that the evil statements walk on that and hurt that effort rather than help it.
JAMES LILLEY: The whole momentum of the relationship is way beyond the little... the term "evil." It's a real flourishing relationship we have with South Korea. Under Reagan we started the modest initiative in North Korea. We had the first meeting with them in January of 1992. I was up there in '95 and met them and reaffirmed what I was... what I was going to do.
I gave them all of Kim Dae Jung's writings on reunification in Korean. So I can say we want to move on this thing. We want to be positive. We want to deal with them. Bush said we are not going to attack; take that off the table. So I mean a lot of positive things are going to come out of this.
JIM LEHRER: Wendy Sherman, do you agree, we're beyond evil?
WENDY SHERMAN: I think we took some important steps with the President's trip to South Korea, but I think quite frankly, Jim, we don't know yet exactly what's going to happen. I think it was quite critical that the President go to South Korea, stand next to President Kim Dae Jung who is really a historical figure, who's really thought about how to bring about reconciliation of the Korean people between North and South.
It was important to stand with him, to stand by him, to affirm the engagement policy. It was quite critical I agree with Ambassador Lilley, to say that the United States was not about to attack North Korea, to say we didn't have an immediate hostile intent toward North Korea. I think all of those things are quite positive. And the President saying we're ready to dialogue at any time, any place, anywhere, anyhow; but I do have a little bit of Sig Harrison's wariness because the North Koreans haven't heard the message the way the President thinks it has been delivered.
What the North has heard is that, yes, the United States will talk with us but only if we're willing to act on all areas all at once and give up all of our chips all at once on conventional weapons, on missiles, on nuclear inspections, on human rights, on religious freedom-- all of which are very serious and fundamental problems.
Negotiations don't exactly work that way to put a grand package together, and we put in a huge process led by Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry to talk with these gentlemen and many, many, many, many more men and women around the world and here in the U.S. to think about the best way to approach North Korea. I still think the Perry process, which is based on the engagement process, is the best way to go.
JIM LEHRER: What about the idea that the President laying the law down to them, calling them and putting them in the same league with Iraq and Iran and calling them part of this axis of evil helps the situation or hurts it? Do you feel like it helps?
WENDY SHERMAN: I don't think it was particularly helpful.
JIM LEHRER: Why not?
WENDY SHERMAN: It was very understandable as a rhetorical device to rally the American people to cause against terrorism and to the cause against weapons of mass destruction, which none of us want. What I think was wrong about it in terms of North Korea is North Korea has negotiated successfully with us.
We have a 1994 framework agreement that stops the production of fissile material, which is the plutonium, the kind of plutonium needed to build nuclear weapons. They agreed to that framework agreement. They have principally kept to that agreement and taken the steps that were necessary for it to take. It's not finished yet. We still have a ways to go, but they do and can follow through. We need to hold them to it. Our agreements have to be verifiable. They need to be tough but it can be done.
JIM LEHRER: Ambassador Lilley, how do you feel about the use of the word in terms... you've dealt with the North Koreans as you've said. How do you think they are reacting to that? Do you think that makes them more likely to sit down with us and make a deal and get this thing behind us or the opposite or do you know?
JAMES LILLEY: Well right now they have not commented on President Bush's trip to Seoul. What they have done is to stream out the usual vituperation against him: Rogue, murder, all these things, which they've used all the way through. They've never stopped. They've used it on him and they're using it again.
To me words are words. You get on with the action. I think Bush has said -- I think Wendy is right in many ways but I think Bush has not laid any kind of conditions on this thing. He wants to talk with them. He wants to... they can have their agenda items. We have ours. We reach a common agenda and we start dealing with it.
JIM LEHRER: Let's go through... what is it that we want North Korea to do?
SELIG HARRISON: One of the things the President is emphasizing the most is missile export, stopping their missile exports.
JIM LEHRER: Do we know they're doing it?
SELIG HARRISON: Sure. They're doing it. One of our dear friends Pakistan is getting most of them. The President doesn't point that out. They were getting some from the... Iran was getting some. Now most of the ones they're exporting to Pakistan. Now there's a missile export deal ready to be made. If instead of all this evil talk we had a little sweet talk.
You know, they are willing to stop their missile exports. I think the Clinton Administration found that out. All they really want is some more food aid, some electricity assistance. They're all sitting in North Korea shivering tonight because they have an energy crisis. So we can make a deal on missiles. The President talks about conventional forces as if it's evil.
One of the reasons they're evil he says is that they've deployed conventional forces far forward along the border with South Korea. Well, the reason they are there is because they regard us as a threat to them. They're trying to deter us from a pre-emptive air strike. On September 17, 1999, Bill Perry was on the NewsHour -- had just come back from North Korea. And he was asked by Margaret Warner," why are they making missiles?"
And he said well they have many reasons but the main one is security deterrence. Who are they deterring? They're deterring us. And he said, we don't think we're a threat to them, but they think we're a threat to us.
JIM LEHRER: Where do you come down on this Wendy Sherman based on your talks with them? Are they making... whether it's conventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction, are they making them for their potential own use, either as a defensive thing or to attack South Korea or are they trying to go into the business? What is it we're really after them to stop?
WENDY SHERMAN: I think it's many things. I think first and foremost it is because they see us as a threat to their survival. And regime survival --
JIM LEHRER: In what way?
WENDY SHERMAN: When we visited the first time, Dr. Perry and I to North Korea, we were bombing in Yugoslavia at the time. And every person we met with said we are not going to be Yugoslavia. And what they meant by that is we are not going to sit here defenseless and not have missiles to return to the United States should you attack us.
Now some of that is hyperbole, but some of that is a real feeling of we are this tiny little country and they've closed themselves off from the world but it makes them feel embattled. I don't want to make excuses for the terrible things North Korea has done but nonetheless it's the psychology of how they operate. I think, too, that they do this for hard currency. Certainly the exports are so that they can get money, yes, to support their military, which is terrible, and to have some economic basis for going forward because their economy is incomplete and utter shambles.
JIM LEHRER: How do you read that, Ambassador Lilley, as to what it is that we want them really to do and why they're doing what they're doing.
JAMES LILLEY: I think we're looking for a number of things. We're looking for a peaceful Korea, a unified Korea and Bush spelled this out today. Number two, we are looking for a Korea without weapons of mass destruction. The Chinese agree with us on that.
Three, we're looking at Korea where the North and South Korea take the lead and the United States steps back. On the agreed framework and the missile deal, I would respectfully disagree with my good colleague Wendy. I do not think the framework and the light water reactors was a good deal at all.
I think we paid through the ears for it. I think they are not allowing inspections. We cannot install the machinery, and also the light water reactors, I am told by Vic Galinski (ph) of the National... I'm sorry Nuclear Regulatory Commission that these can produce weapons-grade plutonium. And you have not solved the problem at all whether they do it or don't do it.
Second on the missile deal I was told by Torkel Patterson (ph) who went public on this thing, the deal was a long way from being done. Verification was not in there and the pay-off package was much bigger than we think. We do not think you can buy these guys off. We think you sit and develop a negotiating strategy with them where we have our points and we have theirs.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think we can buy them off?
SELIG HARRISON: Yes, I think that....
JIM LEHRER: In a word, yes?
SELIG HARRISON: There's no question about it, if the price is right. And if you're willing to... you not only buy them with money, you also have to recognize that they do consider us a military threat. So if you're talking about something, which is very important, which is getting them to pull back from the border with South Korea where they are in a threatening posture, they're there for defensive reasons but they're still posing a threat.
If you want them to do that, we have to be prepared to talk about our forces in Korea and what they're doing there and whether we're willing pull back from the DMZ also. The President doesn't talk about that. You says to the North Koreans you guys pull back. If you don't you're evil.
JIM LEHRER: Well, there's a lot more to talk about but we're out of time. Thank you all three very much.