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THE SITUATION ROOM
Going Inside North Korea; Gunman Takes School Board Hostage; Missile Shield Test Failure; Wikileaks Founder Free on Bail; Ambassador Bill Richardson Is In North Korea
Aired December 18, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: It's one of the greatest adversaries of the United States and there are growing concerns about its nuclear capabilities. Now in a CNN exclusive, Wolf Blitzer takes us on his journey inside North Korea.
Also, it's being called a, quote, tremendous setback for the U.S. missile defense program. Now new concerns over just how safe it's keeping Americans, after a second critical test fails.
And Florida school board members come face to face with death. Ahead, their desperate attempts to stop a man pointing a gun directly their way.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is in North Korea. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
An extraordinary and exclusive assignment by Wolf Blitzer inside one of the world's most isolated and secretive countries, North Korea. Wolf is the only broadcast journalist selected to accompany New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on a mission aimed at defusing tension between North and South Korea, which many fear may be on the brink of war. The delegation is schedule to meet with the chief North Korean nuclear negotiator this weekend. Communication with Wolf is sporadic, but he was able to call in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Thanks, Suzanne. I'm in Pyongyang. It's early Saturday morning already. The former U.S. ambassador to the United States, the current outgoing governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, he had what he called very important meetings Friday with the vice minister in charge of foreign affairs for the United States, Rhee Young Ho (ph). They met for about an hour and a half over at the foreign ministry. And then last night they had an informal dinner, or banquet, in which they could go through some of the more specific issues in a less formal way than sitting across the table.
I walked into that negotiating room when they began their talks yesterday, and the North Koreans had a large delegation on one side. Richardson was on the other side together with two of his advisers, basically. And they went through for about an hour and a half all of the issues including the tensions that resulted last month, November 23rd, from the North Korean shelling of an island that the South Koreans have, Yeonpyeong. And earlier in March the destruction of that South Korean warship, the Cheonan, 46 sailors were killed. The North Koreans denied doing that. South Koreans, the U.S., most of the rest of the world blame the North Koreans for that. There have been a lot of other tensions.
Today the governor is going to meet for what will probably be a more important meeting with the chief North Korean nuclear negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan. This is the individual who invited Richardson to come here to begin with. That could set the stage for a visit to the Yoengbyeong (ph), the nuclear facility that the North Koreans have.
There will also be an added meeting, I'm told, tomorrow that Richardson will have with some senior North Korean military officials. All of this is designed to lower the temperature, to ease this crisis, which is probably the most significant since 1953, the armistice that ended the Korean war.
So it's a very tense situation and right now the latest exchange of rhetoric and threats between North and South Korea further escalated the tensions. There's no doubt about that.
MALVEAUX: Wolf traveled to North Korea by way of Beijing. While he was there he discussed the looming crisis with Governor Richardson and a panel of experts.
BLITZER: Jack Pritchard is the president of the Korean Economic Institute in Washington, a former Clinton administration expert on North Korea. He was just there. Also joining us, Mike Chinoy, former CNN correspondent, who's been to North Korea on many occasions. He's now a senior fellow at the China Institute at the University of Southern California. And Dr. Jim Walsh, who is an expert on foreign policy, especially Asia, at MIT.
Jim, let me start with you. What is your biggest concern right now?
JIM WALSH, MASS. INST. OF TECHNOLOGY: My biggest concern is someone's going to make a mistake. We almost saw that two weeks ago with the shellings. It wasn't widely reported in the United States, but South Korea in the middle of this crisis accidentally shot an artillery shell near the DMZ. Had to called North Korea and tell them it was a mistake, they weren't launching a war.
So, I think, Governor Richardson is exactly right that it's time someone, even if it's not a government official, begin to talk to North Korea just so we don't end up in a place that no one wants to be, out of miscalculation, misperception or error. That is my concern. And I think there is a danger of that right now.
BLITZER: Jack Pritchard, you were there in North Korea. What did you see there that concerned you? JACK PRITCHARD, KOREAN ECONOMIC INSTITUTE: Well, I asked to go to Yeonpyeong, I think as perhaps Mr. Richardson will be going as well. What I didn't expect is what the North Koreans revealed to me at the time they were in the process of constructing, on their own, a light water reactor. In that discussion they also revealed to me that they had a uranium enrichment facility there at Yoengbyeong, that was news. And with that information I briefed Doctor Hecker who followed me the following week. He was able to, hopefully, at my urging to the North Koreans to go into the enrichment facility and see for himself that, in fact, the North Koreans have moved much further along in their capability and, perhaps, state of the art of what they're doing with regard to uranium enrichment.
BLITZER: Mike Chinoy, you've been to North Korea on several occasions. Why do you think the North Koreans want these separate U.S. delegations, including Governor Richardson, to come in right now? They clearly know when these Americans go back home, they're going to tell the world what they saw.
MIKE CHINOY, U.S.-CHINA INSTITUTE AT USC: I think the North Koreans are trying to send two signals. The Richardson trip is one of several that we've seen over the past few months, and there have been two messages coming from North Korea on these trips. On the one hand, the North has consistently signaled that it is interested in some kind of engagement with the Obama administration.
At the same time, by showing off their new nuclear facilities, the message is very clear that in the absence of engagement the North is perfectly happy to move ahead, and further develop its nuclear capability. I think that is going to add to the pressure to find some way to open up channels of dialogue and discussions since the alternative is greater tension and a nuclear-a more nuclear capable North Korea.
BLITZER: As we get ready to head off to North Korea, Governor Richardson, China, we're in China right now. Everyone agrees that China has to play a much more productive role. They're the ones who have the real influence in Pyongyang. Are you satisfied with what China is doing right now to try to help?
BILL RICHARDSON, FMR. U.N. AMBASSADOR: I think the record is mixed. The Obama administration is correct to insist on more Chinese action. They provide China a lot of food, fuel to North Korea, they're a key vote in the U.N. Security Council. And you, having been at the U.N., I know how important it is to avoid a Chinese veto of sanctions and many other actions. Yes, China is a key player. If there's going to be some kind of engagement, China is going to have to play an important part, but right now they're sending mixed messages, China is. So my hope is that after our trip we're able to assess maybe ways that we can get some engagement going.
But most importantly get the situation defused here because it's very tense. It's a tinderbox. And it's important that, again, you get new voices in. Not just governments, but citizens, other international organizations. And this is why I hope we can contribute to stabilizing the situation. BLITZER: Jack Pritchard, you were just there in North Korea. You served as a Clinton administration official. How serious do you take all this speculation that the recent escalation and tension has something to do with succession from the current leader Kim Jong-il to his youngest son, Kim Jong-Moon, if that in fact is going to take place? Is that part of this equation?
PRITCHARD: I think it is part. It's certainly not the whole part. When I was there, I think there was a couple of messages they were sending. One is that the health of Kim Jong-il was fine. They invited me to take a look at the pictures of him that perhaps you're showing now, going out and inspecting.
They made that transition; they at the leadership level have accepted the fact that Kim Jong-Moon is going to be the next leader and they're rallying behind them.
Concerns that you expressed with Bill Richardson about China I think are spot-on. Up to now, we've given the Chinese a pass because we have understood their concerns about the fragility of the regime, but I think in this coming year, having seen what the North Koreans are capable of doing with the sinking of the Cheonan and the artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong, that the Chinese are going to be forced to step up and provide some reasonable measure of pressure on the North Koreans to behave.
BLITZER: A lot of people are concerned, Jim Walsh, that the Obama administration really doesn't have a whole lot of leverage on China right now to step up to the plate. Are you concerned about that?
WALSH: Well, of course China is a rising power. We have lots of interest with China. We're trying to get China's help with us in Iran, China's help elsewhere, economic issues.
But let me take a slightly different point of view here. No one knows more about this than Jack. But let me at least offer the other side. And that is, yes, we want China to be engaged. Yes, they've been able to produce results in the past. But we don't want a situation that where North Korea sees China as an adversary. Right now, when I visit North Korea, North Koreans express concern about China. Yes, they're a brother, they are an ally, but they're a great power. North Korea thinks it's surrounded by great powers, Japan, South Korea, China, the U.S. And if the relationship between China and North Korea turns bad, turns sour, then the six-party talks turn into five against one, North Korea will be defensive, particularly at a time of political transition, and we will make no progress at all. So yes, China has a role to play. We don't want them to cross the line where North Korea loses confidence and nothing happens at all. That's actually a real balancing act for China to pull off.
BLITZER: Mike Chinoy, the fact the North Koreans have decided to give me, a representative of CNN, a visa, also a reporter from "The New York Times" is going along with Governor Richardson on this trip. You're a reporter, a journalist, you've been there many times. What does it say to you they're letting the two journalists in? CHINOY: It think it's clear the North Koreas have some important messages that they want to deliver on this trip and that they want to get out to the general public and to the political elite in Washington. And I suspect the message is going to be, we want to talk, and if we don't talk with the United States there's going to be more trouble to come.
I think there's one other really important point, though, Wolf, that needs to be addressed here. That is in South Korea you have a government that's had two episodes, the sinking of that ship in march and the shelling of an island a couple of weeks ago, where it did not respond militarily. Now the South Korean government is under tremendous pressure to get tough. And I think there is a real danger that the South Koreans are almost looking for an excuse to take some kind of military action against North Korea if there is another encounter. And that is a potentially very dangerous situation. And while Washington is publicly standing shoulder to shoulder with Seoul, I think privately the American forces in Korea and administration officials will be counseling some degree of caution to prevent South Korea, for its own domestic reasons, from taking action that could lead to a cycle of escalation that could become even more dangerous.
MALVEAUX: Remember, Wolf is the only broadcast journalist selected to accompany New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on his mission to North Korea. Stay tuned to CNN for his reports and exclusive video from his visit.
President Obama signs the controversial tax cut compromise into law. Even though it contains provision he campaigned against. We'll talk about that and more with his Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Plus, the dramatic end to a hostage crisis. Chilling video of the final moments as a gunman opens fire.
MALVEAUX: This week's tax compromise was a bitter pill to swallow for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, especially liberal Democrats. The deal is certainly not what the president may have once imagined, but it marks a significant victory for his administration.
Joining me now is White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Robert, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me.
MALVEAUX: Obviously, the president campaigned passionately against the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I want you to take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
And it means letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire.
And rolling back the Bush tax cuts to the top 1 percent.
We have to roll back.
I want to roll back.
We're going to roll back.
Roll back the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.
For the wealthiest Americans.
For the wealthiest Americans.
For the wealthiest Americans.
It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans, and go back to the rate they paid under Bill Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Robert, you get the point, obviously, but how tough was it for the president to sign on to this?
GIBBS: Well, look Suzanne, the president said the whole time this was an imperfect compromise. And as you heard the president say, and I think I probably heard most of those in person, the president opposed extending the upper-end tax credits for the wealthy. He vehemently opposed and would have vetoed a permanent extension of those tax cuts, which would have cost over the course of the next 10 years more than $700 billion.
But what we couldn't do was risk watching taxes go up on middle class families. We did not have the votes for that position to prevail and carry the day, so what we did was fashion a compromise that ensures that the tax rates for middle class families don't go up. In fact, their tax rates will go down through a payroll tax cut, and those that have lost their jobs will see their jobless benefits available for the entire year. So, all in all, those are pretty big wins for America, I think, and big wins for middle class families.
MALVEAUX: But, Robert, obviously the main concern is the cost of this, $858 billion. That is not paid for. How are the American people going to pay for this?
GIBBS: Well, look, Suzanne, we're going to have to have a serious conversation about our deficits and our debt. The president appointed a fiscal commission to look into some of the changes that are going to be made. I will say this, the president would have vetoed a bill that Republicans wanted, including people like Sarah Palin, who you just mentioned. They wanted to take these upper-end tax rates and make them permanent for those wealthy wage earners. That, again, that is $70 billion over a 10-year period of time.
It does very little for the economy, because quite frankly, Suzanne, if you're making $1 million a year, you're not increasing your spending because your tax rates remain the same. You can afford the big-screen TV now and you're going to be able to afford it next year. What we want to do is help put money back in the pockets of middle class families and that is what this agreement accomplishes.
MALVEAUX: Robert, you mentioned the president's debt commission. His own debt commission was not able to muster enough support from members of Congress to take on some of those tough choices for a $13 trillion debt, a deficit here. Now, the administration is adding on another $1 trillion. How are the American people supposed to believe that this administration is serious about tackling the federal deficit?
GIBBS: Well, let's be clear, Suzanne, it was most of the members that we had appointed to this commission did, in fact, sign on to making some changes. The president's looking at many of their recommendations in a budget, and we're on a fiscal path to cut the deficit in half over the course of a four-year period of time. So we're going to make some substantial progress on this.
You know, Suzanne, we're going to have a debate about this. We are going to have a debate about these tax rates for at least the next two years and they'll culminate in a presidential election in 2012. The voters in this country are going to get to ask themselves whether we're going to spend $700 billion on tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, or whether we're going to take some serious steps to get our fiscal house in order and make sure that middle class families are protected and enjoy recovery.
MALVEAUX: Turning the corner here, South Korea says it will go ahead and conduct live fire military drills, potentially, as early as on Saturday. The North has responded in kind saying that they will, in fact, attack if that happens. What is the administration doing right now to make sure that the tension there in the Asian peninsula, the Korean Peninsula does not escalate?
GIBBS: Suzanne, I think what needs to happen here, and we have our Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg is in the region, and has spoken directly with the Chinese. The Chinese have to step up to the plate here, and use their influence with the North Koreans to get them to behave better and reduce tensions in this area.
Obviously South Korea is a strong ally of the United States. We support, and will help protect the South Koreans, as we always have, but it is time for folks like the Chinese to step up, get the North Koreans to stand down, to start behaving as they should in the international community. And most importantly begin living to the international commitments that they've made on things like nuclear enrichment.
MALVEAUX: Our own Wolf Blitzer is accompanying Governor Bill Richardson in North Korea for this particular trip. Did the White House sanction this trip? Did they give a message to Governor Richardson to deliver to the North Korean government? GIBBS: Governor Richardson is on a private trip to North Korea. He's clearly done many of those trips in the past. He's acting as a private citizen. And we certainly hope they, both Governor Richardson and Wolf travel safely.
MALVEAUX: Does the administration hope to learn anything from their trip?
GIBBS: Again, I don't know what the plans would be to talk to Governor Richardson when he came back. Obviously, I think the North Koreans understand what they need to do to be-the obligations that they need to live up to in the international community. We hope the Chinese will help get the North Koreans to understand those obligations. We can reduce tensions and not have unnecessary belligerence and violence that we've seen from the North Koreans over the course of the past month.
MALVEAUX: He is "TIME" magazine's Person of the Year. Ahead, a closer look at how Facebook's founder transformed the way we communicate.
Plus more of wolf Blitzer's extraordinary journey to North Korea.
MALVEAUX: He's the man behind Facebook, the popular social networking website that has transformed the way many of us communicate. Now Mark Zuckerberg is "TIME" magazine's Person of the Year. The decision is drawing mixed reviews. Here's CNN's Mary Snow.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At 26 years old, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is ending 2010 as "TIME" magazine's Person of the Year. He's the second youngest recipient. "TIME" cites the reach of Facebook with some 500 million users connecting around the world. It's become so influential that a Stanford University psychology professor even teaches courses on it.
B. J. FOGG, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: It is changing the way we perceived boundaries around the world. Those boundaries aren't such big deals anymore.
SNOW: But there are two sides of Facebook.
MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: When people talk about Facebook, in one breath, they talk about how cool it is. And in the next breath, they talk about how they're worried about their privacy.
SNOW: Marc Rotenberg is president of the public interest research Group, Electronic Privacy Information Center. He says, the personal information you choose to post is not just shared with your friends, for example, he says, Facebook doesn't sell data to advertisers, but it is a connector to them.
ROTENBERG: A lot of people like the Washington Redskins, our football team, if you put down Redskins as one of your likes, an advertiser who's selling jackets for the Redskins will say to Facebook, display my ad on all the people's pages in the Washington area who say they like the Redskins.
SNOW: While many people probably aren't aware of how exposed they are, some say there's a shifting landscape in regards to privacy.
FOGG: People are becoming more comfortable with disclosure and the younger you are the more comfortable you seem to be with it. And I think it's a shift in our culture.
SNOW: The expectation is that Facebook will continue growing. Like him or not, it's been hard to ignore founder Mark Zuckerberg, featured in recent film, "The Social Network", Zuckerberg was portrayed in a less than flattering light.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I adequately answer your condescending question?
SNOW: At the same time he got a lot of publicity after donating $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey school system. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
MALVEAUX: Wolf Blitzer has more on his exclusive television assignment in North Korea.
Plus Florida school board members held hostage. Ahead, their desperate attempts to engage the gunman pointing a pistol directly their way.
MALVEAUX: Back now to Wolf Blitzer's extraordinary journey into North Korea. Some of the greatest U.S. concerns with the region. He spoke about them with a panel including CNN's Tom Foreman and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tensions between North and South Korea may be the most serious since the armistice of 1953. Set the scene for us, what's going on with North Korea's missile capabilities?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, that's really one of the reasons it's so tense because this is a relatively small area, but it's an area that has been building up power over time.
Let's zoom in here and look at what we do know, which is limited because, of course, it's a very insular society. They have three main types of big missiles that we pay attention to. The scud missile, you've heard a lot about this. This is a sort of a limited range. If I show you how far it will go, it's about 200 miles. So it's not a huge range.
Here, hits South Korea, of course, about half of that country, if you're firing from the middle here, if you move it down, you get more, gets into China a little bit. That's about it. If you look at the second type of missile that we're talking about, this is called the Typodong 1. This is an important one to consider because it's a much more robust missile.
The range of this one is more about 1, 200 miles. So you get deep into China, up into Russia, over to Japan, an important ally. And then we come to the third type, which is actually the much more intriguing type here because we don't know that much about it other than this one, the Typodong 2.
We don't know how many of these they have or if they have working ones. We know it is a three-stage rocket, that's capable, maybe if they have it and if they can make it work of going possibly very far. The utmost range we believe would be as much as 9,000 miles. You see what that would do.
That would put it in easy striking range of Africa, Europe, all the way up in here to a corner of the continental United States. That seems like it's really stretching it, but Wolf, it's this combination of missile and their growing willingness to develop these along with warheads and their relationship with Iran that has people watching so closely and wondering what they really do have. Wolf -
BLITZER: A lot of questions out there and lot of mystery surrounding what's going on. Tom, stand by. Let's bring in Dr. Siegfried Hecker from Stanford University, co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, the director Emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory as well.
Professor, you were just there in recent weeks in North Korea and you had an eye opening demonstration of their new technology, their new equipment in enriching uranium, information that was not known to any of us, to the U.S. officials or others presumably. Tell our viewers what shocked you.
SIEGFRIED HECKER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, indeed I was there on November 12th, it was my fourth visit in Yongbyon. And as you indicate, at least the size and the sophistication of the uranium enrichment program was quite frankly stunning.
I certainly expected them to have uranium enrichment in spite of repeated denial of having done so, but I did not expect them to have advanced this far. They had previously shown me in quite some detail their plutonium program. I was very much aware of that, but the uranium enrichment, another capability, was quite a surprise.
BLITZER: Why is this such a significant development for our viewers in the United States and around the world? Why should this be alarming?
HECKER: Well, in fact, the North Koreans have actually declared already last year, when they left the six party talks, they said we're now left with the only option of nuclear energy is to build a light water reactor, ourselves.
For that kind of reactor, one actually has to enrich the fuel. They announce that and I must say I also did not believe that they would actually go through with that. They did. So that by itself would actually not be such a shocking development. They said they're going to do it, they did it.
What the concern around the world is, is that once you develop those capabilities for light water reactor, in other words, making a reactor fuel, you at the same time can use that facility or another one just like it that may be an undisclosed location to make the second root to the bomb, to make highly enriched uranium bomb fuel instead of the plutonium.
The plutonium bomb fuel program they have frozen and this opened up the possibility of a second root. That by itself doesn't increase the danger at this -- it doesn't increase the danger enormously at this moment. It would only increase the danger if, indeed, they make much more.
BLITZER: It also suggests, Governor Richardson, and you've been there, you've been there. You've been to Yongbyon, their nuclear facility. It also suggests, perhaps, there's a lot of other stuff going on in North Korea that no one knows about.
GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: That's right and that's a concern, exports of nuclear materials to other countries. But I'd like to ask Dr. Hecker something, because I went to that facility five years ago, Yongbyon. It did not look like a very modern facility.
So what Dr. Hecker says is taking place is a dramatic modernization, but I wondered if Dr. Hecker saw any of the centrifuges. Were they running? Had they moved beyond what you saw and do you think some of those centrifuges are running?
HECKER: So the way that the facility was presented to us is we looked at it from a second floor observation window from the control room, and you look down at this huge hall with approximately 2,000 centrifuges.
And all you see is the outside of the centrifuge casing and you see the plumbing that feeds the gas in and out. You can't actually tell that it's running or not. So let me say very specifically, I could not attest that that centrifuge facility was operating.
However, everything that I saw, the facility, itself, the control room, what they call the recovery room, was consistent with the fact that that facility could be running. So my own impression is it was.
BLITZER: All right. Dr. Hecker, thank you so much.
MALVEAUX: CNN's Alina Cho was in North Korea a couple months ago when the country rolled out their heir apparent leader Kim Jong-il's son. It was her second visit. Alina joins us now. Alina, hey, good to see you.
ALINA CHO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Suzanne, as always.
MALVEAUX: You were there a couple months ago. This is a country like no other country in the world.
CHO: I say that all the time. You're absolutely right. It is like no other country on earth and it is really difficult, I have to tell you, Suzanne, for westerners to comprehend what it is like to be inside North Korea.
Remember, this is a place, if you're an average citizen, where there's no internet access. Many people don't own televisions. If you do own a TV, you're only allowed to watch government sanctioned channels.
There is propaganda music blaring across Pyongyang. In fact, you don't even need an alarm clock because the music starts at 5:00 a.m. it comes from the train station.
Speaking of propaganda, everywhere you go in Pyongyang. Everywhere you look there are statues and monuments honoring not the current leader, but his father Kim Il-Sang the founder of North Korea.
MALVEAUX: What will Wolf encounter when he walks around on the streets? What do you think he'll see? How do you think he'll be received as a western journalist?
CHO: Well, he will be received well, I'm sure, but he will always have someone watching him from the North Korean government. Having said that, North Korea is a very eerie place, you know, the one thing that I noticed the second trip was that they had recently installed traffic lights, but very few people own cars.
So the streets are largely empty, very few cars on the street. In fact, the way that people get around in large part is by foot. Some people take the subway. You will see hoards of people just walking to their destination.
There are some stores. There are some restaurants, but they are largely empty. This is a place that has its own currency, but there's very little of it. They don't accept credit cards. There's no such thing as a North Korean Visa or Mastercard or American Express for that matter. Everything is dealt with in cash.
MALVEAUX: Are there any western influences that you saw?
CHO: Remarkably, yes. I mean, one thing that I was able to see on this last trip was a western style amusement park. I remember distinctly it was raining quite heavily that day and yet it was packed.
There was a ride called the power surge. We went to the food court and they were selling hot dogs and ice cream. Admission was about $1 per person. The most notable thing that I noticed, Suzanne, was that some average citizens owned cell phones. In a communist country that is extraordinary. I was told, however, they weren't allowed to make international calls.
MALVEAUX: Now, you're very restricted when you're over there. What do you think the government wants you to see when you're there, perhaps show Wolf as well? What was your sense?
CHO: Well, first of all, I think it's important to note as a western journalist you're only allowed into North Korea if you are invited. I was invited by the North Korean government both times. I was there and certainly that is the case with Wolf.
Having said that, as soon as you get off the plane in Pyongyang and go through customs, your passport is confiscated, your cell phone is confiscated, and your Visa is confiscated. In fact, one thing I wanted when I left Pyongyang was a stamp on my passport that said Pyongyang some sort of record.
There's never any record you were there. When you arrive, you are greeted by government who watch you at all time. Every movement is restricted, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Alina, thank you so much for your perspective.
Chilling video of a hostage crisis as the gunman opens fire on a school board at point-blank range.
Plus, a critical test for a $100 billion missile defense system. It follows one crushing failure. We'll show you how this one turns out.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the accounts of this incident and the video of it are compelling. But we're also getting fascinating insight into the psychology at play in that Florida boardroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could tell by the look in his eyes that there was going to be some killing going on.
TODD (voice-over): Even with a gun pointed at him, School Superintendent Bill Hussfeld tries to engage a man who had disrupted a Florida school board meeting with his spray paint, his grievances and his 9 mm handgun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as you gutted the school system then you turned around and said, now we need this half cent sales tax again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said we needed a half cent sales tax from the very beginning. I campaigned on that. Yes, I did.
TODD: Another board member tries to address the gunman's other complaint. His wife had been fired, he said. JERRY REGISTER, BOARD MEMBER, BAY DISTRICT SCHOOLS: Please, just talk to us. If I can help you get your wife a job somewhere else, I'll be glad to do that.
TODD: With almost unfathomable courage, the superintendent tells the gunman, I'm the only one you're mad at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, they don't sign the papers. I'm the only one that signs them. Will you let them go?
TODD: Experts say if you're facing an unstable gunman --
DR. LISE VAN SUSTEREN, PSYCHIATRIST: That's the first thing you need to do is listen and try to have a theme of fairness. Let's get to the bottom of this.
TODD: In this case, the assailant who police identify as Clay Duke, is undeterred.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a feeling what you want is the cops to come in and kill you because you're mad. You said you're going to die tonight, but why? This isn't worth it. This is a -- please don't. Please don't. Please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to -- don't you understand? I'm --
TODD: Police say duke then shot and killed himself. Board members have since been back to the room and seen just how close to them the bullet holes were.
STEVE MOSS, BOARD MEMBER, BAY DISTRICT SCHOOLS: If you look at the video, his last two shots he fired, he was almost leaning right where I was sitting. One hit my board book and my papers on my desk. I was laying down and it was probably inches from where I was laying.
TODD: Then there's Ginger Littleton who in the video sneaks up on him from behind and tries to knock the gun out of his hand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Ginger. Ginger, no.
GINGER LITTLETON, BOARD MEMBER, BAY DISTRICT SCHOOLS: Probably not one of the smartest things I ever did. I don't know why he didn't pull the trigger.
TODD (on camera): It's the psychological piece that makes this such an extraordinary story, how the group dynamic came together in a few crucial seconds and how it informs us about dealing with hostage situations.
TODD (voice-over): Psychologist Lise Van Susteren who's dealt with several criminal cases has high praise.
(on camera): The response of these people psychologically was extraordinary at that moment, right?
SUSTEREN: It certainly was. This is one emotionally sophisticated group of people looking out for each other. Rather than giving into the impulse to protect themselves to survive.
TODD: Van Susteren says one of the mistakes made was when Superintendent Bill Hussfeld told gunman Clay Duke that he thought Duke wanted the police to come in and kill him. She says in that situation you don't necessarily want to questions an assailant on his thinking. It was after the comment that Duke started shooting. Suzanne --
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Brian.
It's being called a, quote, "tremendous setback for the country's missile defense system." Ahead, we'll show you what went wrong with a critical test.
Plus the controversial Wikileaks founder speaks out following a dramatic development in his case. You'll hear how he's addressing allegations of sex crimes against him.
MALVEAUX: The Pentagon is now 0 for 2 this year in test of its country's only long range missile defense system, which cost taxpayers $100 billion.
An interceptor again failed to hit its target launched from across the Pacific prompting one advocate the program to call it a tremendous setback. CNN's Tom Foreman is at the Data Wall. Tom, tell us what went wrong here.
FOREMAN: Simple enough, Suzanne. You said it right there. They missed. Let's look what happened here. This is the Marshal Island. This is where the target took off. This is video of that happening.
You see it launch and go sailing up, up into space here. This is what they're aiming at when they launch the response. Now as that flies on up into space here, it's being tracked by radar systems here on ground and out in the water. Those worked. This part we know worked. They spotted this thing flying up here.
But then the problem came over here. They launched the interceptor, which is supposed to fly up and hit that target and it just didn't. Now the question you might ask is why would this be so hard? This seems like a fairly reasonable technology. We have other things I guess that are kind of like it. It's not really true. I want to talk about a little bit about the technology involved here.
This is what's happening. If we had an actual attack, what you would have is an ICBM being launched from somewhere and going hundreds of miles into space. Once it gets a few hundred miles into space, it's going to release its warhead and this is important because once the warhead is released and is flying up here, it may have with it several decoys as well.
All of these are released flying through space and it's going at about 15,000 miles an hour and the warhead itself is only about the size of a refrigerator, not very big, all by itself, 15,000 miles, all of these around it. So then the interceptor down here is also being launched, this part of the interceptor which is important to remember, the part that's actually going to break up the target, this is only about the size of a television set.
So you have these two things having to collide out here in the middle of space so if the interceptor has taken off over here and going up at 15,000 miles an hour, they're hoping to meet here in the middle and make a giant explosion happen. I want to show what you that actually looks like. This is an infrared image of one of the tests working.
All you see is the target coming in from the side and, boom, it gets hit up there. There's actually not an explosion in the sense that there's no arm on top of this -- the projectile going in here. It's physically hitting this refrigerator sized target and breaking it apart. That's what breaks up the warhead and does no good to hit anything else. You have to hit the warhead.
The simple truth is what they're trying to do, Suzanne, is very, very difficult, hundreds of miles in space at this unbelievable speed, more than 20 times the speed of sound trying to make these two items collide. This has been worked on for 30 years now in many different ways. The technology keeps advancing every time they do a test.
They have to update their information, but then new technology comes along. So in the next test you have new technology which also hasn't been tested. Maybe someday it will all come together. But as of so far, as we saw yesterday's test, it still remains an enormous challenge to try to make a system like this work now a lot of help on this from globalsecurity.org, Suzanne --
MALVEAUX: Tom, it makes a lot of sense when you put it in that perspective, when you really take a look at that and how small the objects are when you talk about the size of a refrigerator and television and having the two meet at such a high altitude.
FOREMAN: It's happening in a space no bigger than the screen. Everything happening in the space no bigger than a screen at this unbelievable speed.
MALVEAUX: Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange is free on bail more than a week after being arrested on alleged sex crimes in Sweden. He spoke about the allegations shortly after exiting a London courthouse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it which we have not yet the evidence from these allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Assange is required to stay at the home of a supporter, report to police daily, and wear an electronic ankle bracelet.
Wolf Blitzer's extraordinary assignment in North Korea, part of our "Hotshots" straight ahead.
MALVEAUX: Here's a look at "Hotshots" including some pictures from Wolf Blitzer's trip to North Korea. At the Pyongyang Airport, Governor Bill Richardson is greeted by a North Korean official. He's then joined by Wolf and others before heading into the city to meet with more North Korean officials.
And in other "Hotshots," in Kashmere, Muslim women carry empty wicker baskets on their head as they walk home and in Slovakia, two puppies play in a pile of fresh snow. "Hotshots," pictures worth a thousand words.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Join us week days in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern and every Saturday at 6 p.m. on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.