April 6, 2009

On "This Week", George Stephanopoulos asks Susan Rice, our U.N. Ambassador, about which avenues the U.S. will pursue after North Korea's missile launch:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the United States prepared to pressure China?

RICE: We're working very closely with China. China shares the same goal that we do, which is a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula. China also is very proximate, on the border with North Korea, and shares our desire not to see this situation escalate, and to ensure that we can achieve, George, the long-term goal, which is de- nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the six-party talk process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But because China is right on the border of North Korea, they've been reluctant to really pressure North Korea. They're afraid that if you turn the screws too hard on North Korea, the regime is going to collapse and there's going to be chaos.

And is that why they are not going along with tougher sanctions?

RICE: Well, I think they have multiple concerns. They are looking at the large long-term goal of ensuring that we don't have a nuclearized Korean Peninsula. There have been times when we have differed as to the best means of achieving that.

But we are unified with China and others in the six parties towards the goal, George, of ensuring that we roll back this nuclear program that North Korea is pursuing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there any evidence at all that North Korea is going to respond to any of this? They've been steadily adding to their nuclear program, in fits and starts at times, but basically they've been able, over the last eight years or so, to develop a nuclear capability, to develop nuclear warheads, and they seem determined to keep going on that track. RICE: Well, George, it is fits and starts. I mean, there have been steps that have occurred over the last years that have been progress. For example, they did take steps to dismantle the facility at Yongbyon, which was the principal reactor.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But then they restarted it.

RICE: No. We have seen some serious dismantlement. The problem that we face now is ensuring that there is a verifiable regime to ensure de-nuclearization. And that's where the six-party talks have now stalled.

The challenge, George, is to convey with unity, as the president said today, on behalf of the international community that we will not stand for violations of international law which this launch today represented. That there will be consequences. And that, indeed, we will pursue together with resolve the goal of achieving a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can't say yet what those consequences will be. And there is no guarantee that the U.N. today or over the course of next week is going to impose sanctions on North Korea...


RICE: George, we need to continue to work closely with our allies Japan and South Korea, with partners in the Security Council to achieve united action. And that's what we will do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What bothers the United States more, the chaos if this regime collapsed or the current regime?

RICE: Our concern is to prevent North Korea from pursuing and disseminating nuclear weapons. We view North Korea as a proliferation threat. Its actions today underscore our concern about its development of not only a nuclear weapons capability, but the capability to deliver it. That's what we're most concerned about preventing, and preventing North Korea from sharing that technology with others.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One more question on this, you talk about the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead. The Northern Command said the satellite -- no satellite was sent into orbit. But this test did seem to be more successful than the last North Korean test, the stages the rocket did get over Japan.

Are you now convinced -- is the United States now convinced that the North Koreans have a missile that could reach the United States?

RICE: I think, George, what today's experience showed is that they did not succeed according to our best assessment to putting that space launch vehicle into orbit. That, therefore, was something short of success for North Korea.

Our assessment is that their pursuit of a missile capability is of grave concern and that their aim is to achieve the capability to deliver a weapon as potentially as -- to North America.

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