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CNN'S AMANPOUR

North Korea Set to Launch Medium Range Missile

Aired April 10, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. The world is watching and waiting tonight, resigned to the likelihood that North Korea will launch medium range missiles any time now.

The missiles are said to have a range of over 2,000 miles or more than 3,000 kilometers. And as we're showing you on this map, it's significant because they could hit South Korea, Japan or the U.S. territory of Guam.

Many experts predict it'll be a test fire into open Pacific waters, but no one is certain just how accurate the missiles are. And the region is on high alert. Everyone has their missile defense systems in place.

In Pyongyang, the same old propaganda is running in an endless loop on state television. Soldiers celebrating waist-high in water as Kim Jong-un looks on from a boat. But there is also this on another propaganda website, flowers.

The caption reads, "Gardeners at the Central Botanical Garden helping the immortal Kim Il-sung flowers blossom beautifully for the Day of the Sun." And that of course, leaves many scratching their heads in more ways than one.

In North Korea, the Day of the Sun is Kim Il-sung's birthday, April 15th. It is, in fact, the most important day of the year in the Hermit Kingdom and it is often the time North Korea's leadership decides to flex its muscles.

Journalist Mike Chinoy is one of the few Americans who knows North Korea and its leadership well. He met the late Kim Il-sung and he's visited the country 15 times. I'll talk to him in a moment about this dangerous time.

But first, a look at the other stories we're covering tonight.

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AMANPOUR (voice-over): "The Way of the Knife": the secret history of the CIA targeted killings.

A new book takes aim at America's most controversial weapon.

And imagine a drone university. The flying wave of the future that leads to a diploma and beyond.

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AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first to our expert on North Korea, Mike Chinoy. He was a colleague, a long-time CNN correspondent and his understanding of the regime runs deep. He met with Kim Il-sung three times, including when the last time the United States and North Korea nearly went to war, which was in 1994.

Since then, he's traveled there a dozen more times and he's convinced the current U.S. policy of sanctions and cold shoulder is the wrong way to go with Pyongyang. I spoke to him from Hong Kong.

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AMANPOUR: Mike Chinoy, welcome to the program.

MIKE CHINOY, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE US-CHINA INSTITUTE, USC: Thanks very much for having me.

AMANPOUR: You have been there many, many times; you're obviously following this really closely. Everybody seems resigned now that something is going to happen, some kind of missile launch.

Why would he want to do it, Kim Jong-un?

CHINOY: Lots of people are debating what's driving Kim Jong-un. The honest answer is we really don't know because he's such an unknown commodity. But I think there are -- there are several elements here.

Firstly, I think the North Koreans have made a determination that they want to be treated as a nuclear power. They want to be recognized as a nuclear power and they want the United States and the rest of the world to deal with them on those terms.

And so they are taking steps to show, A, that they are a nuclear power, that they have that capability and, B, that they won't be intimidated by U.N. sanctions resolution, by American displays of force like B-52s or B-2 stealth bombers conducting mock bombing missions over Korea, and that they are prepared to stand their ground.

And I think another element here is that Kim Jong-un is new; he has only been in office about 15 or 16 months. And there's a lot of speculation that he's doing this in part to shore up his position with the North Korean military because he's young and all the generals are old.

And also to portray himself both domestically and internationally as a tough guy who can stand up to the big powers in the neighborhood, the U.S. and Japan and, to some extent, China as well as South Korea.

And this -- and in the North Korean media, you've already had references to him as a superhero who can stand up to the United States. And I think that boosts his credibility as he consolidates his position at home.

AMANPOUR: I think the thing that is my takeaway from what you've just said is that he wants North Korea to be dealt with as a nuclear power. Now that opens a whole can of worms. And for the United States and for the Security Council, it's a nonstarter. They are still saying that North Korea has to come back into the parameters of the international obligations and it must denuclearize.

I think you're saying that's not going to happen.

CHINOY: I think it's extremely unlikely to happen. The North Koreans have kind of changed their strategic calculus. In the '90s and in the first few years of -- after that, the North Korean view was that the best way to guarantee their security -- because in the end, the North Korean game is regime survival -- was a deal with the United States.

Pyongyang, Kim Il-sung, whom I met three times when I visited the country working for CNN and then Kim Jung-il after him, both felt that the North could get a deal with the sole remaining superpower, the United States, that that was the way they could guarantee their survival.

And I think four or five years ago, that began to change. And they've now concluded, having staged a number of nuclear tests and increased their nuclear arsenal, that possession of nuclear weapons is the key to their security.

And so they're certainly not going to give them up. And they want to make everybody else accept them as a legitimate nuclear power.

AMANPOUR: Well, then, where does that lead the United States? Where does it leave the U.S., because -- you know, let's go back to what you just said. You were here when President Carter went, when there was nearly war between North Korea and the United States in 1994. And there was a negotiated outcome to that.

You know, some would say, well, that's one way to go. Others would say, but hang on a second; they cheat and steal on every negotiation they've ever made.

CHINOY: Well, there are a couple of different elements here. There is a conventional narrative that the North Koreans always do everything bad and nobody else does anything bad.

The reality is that the North's track record is mixed; they have, in fact, abided by some of their agreements to restrain some of their nuclear capability over the years. And by the same token, the United States' track record is very mixed and Washington has not delivered a lot of what it has promised as well.

The real issue now, in terms of how do -- if you get -- if we get past this immediate crisis without conflict or a war -- and I think the likelihood is that we will -- there's a longer-term issue of how do you deal with a nuclear North Korea?

The U.S. says any negotiations that -- have to be on the precondition that getting rid of North Korea's nukes is the end game. The North Koreans say any negotiations can be between two nuclear powers discussing arms control on an equal basis.

But if you don't find a way to do it through negotiations, what are the options?

The U.S. isn't going to go to war, initiate a war to destroy the North Korean regime because of all the horrible implications.

But absent that, there are very few constraints on the North Koreans, expanding their nuclear arsenal, developing a uranium bomb and, of course, the more they have, the greater the temptation to export if they can earn money to help their ailing economy.

AMANPOUR: Mike, to your point about negotiations and high-level representations between the United States and Kim Jong-un, let me play this sound bite, if you like, this excerpt of President Obama's second inaugural address.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully, not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

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CHINOY: The only way something is likely to get done in North Korea is at a very high level.

And so it's an interesting question whether the Obama administration should think about naming somebody -- not necessarily in the administration, somebody like Madeleine Albright, who met Kim Jung-il, or Bill Clinton, who met Kim Jung-il, and send them, no strings attached, to just explore what might be possible, because -- and to take Kim Jong-un's measure.

We just don't know anything about this guy, whether he's -- where he stands, whether -- in what ways he's different from his father; is he open to any sort of deal?

The problem is the politics of that, the optics of that are terrible because it will look like North Korea threatens nasty things to the United States and the U.S. behaves in a conciliatory way. And so I think it's politically very, very difficult.

But if you don't have a diplomatic track, what other options do you have if you're not going to go to war?

Because it's clear that sanctioning and coercion do not product changes in North Korean behavior of the kind that the U.S. would like to see. And what we've seen in the last few weeks shows that. Every time the U.S. has flexed its muscles, the North, instead of backing off, has flexed its own muscles in a more provocative way.

AMANPOUR: So let's go back to what you just said. You were there when President Carter went, when there was nearly war between North Korea and the United States in 1994.

What was that like? Describe the tension then, how closely U.S. and North Korea were to coming to war with each other.

CHINOY: Well, I met Kim Il-sung three times. I met him first in 1992, when I accompanied the Reverend Billy Graham, the evangelist, to North Korea. And Graham met Kim Il-sung and I was the only reporter along. And so I got to meet him as well.

But then in 1994, I met him on two occasions. I was there for his birthday, the 15th of April, his 82nd birthday, accompanying a small international group that the North Koreans had invited to mark the occasion.

And the group, including me, had a long meeting with him. And then we had a long lunch with him. And it -- he was a -- he came across as a very avuncular, kind of jolly fellow; his courtiers were absolutely terrified of him, bowing and scraping. He himself had this kind of aura -- you knew you were in the presence of a major historical figure.

This was a guy who was a contemporary of Stalin, of Chairman Mao, of Harry Truman. Here was the man who started the Korean War.

But what he was talking about then, at our lunch, was how he wanted to avoid a nuclear war, how he wanted to find a way to deal with the United States. And it's interesting that, a couple of months later, former President Carter was able to go to North Korea in June of 1994. Carter landed in Pyongyang as the Clinton administration were going over plans for a bombing raid to take out North Korea's nuclear reactor and were dusting off plans to evacuate American citizens from South Korea.

I met Kim then when Carter met him. And interestingly, Carter was able to broker a deal by offering commitments on behalf of the United States, which the Clinton administration objected to and did not want to agree to.

But in return, Kim Il-sung, having been given the face of meeting a former American president, also agreed to freeze nuclear activity. And this opened the door for U.S.-North Korean negotiations, which led in October of 1994 to the so-called agreed framework.

Under that deal, North Korea froze operations at its Yangon nuclear reactor for eight years. Without that agreement, the North would have dozens if not over 100 nuclear weapons now instead of a handful.

So to me, the lesson there was high-level intervention in a system like North Korea's, where the leader, seen as God, needs to have a degree of face of a very high-level interlocutor, but that you can get things done at a high level that you can't get things done at the normal diplomatic level.

AMANPOUR: Mike Chinoy, thanks so much for joining me.

CHINOY: Thanks for having me.

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AMANPOUR: And as you can see from those old pictures, Kim Jong-un very closely resembles his grandfather. The question is will he, like Kim Il-sung, step back from the brink?

And of course, speaking with Mike reminded us of a poignant story that he reported from North Korea back in 1998. Mike Chinoy took a walk in Pyongyang with Ri Myung Hun, the world's tallest man, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

At 7'9", Re was also North Korea's top basketball star and he dreamed of playing in the NBA. He was even known as Michael after his own basketball hero, Michael Jordan.

But tensions between the U.S. and North Korea killed his NBA dream and Ri remains in North Korea, last seen standing in the background when former NBA star Dennis Rodman was recently embraced by Kim Jong-un. And you can see Mike's fascinating interview with him at our website, amanpour.com. And we'll be right back.

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AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. The story of how America's Central Intelligence Agency got back into the killing business after September 11th has, for the most part, been kept under wraps. It's a story we've covered extensively on this program, the secret weapons, secret targets, secret killing, with little to no oversight by Congress, the courts or the press.

The CIA, of course, is legendary around the world for its derring-do. It's the subject of every conspiracy theory around the world, but its reputation for controlling and influencing events often outstrips its actual performance.

Now "New York Times" correspondent Mark Mazzetti uncovers key moments in the story of America's shadow war. In his new book, "The Way of the Knife," the Pulitzer Prize winning author reports on how the CIA morphed from an intelligence agency to a paramilitary force and the complicated route to get it back again.

Mark Mazzetti, thanks for joining me. Welcome to the program.

MARK MAZZETTI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: Tell us first why is it called "The Way of the Knife."

MAZZETTI: I took the title from an analogy originally used by John Brennan, who's now the CIA director, formerly President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser. He gave a speech a couple of years ago, when he was comparing the big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. has used the hammer, to the shadow wars, the wars outside of the wars of where they've used the scalpel.

Now he used scalpel, and that's his term. And it implies, as I write in the book, surgery without complications, a clean, uncomplicated way of conflict. But many fights are messier.

AMANPOUR: All right, and we're going to get into that, because there's no such thing as surgical or clean.

MAZZETTI: That's right. And so there are risks; there are complications. There are -- there are risks and rewards to this kind of warfare.

AMANPOUR: We're going to get to that in a sec. But first I want to start, as many have, with the opening paragraph and the opening scene in your book. You talk about a meeting between Vice President Cheney shortly after 9/11 with CIA operatives, taking place in the White House Situation Room.

What was that about and what did it spur?

MAZZETTI: Well, so this was just a couple months after the September 11th attacks and a couple months after the CIA had been given lethal authority, which they hadn't really had for decades. And so the CIA was trying to figure out what to do with it, how to carry out these new missions that they been given.

And so the meeting was --

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AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) like hit squad missions?

MAZZETTI: Right. So the meeting was about proposing hit squads, for lack of a better term, a group of operatives that could go into other countries and kill off terrorists. This could be European capitals or populated areas, places where you couldn't send the military or you couldn't send drones.

And it was a -- it was a meeting that was sort of more blue sky than anything else. They didn't have real detailed plans yet. But the authorization was given by the vice president and his team to go out and give it a try to --

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AMANPOUR: Well, so the vice president had the authority; what was the president saying?

MAZZETTI: Well, at this point, Vice President Cheney was managing a great deal of the details of the war on terror. Now President Bush had already authorized shortly after 9/11 the new authorities for the CIA in what they call a presidential finding which authorizes covert activities around the world.

So the president and -- the president was very intimately monitoring the war against Al Qaeda, but Cheney was also, you know, a go-to person (inaudible) go-to people for some of these operations.

AMANPOUR: But did these hit squads, in fact, come to be?

MAZZETTI: They tried them. They trained in several locations. There were different iterations of this program. There's no evidence that I've found that this program actually ever carried out an operation. As I reported before, after the CIA tried it in-house for a couple of years, they actually outsourced it to the private security firm, Blackwater --

AMANPOUR: Very controversial.

MAZZETTI: -- very controversial -- for a couple of years. And they tried it. And so this program, as it was conceived, wasn't actually carried out. And then the CIA ended up finding other ways to be carrying out these --

AMANPOUR: And those are (inaudible) the drones.

MAZZETTI: That's certainly what they have come to embrace over the years --

AMANPOUR: Let me put up this graphic that we've put together, basically how, yes, President Bush authorized the drone strikes. But as you can see from that image, it was very minimal under the presidency of President Bush. It then went spiking up. And it's still going up with obviously 2010 as viewed there as the most number of targeted killings.

MAZZETTI: Right. There was -- there was a -- there was a scattering of these operations in Afghanistan and then in Yemen in 2002 and then the first one in Pakistan, which was in 2004.

And this was after the CIA was trying hard to get armed drones into Pakistan and there was a killing of a militant named Nek Muhammad in June of 2004, who was really actually more of Pakistan's problem than the United States' problem, but he was affiliated with Al Qaeda but he was not a senior leader.

And there was a deal that was cut between America and the Pakistani spies to kill Nek Muhammad. And this allowed the CIA to begin these killings.

Now as you point out, it took some time. It took a few years for this really to ramp up. And it wasn't until 2008 when, at the end of the Bush administration, there really escalated the strikes and then President Obama came in and embraced it and expanded it even further.

AMANPOUR: Now do you think it's going to continue to ramp up? Because it's very controversial and I know there's sort of a kind of an attempt to see whether we can get the CIA back from being a killing machine into its original mission of an intel gathering, a spy machine. Do you think that that will happen, that Brennan will bring it back to intelligence gathering?

MAZZETTI: He has certainly hinted that that is his -- that is his hope to move some of the paramilitary functions away from the agency to the Pentagon. He has been very much intimately involved in this program from his previous job at the White House.

But he's a career CIA officer and he talks to some of the old guard CIA people, who do have grave concerns about, you know, why is the CIA just a now smaller and more secretive version of the Pentagon. Get back to spying.

But I think that anything he tries to do is easier said than done. It might take some time to move this stuff out of the CIA and you have another generation of CIA officers who have really been focused on manhunting and killing and it's not so easy to just be retraining people in the traditional spycraft of the Cold War era, for instance.

AMANPOUR: You started off by saying that this so-called surgical scalpel kind of war is messy; there's no such thing as, and obviously there are also reports that it's not just 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives who are being targeted, it's a whole range of other kinds of (inaudible). Tell us about that.

MAZZETTI: Well, as we found in Pakistan and also in Yemen, the groups that get hit are not just Al Qaeda senior leaders. And to be honest, in Pakistan, there are very few of the original Al Qaeda leadership as it existed on 9/11.

So the CIA is hitting members of, for instance, the Haqqani network who American troops in Afghanistan are worried about.

So this is sort of the Afghan war from the other side. They're hitting members of the Pakistani Taliban which are problematic or who are hitting targets in Pakistan. And this is another thing that although Pakistan says that they are against the drone program, they're willing to bless some strikes because they're hitting enemies of Pakistan.

In Yemen, there's concern that, you know, is the United States CIA or military just the Yemeni counterinsurgency air force hitting insurgent groups rather than Al Qaeda groups who are determined to hit the United States?

It's very complicated and it's hard to know as a reporter because these strikes remain secret and there is a push, as you point out, to bring more transparency, to bring more accountability to these operations. President Obama said in the State of the Union that this would happen; we'll -- I guess we'll see.

AMANPOUR: A fascinating read, "The Way of the Knife." Mark Mazzetti, thank you very much indeed.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And after a break, another view of drones, not as weapons of war but as a way of earning a college degree, a different kind of career trajectory when we come back.

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AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we've just been speaking to journalist Mark Mazzetti about drones, about targeting killing as America's new weapon of choice. But imagine a world where drones can earn you a college diploma and a cutting-edge career.

Kansas State University is one of a growing number of American colleges now offering a bachelor of science degree in, quote, "unmanned aircraft systems" -- that's right; you can major in drones.

But you don't have to join the CIA or the military to put your skills to work. By 2015, thanks to a big boost from the U.S. Congress, private contractors will be filling America's skies with an estimated 10,000 unmanned aircraft, which means job openings in law enforcement, construction, even weather and traffic reporting, anywhere that earthbound pilots with joysticks can operate eyes in the skies.

And imagine this scary thought: instead of two pilots in the cockpit on our commercial flights, experts predict there will be soon only one, with the copilot at the controls on the ground. And one day -- that's right -- no pilots in the cockpit at all.

But there could be a brass ceiling to a drone career. The Pentagon proposed a new medal for drone pilots, but it was met by fierce opposition from combat veterans. And Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has put the medal on hold, pending a review.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our Facebook page, amanpour.com/Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.

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