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Climate Change Debate; European Economic Woes; North Korean Weapons Program; Tsunami Warning in Japan
Aired February 26, 2010 - 15:03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, climate change scientists prepare to launch an all-out offensive to win back public opinion.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program.
Among the top stories we'll look at tonight, the global warming camp fights back, and tensions are escalating over Europe's financial crisis. Clashes erupted in Athens this week, as European Union officials push Greece to tackle its massive debt with harsher spending cuts.
And is Spain next? We ask Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos whether this crisis could also bring down the Spanish economy.
Plus, nuclear hardball in North Korea. Kim Jong-il is still holding out on returning to the negotiating table. We'll talk to a leading expert who is predicting regime collapse in Pyongyang. Is anybody ready for it?
But our top story. Since the Copenhagen summit failed, the global warming camp has been singed by rising political heat. One U.S. senator, James Inhofe, is even calling for a criminal investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: The minority staff found that some of the world's leading climate scientists engaged in potentially illegal and unethical behavior. In other words, they cooked the science.
(END VIDEO CLIP).
AMANPOUR: Do Senator Inhofe's claims have merit or is this a lot of hot air?
I spoke to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; and from Copenhagen, climate change skeptic Bjorn Lomborg; here in our studio, Dr. Jim Hansen of NASA, who helped launch the climate change debate a quarter of a century ago.
ALLISON: Gentlemen, thank you all for joining me.
Let me go straight to you, Mr. Hansen, because it looks like you are the target of Senator Inhofe's -- at one of the targets -- of Senator Inhofe's call for an investigation, cooking the books, he's saying.
JAMES HANSEN, NASA'S GODDARD INSTITUTE FOR SPACE STUDIES: Yeah, well, I'd love to have an investigation, which should include Senator Inhofe, who's one of the most well-oiled, coal-fired politicians in Washington. He's very well funded to protect the fossil fuel industry, but he was elected to support the people.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask -- I see Thomas Friedman, who's done a lot of work and writing, as everybody knows, on this climate debate. You just laughed when Jim Hansen described the U.S. senator in that way. What is going on here? Is there really a question about whether scientists have been illegally cooking the books?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Well, you know, just to pick up where Jim Hansen left off, Christiane, Senator Inhofe wants an investigation. I'm for an investigation. I'd love to see all the e-mails between his office and various coal and oil companies over the last 20 years.
So I bet Jim Hansen would be very happy to lay all his -- I won't speak for him -- but lay his documentation and research on the table, and we'll let Senator Inhofe lay all his e-mails on the table going back and forth between oil and coal companies, and we'll let citizens and voters decide where the real science is.
AMANPOUR: So you're saying -- I can hear you saying that this is -- a lot of it is politically motivated. I want to bring in Bjorn Lomborg, because there's so much out there that says, in fact, all the evidence hasn't been collated, not that -- not that questions about the evidence, but the fact, as Thomas just said and Jim just said, let's put all the information out there. Is an investigation a good idea? Or is it -- is it a lot of hot air?
BJORN LOMBORG, DIRECTOR, COPENHAGEN CONSENSUS CENTER: Well, I think, Christiane, we need to step a little bit back and, first of all, realize that both Jim and Tom and I -- and I think most of the people in the -- who are following this debate -- agree that global warming is real, it's manmade, and it is an important problem.
But I think we also got to acknowledge that certainly a fair number of people have gotten a little ahead of themselves, certainly a lot of environmental activists have thought that the best way to motivate people to move on climate change was to scare the pants off of them, and it's very clear when we look at the British investigation into the -- the British climate unit in -- in East Anglia, that they actually did break the law in the fact that they didn't submit the data as it was requested and they should have done.
AMANPOUR: OK, let me take this point by point. And, first, we must say we did invite Senator Inhofe to be with us. He wasn't able to be. We asked some other members of his committee. They weren't able to join us. But they have had committee hearings.
We made this Wordle, this world cloud, over their report, the Inhofe report on this, and we want to show you it, because it's interesting. It, obviously, shows the words in big which are most used, and one of those is IPCC, which is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That's essentially the U.N. panel on climate change.
And it seems to me that that seems to be the brunt and the crux of the senator's complaint, the IPCC and Al Gore. Would you agree, Jim Hansen?
HANSEN: IPCC, that's an excellent example, because they claim that IPCC made a mistake in the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. But if you step back and look at this, glaciers are, in fact -- IPCC did say that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone in 25 years, which is not correct. They will last longer than that.
But, in fact, if you look at the glaciers, they're melting all around the planet. Glacier National Park will be Glacierless National Park within 25 years. So the essence of everything that IPCC said is correct. They pick on a detail.
AMANPOUR: And by detail, you mean the issue of the length of time of the Himalayan glaciers?
AMANPOUR: Look, what he said was, the minority report -- and he talked about that -- shows that the world's leading climate scientists are acting like political scientists. Is -- I mean, he's referring to you and...
HANSEN: Well, what some of the scientists have realized is that if we don't connect the dots from the science to what the implications are for policy, then no one will do it, because there are interests which would prefer that we not take the actions that are needed. And in particular, if we burn all the fossil fuels, we will hand our children and grandchildren a situation that's out of their control.
AMANPOUR: OK. Bjorn Lomborg said that we've been scaring the pants - - or people like yourself have been scaring the pants off the rest of the world. Thomas Friedman said that we should have all of this evidence out in the public domain. I want to ask you, Tom, you heard Jim Hansen say that, in fact, this claim that the glaciers would be gone in 25 years was erroneous, I mean, it's wrong, but they are going.
Is the problem that the climate change camp never acknowledges any mistakes? Is that a problem?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, when you talked about the IPCC report, as Jim did, Christiane, you're talking about a report that includes, you know, thousands of pages and input from several thousand scientists. That there's one or two mistakes in there, I'm shocked. I'm devastated.
And what the critics have done is seize on a small mistake and say, because that is wrong, everything's wrong.
This isn't all that complicated, Christiane. What do we know? We know our planet, Earth, is enveloped by a blanket of greenhouse gases, methane and CO-2, and that greenhouse gas blanket is what regulates the temperature on Earth and keeps it at this nice moderate temperature where human beings can live there.
What we know is that the climate changes naturally over the years. We go from ice ages to warming periods. We know that, too.
But what we also know is human beings burning fossil fuels can make that blanket of greenhouse gases around the world, around the Earth thicker. When we do, we trap more heat. We raise average temperatures. Oceans will rise.
Now, none of know exactly how that will exacerbate the natural climate changes of nature.
FRIEDMAN: But what we do know is this, Christiane, and this is really important. We know the gases we put up there stay there for like 3,000 years. In other words, they're irreversible. And we know that the chances of them producing possibly catastrophic climate change, some may say, is 90 percent, 80 percent, but it's not 0 percent.
FRIEDMAN: Whenever I see something -- whenever I see something that is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, I buy insurance. That's what this is all about.
AMANPOUR: And next, some climate change skeptics are saying that Al Gore should hand back his Nobel Peace Prize. Are they going too far?
AMANPOUR: With the scandal over the so-called Climategate and the failure to reach an agreement in Copenhagen, I asked our panel, has the climate change movement lost its footing?
AMANPOUR: So, Bjorn, you've also said that everybody agrees that there is climate change. I mean, you're a skeptic, but you say there's climate change and man has made it or has contributed to it. Why -- what do you think of the failure of the Copenhagen summit? Is that -- what does it say for trying to find a solution in the future?
LOMBORG: Well, Christiane, I'm not a skeptic of the climate science, and I think Tom put that very well. We are going to see a temperature rise. I'm a skeptic of the way that it's being communicated, and I'm a skeptic of the way that we're proposing our solutions.
And I think we're seeing that very clearly here today. We're essentially seeing both Jim and Tom saying, listen, it was a minor mistake -- although we know that the party involved has actually admitted that he said he put it in there to push policymakers. And there's been a lot of push.
I agree that most of the IPCC is very sound and actually very good at resisting this sort of intervention. They did not push up the sea level rise. They're estimating sea level rise somewhere between 18 and 59 centimeters, not as, for instance, we saw in Al Gore's movie, a six-meter sea level rise.
So they are in many ways good at telling us, this is a problem. It's not the end of the world.
But I think fundamentally what's happened is, the last 18 years, a lot of people have been pushing to scare the pants off of people, a strategy to get us to cut carbon emissions, but we haven't done so. And, essentially, what we saw in Copenhagen was exactly the failure of that strategy. We need a new and a smarter way forward.
AMANPOUR: What is that new and a smarter way forward, if you agree, Jim?
HANSEN: Well, yes. In fact, we do need a smarter way forward, and that is we have to recognize that as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy on the planet, we're going to keep using them and all the more so. So the things that they were talking about, both in Kyoto and in Copenhagen, cap-and-trade with offsets, that is not going to work. We have to be honest about the fact that we have to have a rising price of carbon emissions.
AMANPOUR: What has to happen to give an irrefutable look to everybody around the world of the actual science of what's going on? Why isn't it -- why isn't there some compendium of scientific fact out there?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, all of these climate studies are based on models. And they look at the past, how things developed, and they project into the future. And so no one can say exactly where it's going to go, but we are on one of those paths, Christiane; we just don't know which one.
Now, what I would simply say is this. If we listen to the climate change scientists, like Dr. Hansen, and we prepare for climate change, but climate change doesn't happen, what happens? Well, let's see. We have a cleaner air, cleaner environment, we have a more energy-independent economy, new industries, and global respect.
Let's see now. If we listen to Jim Inhofe, the climate deniers, and we don't get ready for climate change and climate change comes, we're a bad biological experiment. So, like, which part of the sentence don't you understand?
I mean, I'm a Dick Cheney guy on this. I'm with Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney said, if there's a 1 percent chance that Iraq has a nuclear weapon, we need to take that on. Well, if there's a 1 percent chance on climate change, just like Cheney said -- I'm with Cheney -- we need to prepare for it.
AMANPOUR: All right. Let me put up this video, then, of what everybody probably has seen already, and that is the igloo that was created by Senator Inhofe and his family, basically saying that the snow in Washington, D.C., negates the idea of global warming.
So, Bjorn Lomborg...
FRIEDMAN: Christiane, can I say one thing about the igloo? That is flat-out stupid. In the same week that that igloo was being built, it was raining in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, on the -- on the downhill ski rack. In Jerusalem, I believe it was 96 degrees one day. And my friend and stock broker in Maine was playing golf that day, OK? So the fact that it snowed in Washington tells you nothing.
AMANPOUR: But what it does tell you is that there are very clever ways of that camp using the media...
FRIEDMAN: There are clever ways of making people stupid, yes.
AMANPOUR: Well, Bjorn, then how do you make people unstupid on this? Where have we, the media, the general public, failed to get a grip? Because you know what? The polls are showing in the United States that the number of skeptics among the civilians is rising. Bjorn?
LOMBORG: Absolutely. And that's true virtually everywhere, Christiane. We're seeing that rise everywhere. And I think...
AMANPOUR: But why? Why?
LOMBORG: ... fundamentally we've seen a very good example -- well, because we have had people like Al Gore, but also many others, overplay their hand, and now there's a reluctance to say, "Well, maybe we overplayed it."
AMANPOUR: So what should they do?
LOMBORG: I mean, honestly, Tom, I totally agree with you that you shouldn't be -- you shouldn't be using the igloo. I think that's a terrible example. But likewise, let's just remember that Al Gore was very explicit about the fact that we were seeing a very, very warm January back in 2007. So, I mean, it's been played both ways.
I think what we need to do is come back and say it's not the Inhofe way, but it's not the Jim Hansen way, either, to cut dramatically. Let's just remember Tom left out one little, tiny aspect, which is what the climate economists are telling us, namely, leveling off at 2 degree Centigrade or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is what everybody has agreed on, would cost at the end of the century -- and this is the average of all the macroeconomic models, if we do it really smart -- $40 trillion a year.
So there is a cost. And that's, of course, why we can't get people on board. We can't get people on board because we've been trying to sell a very expensive solution.
Jim Hansen is absolutely right that a carbon tax is part of a solution, but it will never drive the main part. The main part has to be innovation. As long as solar panels and windmills and all these other wonderful technologies are too expensive, we only have rich, well-meaning Westerners put up a few of them.
What we need to do is to make sure that they get so cheap that everyone, the Chinese and the Indians, will want to use them. And that's about investing dramatically more in research and development. It's fortunately much cheaper and it's much easier to get...
FRIEDMAN: Well, it's about investing in research -- it's about investing in research and development -- it's about investing in research and development, but even more important, it's about deployment, OK?
China this year, I believe, will become the world's leading manufacturer of solar panels, and the reason that solar panel prices have fallen dramatically in China is not just because of research -- Bjorn's absolutely right about that, research is necessary -- but what brings the price of your iPod down from $500 to $100 is mass manufacturing based on deployment here and now.
AMANPOUR: And China -- hold on a second, Bjorn -- China, of course...
LOMBORG: Tom, you know very well that your...
AMANPOUR: Hold on one second. One second. China does understand this, because it is heavily investing in clean green technology, and it is basically out-investing and outperforming so many of the Western countries.
Jim, you were trying to get in on this.
HANSEN: That's absolutely right. Yeah, that's absolutely right. We do need a price on carbon emissions in order to drive those innovations, but China does get it.
AMANPOUR: But why was China, then, the spoiler in Copenhagen?
HANSEN: Well, because we were going at them with this cap and trade. We're telling them they've got to cap their economy. There's no way that you can make a cap and trade global. They will not cap their economy.
But they recognize, they do not want to go down the path that the United States did, where we became dependent, addicted to fossil fuels, so they know that they need to put a price on carbon to encourage energy efficiency, renewable energies, and other energies that don't use -- produce carbon dioxide.
AMANPOUR: And you, the climate scientist, do you have to change what you do? Because the "scare the pants off" brigade has resulted in...
AMANPOUR: ... a lot of skeptics around.
HANSEN: Let me -- let me correct that. The scientists have been conservative. IPCC was very conservative. All the new data comes in shows that we were too conservative. Greenland and West Antarctica are beginning to shed ice twice as fast as they were five years ago. So, no, we have not been exaggerating the story at all.
AMANPOUR: Next, as we hear, there are a lot of funny phrases on this issue, and there is a new one making the rounds on climate change. It's called "global weirding." We'll tell you when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The reason that this debate is so important is that it reminds me in some ways of the debate taking place in this country and around the world in the late 1930s. And during that period, with Nazism and fascism growing, a real danger to the United States and democratic countries all over the world, there were people in this Congress, in the British parliament, saying, "Don't worry. Hitler is not real. It'll disappear. We don't have to be prepared to take it on."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was U.S. lawmaker Bernie Sanders using some pretty stark language to describe the risk of ignoring climate change. I asked Tom Friedman about a phrase making the rounds again right now that might focus people's minds.
AMANPOUR: Tom, you used the term "global weirding." What do you mean by that?
FRIEDMAN: Well, global weirding is a term that was coined by, I believe, Hunter Lovins in the Rocky Mountain Institute to simply explain something that a climate scientist like Jim Hansen can tell you, which is that, you know, global warming, that sounds so nice, sounds so cuddly. To a kid from Minnesota, it sounds like golf in February, OK?
But what you actually get when the climate changes, the weather gets weird. The hots will tend to get hotter. The wets will get wetter, because the atmosphere -- you have more evaporation. It will store more water in certain places. Therefore, what goes up will have to come down. The colds could get colder.
What climate change really represents is that it changes the weather in some very weird and unpredictable ways.
AMANPOUR: So if the -- if the U.N. forum has not yet worked, the whole big global summit forum, whether it was in Rio, whether it was in Kyoto, whether it's now in Copenhagen, what does one do? I mean, I know you've outlined a little bit, Bjorn. I'll give you 30 seconds, and then you, Dr. Hansen. Go on, Bjorn. What does one do now?
LOMBORG: Just remember, we -- well, we've heard that China is ramping up enormously. Let's just remember, they have -- one-half of one- thousandth of one percent of their energy comes from solar. It's nothing. They are selling solar panels to us because we're willing to pay an enormous extra amount, for instance, in Germany.
So instead, what we need to do is invest dramatically more, 50 times more than what the world spends right now on research and development. That's cheap. And that will actually work. The climate economist tells us that is 500 times better way to tackle global warming.
So let's get off the high horse and actually start working with promises that will function and deal with climate change in the long run.
AMANPOUR: Last brief word, Dr. Hansen?
HANSEN: The United States has to exert leadership. We -- we created the cap-and-trade idea in 1997 at Kyoto. We've got to realize that we've got to put a price on carbon, and now I'm working with Creation Care, the religious community, to make a bill, a people's bill which would put a price on carbon with the money going back to the public.
AMANPOUR: OK, thank you so much. This debate could go on and on and on, and it's endlessly interesting. Thank you all for joining me today. I appreciate it.
AMANPOUR: A once-controversial solution that is now making a comeback. Join us on amanpour.com/facebook, where we have two fascinating views for and against nuclear power and whether that can help stop global warming.
And next, the biggest crisis to face the Eurozone since its inception and a fascinating perspective on what's really happening inside North Korea, when we return. Stay with us.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. All eyes are now on Greece and its financial crisis. A high-powered international team was there this week because of fears that it will spread. Anger is spilling onto the streets of Athens, and people are upset about deep spending cuts. But is Spain an even bigger problem? Demonstrators will out there, too, in the worst labor protests in six years.
Top economist Nouriel Roubini says that if Greece goes under, that's a problem for the Eurozone; if Spain goes under, it's a disaster.
And the crisis goes beyond economics, right to the heart of the E.U.'s founding promise to be one economic and political power. Today, the E.U. is sharply divided over the war in Afghanistan, for instance. In fact, the Dutch government has just collapsed over whether its troops should stay there.
I had an exclusive interview with Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos. His country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us.
MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS, FOREIGN MINISTER OF SPAIN: Well, thank you for inviting me to participate in your always very positive program.
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you so much. Let me ask you about this financial crisis. We've said that it's Greece that sparked it. We understand that Greece has said that Europe will not let the euro fall. But the thing is, your country is now coming under extreme economic crisis and stress, and people are very concerned about it.
MORATINOS: Well, I have to say that that's not the case. I mean, we are the eighth economy (ph) of the world. I mean, there has been a lot of command (ph), a lot of, I don't know, analysis, but it's been economy that's strong (ph). It's have a total solvency (ph).
We have, you know, 20 percent below the average debt limit (ph) of European Union. And the Eurozone is going to succeed. I mean, it has been a tremendous, you know, success, but people -- some people don't trust or they were not confident about the euro, Eurozone, and European Union success in these new euro (inaudible) monetary currency.
MORATINOS: And I think today, today we have the full support and, of course, of the main rating agency. I mean, I don't know how many countries over the world have a AAA (ph) like Moody's (inaudible) that (inaudible) so don't worry. Spain has, of course, some problems, like everybody in this economic and financial crisis, but we are undermining or undercutting some important measures--
MORATINOS: -- and we are confident and we have no problem.
AMANPOUR: Well, you're confident and you're optimistic and you say you have no problem, but people are out in the street already in Spain. People are complaining about rising and raising the retirement age. Figures are showing that you have an unemployment rate of some 19 percent, 4.3 million are unemployed, the housing bubble is deflating, debts and budget deficit is increasing, and the GDP has contracted.
And, furthermore, your prime minister, Zapatero, has said that he was confident -- and this was last year -- about sparking growth. I want to play you what Prime Minister Zapatero said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO, PRIME MINISTER OF SPAIN (through translator): The main point is not that we should have a high public deficit this year and next year. We will, indeed, have a high deficit. But the point is to have a plan to get back to 3 percent growth as of, say, 2011.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK, Mr. Moratinos, that was Prime Minister Zapatero last year. And today--
AMANPOUR: But he's talking about getting back to--
AMANPOUR: -- 3 percent growth. But right now, growth is at minus 0.1 percent. So there's a difference in -- in the optimism--
MORATINOS: Yes, that's--
AMANPOUR: -- that you're expressing and the reality.
MORATINOS: No, no. Well, no, you know, as you say, the situation is minus 0.1 percent. If we go in the economy, you have to go through the cycles of some crisis (ph). And the -- the -- the decrease of our growth the last year has been even under the average of the European Union.
It's true we have an unemployment problem of 19 percent, 18.6 percent of -- of unemployment. But when Spain was, you know, flourishing at the most important peak of economy in 2007, we have already 8 percent of unemployment.
It's a structural problem we have in Spain because of the housing sector, and the housing sector only represents 4 percent of the economy. That means 96 percent--
MORATINOS: -- of the rest of the economy is responding to -- to the - - to the challenges and responding in a quite positive manner.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Moratinos, will the government of Spain be forced to take austerity measures to really make sure that the economy stays viable?
MORATINOS: Well, you know, we -- we took a decision to have an austerity plan of 50 billion euros from now until 2013 to make our deficit to be reduced, because this is true that we have a growing deficit last year, but we are going to keep with the ex-ability pact (ph) of European Union that makes us in 2013 to be only with 3 percent of deficit.
So I think we are ready to achieve that goal. And that showed the seriousness and the determination of the Spanish government to get this macroeconomic stability, guarantee the future of the economic situation of Spain.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Moratinos, I want to ask you whether you agree with what the U.S. economic Nobel Prize-winner, Paul Krugman, has said. He says that, "A breakup of the euro is very nearly unthinkable as a sheer matter of practicality. What we'll probably see over the next few years is a painful process of muddling through, bailouts accompanied by demands for savage austerity, all against a background of very high unemployment. It's an ugly picture," he says.
Do you agree with that, that it's going to be bailouts, unemployment, and an ugly picture for the next few years in Europe?
MORATINOS: What there was lacking in the European Union that we don't have economic unity. And of course it's true. It's our way to move forward in the integration process of the European Union that sometimes we take political decisions and then they are supported by economic ones.
AMANPOUR: Let me move on and ask a little bit more about foreign policy and also the transatlantic alliance. Now, I heard a top American official say the following, that in Europe, people always ask about the United States, but in the United States, people are always asking about China, about India, in other words, saying that for many in the United States, the E.U. is not really a player. How do you feel about that?
MORATINOS: Well, I think it's not true. We were recently in the White House. I accompanied his majesty, King Juan Carlos. And I received from President Obama a very clear message: We want to really establish a stronger agenda for transatlantic cooperation in this 21st century.
It's a different kind of agenda. Before it was a kind of complementary role of the European Union. But today, we want to preserve values, criteria, principles, the way to handle together the whole economy. If we put together the U.S. economy and European economy, and we see the potential of both big organization, big entities working together, I think that when we talk about G2 -- G2, like China and the United States, it would be uncomfortable not to have a G3.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, hand by hand with the United States, and yet President Obama is not coming to the E.U.-U.S. summit in -- in the spring. Doesn't that make you mad?
MORATINOS: Not at all, because we have to really understand the agenda of President Obama. As you mentioned, there are many internal agendas important for the United States. And, also, well, we have some foreign agendas that are crucial for not only the United States, but for the whole stability of international world.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk specifically about when it comes to the Afghan war. Spain does have some 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. But a recent poll showed that 48 percent of Spanish people thought that your government's decision to send an extra 500 troops was bad or a very bad decision. How are you going to be able to support the NATO mission when you have this sort of war fatigue in your capital, like in many other European capitals?
MORATINOS: Well, we have more than that. We have 150 -- 500 -- 1,500 troops. So we increased with 50 percent our contribution the last two years.
And we have recently, you know, the support of the whole parliament, so we have the support of the political groups. Well, there are one or two that are against, but they're a minority. So the majority of political groups have support this new commitment of Spain towards Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Moratinos, thank you so much for joining us from Spain today.
MORATINOS: Well, thank you for inviting me to -- to participate in your program.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: While all eyes are on Europe, all eyes are also -- at least many eyes -- on Venezuela, because this is the third day of our hash tag debate on Venezuela. Over the last couple of days, we've taken hundreds of your questions on Twitter for our guests who are Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, and an opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, in Venezuela itself.
And they are now both responding at amanpour.com/twitter, where we're using the hash tag "AmanZuela." So come and join in the global conversation.
And next, do you remember this, destruction of the cooling tower at a nuclear power plant in North Korea? Many are asking whether Pyongyang is now rebuilding its nuclear program. We'll ask a North Korea expert. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Now we want to turn to North Korea. The U.S. envoy there, Stephen Bosworth, says that the United States is willing to talk about a peace treaty, but that Pyongyang must first return to negotiations. North Korea is still technically at war with the United States more than 50 years after the Korean conflict, because back then it signed an armistice, not a peace treaty, and the policy of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, is called Songun, which means "the Army first." And that policy continues, even though Kim Jong-il has dropped out of sight for the most part because of poor health.
This week, we looked at whether there's any chance of North Korea coming back to six-party talks on the nuclear weapons program.
AMANPOUR: Joining me now, an expert on North Korea, Sung-Yoon Lee of Tufts University in Massachusetts. Mr. Lee, thank you for joining us.
SUNG-YOON LEE, ADJ. ASST. PROF., TUFTS UNIVERSITY: Thanks very much for having me.
AMANPOUR: So what is it? When you look at North Korea, do you think that they really do want a certain reason for coming back or are they happy now to be a nuclear power, they're in no hurry to get back to the -- to the talks?
LEE: Well, North Korea has been insisting on a peace treaty with the United States. Ever since North Korea joined the World Health Organization in the early '70s and opened an office at the U.N. mission, they have been persistently, really consistently suing for a peace treaty.
AMANPOUR: And yet I've asked members, for instance, of the Bush administration, their North Korea point person, who said that, you know, we bent over backwards to assure them of our peaceful intentions, to offer them peace treaty, to -- we obviously took them off the terrorist list, and nothing was good enough.
LEE: Well, what is a peace treaty? It is, after all, an agreement on paper. And I think historically we've seen many cases of so-called non- aggression pacts, peace treaties not being entirely effective. In the late '20s, there was the Kellogg-Briand Pact signed by some 15 nations that all went to war within the next 12 years or so. And then in the late '30s, of course, the pact between Hitler and Stalin.
So North Korea has in mind, in asking for a peace treaty, the goal of driving the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea out of the Korean peninsula, which would tilt the balance of power for the short term in North Korea's favor.
AMANPOUR: Well, it doesn't seem likely that they're going to be able to achieve it, does it?
LEE: I should hope not. We often hear that the war did not end with a formal peace treaty, the Korean War of 1950 to '53. I would also remind our viewers that the North Korean revolution is still going on.
They say this quite explicitly, that is, to build a communist state in the entire Korean peninsula, and unless there should be any ambiguity, they do spell it out. They say that means roll back U.S. imperialist forces from South Korea and end the U.S. colonial occupation of South Korea.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's their sloganeering, and it has been for decades. But what about a post-Kim Jong-il era? Has the United States or South Korea, for that matter, got any real contingency plan in place?
LEE: There is a contingency plan in place, and that addresses sudden changes in North Korea, for instance, an insurrection or a humanitarian disaster or hostage situation for U.S. troops and South Korean troops to enter North Korean territory.
But beyond that, I think we really should be seriously thinking about long-term prospects, planning for a post-Kim Jong-il future. If I were to suggest to you that we should be planning for the collapse of Japan or the United States in the wake of the end of the current administration, you might be formulating in your mind an exit strategy away from me, perhaps, but North Korea is an inherently unstable country. It's on the precipice of economic collapse.
AMANPOUR: You called it a palace economy (ph).
AMANPOUR: What does that mean?
LEE: Well, there is a separate economy that feeds the ruling elite apart from the general economy. And it is very vulnerable, because it's so heavily reliant on illicit activities...
AMANPOUR: Such as?
LEE: The sales of, well, missiles. And North Korea is very good at making those.
AMANPOUR: And making money, right?
LEE: And fake U.S. $100 bills and fake pharmaceuticals and drugs and so forth. Otherwise, they really have nothing that's marketable. They don't make any -- any goods -- electronic goods. There's no tourism industry to speak of.
So the existence of South Korea presents enormous problems for the North Korean regime. The fact that you have just across the border South Korea immeasurably richer, freer, to which most North Koreans would flee if given the opportunity. Already 20,000 or so have at great risk.
AMANPOUR: Now, you talk about a contingency plan in terms of an emergency. They'd obviously try to restrict, as you say, the millions of refugees who would try to get into South Korea. But beyond that, what do you think it would take? You mentioned what General MacArthur told his aide in 1945 ahead of the U.S. occupation of Japan. What would it take in North Korea?
LEE: Yes. Well, all those which were basically dismantled, the military build-up, representative government, free political prisoners, allow freedom of the press, and so forth, but it would take beyond that, a lot of balance -- balance of power politics. It would be impolite to perhaps go into it in detail.
AMANPOUR: It would be very polite.
LEE: Well, you know, Harold Macmillan, the former British prime minister, when asked the question, you know, what drives national policy, he famously said, "Events, my boy. Events." There will have to be some give-and-take with China...
AMANPOUR: So you're talking about a massive reinvention of a country?
LEE: That's right, because...
AMANPOUR: Because it has none of the infrastructure that even Japan did.
LEE: Well, North Korea has idle factories. North Korea is so unique in many ways, it is an industrialized country, or it was, that took a massive great leap backward in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago.
So North Korea is literate. Its population is highly educated and very disciplined, so those are some advantages. Yet North Korea lacks natural resources. There are certain disadvantages to the North Korean economy that we must take into consideration.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about right now. And you're talking about the economy. There are reports seeping out that you've written about of -- of some protests, people challenging the authorities, angry that they don't have enough food.
Kim Jong-il, the leader, took the unprecedented step of apologizing for not being to provide his people a decent -- a decent standard of living. What is going on there? And is there really any significant challenge to the regime?
LEE: We'll have to wait and see. North Korea is unique in this aspect, as well. We have not had any open demonstrations in North Korea throughout the entire sweep of its political existence, since the 1940s. There are no dissidents within the country. There are no famous activists. There are no opposition political parties or groups.
So what we are hearing that people have been actually sporadically protesting. They have been challenging the local authorities. This is quite a significant development, I would say. Whether that leads to an imminent collapse or instability remains to be seen.
AMANPOUR: Some people think it can just go on for a long time like this.
LEE: Indeed. You know, in academia, this is very bizarre to me. The fact that North Korea went through hard times -- a massive famine in the mid-'90s and so forth, and the death of the founding dictator in '94 -- despite such problems, the fact that North Korea has survived leads some people to believe, to assume that it will go on forever.
But, you know, as hard as North Korea has tried in the past to tackle the two certainties in life, inevitabilities, taxes and death -- for instance, North Korea calls its founding dictator eternal president, North Korea got rid of the income tax in '74 -- Kim Jong-il is mortal. His time will come to an end.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Mr. Sung-Yoon Lee, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us...
LEE: Thank you very much for having me.
AMANPOUR: ... from Tufts University. Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: And also in East Asia, we're just getting some breaking news in right now. The Associated Press, A.P., is reporting that a strong earthquake has shaken southern Japan. Now, this apparently according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and it says that a tsunami warning has been issued.
According to the preliminary information that we have, this earthquake is some 85 kilometers off Okinawa in southern Japan. Again, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, according to the Meteorological Agency in Japan, off Okinawa, some 85 kilometers off Okinawa. A tsunami warning has been issued, is being described by the Japanese authorities as a strong earthquake which has shaken southern Japan.
We'll, of course, be standing by for all the latest information. We will bring it to you just as soon as we have it.
In the meantime, we're going to go to a break.
AMANPOUR: We have a little bit more now on reports that there's been a strong 7.3-magnitude earthquake in southern Japan. The Japanese Meteorological Agency has issued a tsunami warning. And, again, we'll be bringing you more details, but they're saying that people should evacuate the low-lying coastal area as soon as possible to higher -- higher ground. This earthquake has happened some 85 kilometers off Okinawa. More details as they come in to CNN.