Announcer: And now we are going to return to one of our top stories today. South Korea is warning a nuclear missile launch from North Korea could, quote, come at any moment now. This, as a top U.S. commander tells Congress that America is fully capable of protecting itself against any threat from this regime. Listen.
Adm. Samuel Locklear: I believe we have the credible ability to defend the homeland, to defend Hawaii, defend Guam, to defend our four deployed forces, and defend our allies.
Sen. John McCain: Do we have the capability to intercept a missile if the North Koreans launch within the next several days?
Adm. Samuel Locklears: We do.
Sen. John McCain: Would you recommend such action?
Adm. Samuel Locklear: If the missile was in defense of the homeland, I would certainly recommend that action. And if it was defense of our allies, I would recommend that action.
Announcer: Lots of concern, lots of handwringing. We have certainly talked a lot about it on this program, but is this really a situation, the situation in North Korea, that demands so much of our attention? It is just one of the questions raised today by a former Reagan adviser, Doug Bandow, who writes, quote, “Washington gains nothing from fixating on the intentions of a bankrupt and backward state which has little ability to strike Americans except those Washington has voluntarily placed within range – the 28,000-plus stationed in South Korea. Better would be to begin bringing them home, leaving North Korea’s neighbors to deal with Pyongyang.” Here now, the author of that, Doug Bandow, who is with the Cato Institute now. Also joining us Ambassador John Bolton, a Fox News contributor and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN. So, Doug, a different perspective for us today. Why do you believe this?
Doug Bandow: Well, North Korea is an evil regime, but I don’t think they are stupid. They know they would lose a war. What they want is attention, and they have gotten everything they wanted. They dominate the headlines, they are driving the agenda, they are causing Washington officials to run around kind of looking very silly about how dangerous this all is. I think what we want to do is downplay this, and it makes no sense to maintain conventional forces within reach of their missiles when the South Koreans are well able to defend themselves. We should be saying this is primarily a problem for their neighbors. It is a nasty regime, but it is not one that we should fixate on the way that we have done.
Announcer: Ambassador Bolton, what is the risk of downplaying this?
Amb. John Bolton: Well, I think the North Koreans are a threat to the United States, to our allies in the region, South Korea and Japan in particular. They have a million men in the Army, they have nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and they are not just a threat in their region. They are a global threat. We know that at least since 1998 they have worked with Iran on their ballistic missile programs. We know that until it was destroyed in September of 2007 they were building a clone of their Yongbyon reactor near the Euphrates River in the desert of Syria, not a country that they have known to have long historical relations with, probably in conjunction with Iran, so that their nuclear technology, their nuclear devices, pose a worldwide concern for us. It is not a question that we can leave to North Korea – to South Korea or Japan, this is a global problem that we have to be concerned with.
Announcer: Doug, what do you think about what the ambassador just said about whether or not we leave the area, or we don’t pay proper attention might not only send the wrong message to North Korea, but our very important allies in the region, and some of our enemies, like Iran.
Doug Bandow: Well, proliferation is a very serious problem, but it is separate from defending our allies. Look, the South Koreans have 40 times the GDP and twice the population of North Korea. They should defend themselves. You know, I like them. I am flying there later this month for a conference, but they should defend themselves. Same thing with Japan. The U.S. is bankrupt. We shouldn’t be expected to defend allies who are well able to defend themselves. Proliferation is going to be a problem. We don’t address that by having conventional forces in South Korea. The question of what we do there, frankly, we have a lot of problems with that. It is Pakistan, one of our supposedly great allies, was a major proliferator. You know, these are problems that transcend regions, but what we are doing in terms of defending our allies doesn’t help in that regard. I think, in fact, it hurts. It makes us seem more vulnerable and it causes us to kind of pay extra attention on threats that really are not threats, and we are not achieving very much. We have tried with North Korea isolation, negotiation, whining, threatening, none of that has worked. This is going to be a protracted problem. We shouldn’t add to that worrying about conventional threats that our allies can handle.
Announcer: Ambassador, to Doug’s point, one of the things that you and I have discussed a lot on this program is the bipartisan nature of North Korea, the North Korea problem, and that we have had kind of these cycle of policy towards North Korea that have repeated themselves in pattern and haven’t really delivered what we would like, which is a regime change, or not having a nuclear threat, or not having them make all this noise in the region. So, why not try something completely different, whether or not it looks like Doug’s plan or not, to see if we can get a completely different result?
Amb. John Bolton: Well, I have thought for quite some time that the only long-term solution to the North Korean threat is the peaceful reunification of the peninsula. They are not going to be negotiated out of their nuclear weapons program, they are not going to be bribed out of it. I think we have seen that through three successive American administrations. And what we need to do is persuade China that it is in their best interest to have a reunited Korea accomplished in a peaceful fashion, so that nobody on the peninsula has nuclear weapons. Now, with respect to the Americans there, it has been our policy for ten years to get them away from the demilitarized zone. The principal responsibility, overwhelming responsibility, for the defense of South Korea in fact rests with South Korean troops. What we want is to have the relatively small number of Americans there based at the southern tip of the peninsula so that they are available for deployment throughout East Asia, which I think is very much in our national security interest.
Announcer: That is something we can talk to General Keane about. He is going to be joining us a little later on in the program, ask him about that, because there is a big question amongst our viewers, too, about why do we have nearly 30,000 troops there. Doug and Ambassador Bolton, great to have you both. Some interesting perspectives for us today and we appreciate it very much.
Doug Bandow: Happy to be on.
Amb. John Bolton: Thank you.