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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; Interview With Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers

Aired April 11, 2013 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: From the White House to THE SITUATION ROOM. The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, joins us this hour. He will deliver a direct message to Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.

And we have secret film coming in from North Korea. It shows smugglers forging a dangerous escape route for the poor and starving citizens.

We begin though with some breaking news, as North Korea warns war can break out at any moment. There may, repeat, may be new reason to fear that its threats of a nuclear attack are much more serious than we thought. It's a stunning new development, even as Kim Jong-un could order at least one missile to launch literally at any time.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. He has the very latest -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, several Pentagon officials just told me they were completely caught off-guard by the fact that this revelation was put out there in an open hearing.

Look, the Holy Grail for North Korea has always been being able to take a nuclear bomb, which we know they have, and making it small enough to fit on the end of a missile. This assessment suggests they may have learned how to do so.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Kim Jong-un has threatened a nuclear strike, and revelations from a new intelligence report show he may be capable of following through.

REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: The North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.

LAWRENCE: Congressman Doug Lamborn quoted from a new intelligence assessment which suggests North Korea may be closer to marrying nuclear weapons with the missiles to deliver them.

LAMBORN: Whatever it takes to miniaturize it to the point where it could be placed on top of a missile. There is some degree of confidence, moderate confidence by the Defense Intelligence Agency that that can be done by North Korea. LAWRENCE: The revelation came as President Obama publicly appealed to North Korea to end its belligerent approach.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And to try to lower temperatures. Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

LAWRENCE: If true, the revelations give new weight to North Korea's recent threats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Our arms are ready to fire and the exact coordinates are input to the warheads. Once we push the button, it will be fired and the strongholds of our enemies will be turned into a sea of flames.

LAWRENCE: The U.S. believes North Korea has at least once Musudan missile on the launchpad. U.S. officials say after initially raising the launcher, they lowered it Thursday. But they're not sure if Kim Jong-un is backing off or testing that it works first before firing.

LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't think really he has much of an end game.

LAWRENCE: The director of national intelligence says Kim is trying to get recognition from the United States.

CLAPPER: North Korea's a rival on an international scene as a nuclear power, and that that entitles him to negotiation and to accommodation, and presumably for aid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Now, this assessment does say that the reliability of any such weapon would be low. It probably references North Korea's continued problems with accuracy, getting a weapon that can actually hit what it's aiming for.

But it does suggest perhaps a meaning behind some of the recent moves by the Obama administration, including bolstering missile defenses on the island of Guam and putting and installing -- planning to install new missile defenses in Alaska -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty chilling stuff. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Just a little while ago, I spoke exclusively with the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon. He's here in Washington. He met with President Obama in the Oval Office today -- on the agenda, of course, very high on the agenda, North Korea.

I asked Ban Ki-Moon what he knows about North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thank so much, Mr. Secretary-General, for coming in.

BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: It's a great pleasure to see you again.

BLITZER: Always nice to see you.

I know you have just come from the White House. You have come from the World Bank. You met with the president of the United States. Let's talk about North Korea.

The key question is, have they miniaturized their nuclear weapons to the point that they could endanger South Korea, endanger Japan, endanger others in the region?

BAN: We do not have any independent information to verify it.

But it may be true that they will continue to improve their technology. That will be against the Security Council resolution, Security Council resolution, most recently Resolution 2094. We clearly urge North Korea to refrain from making any provocative measures by detonating nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: Clearly, those Security Council resolutions and the enormous sanctions that have been posed on North Korea aren't working.

BAN: Sanctions are working, but it needs the full cooperation from all member states.

BLITZER: And they're not cooperating, North Korea. And as a result, when I say they're not working, North Korea's continuing to flaunt those United Nations Security Council resolutions.

BAN: The most recent Security Council resolution, 2094, is very comprehensive. I'm sure that either by...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: How long will it take for it to bite?

BAN: I do not have any idea.

But it is very important that the whole member states of the international community, United Nations should fully cooperate in implementing this resolution.

BLITZER: You just came from the Oval Office, where you met with the president of the United States. Are you on the same page with President Obama, as far as North Korea is concerned?

BAN: We are on the same page, and I was very much assured by President Obama that he will take very firm, but measured response to that.

I have asked him to take such measured positions in close coordination with the Republic of Korea government and also...

BLITZER: South Korea.

BAN: Yes, South Korea, and also with the strong engagement of neighboring countries, particularly China.

At this time, China can play a very important, crucial role.

BLITZER: Is it playing a crucial role right now? Is it being helpful?

BAN: Is it helpful?

When you heard that President Xi Jinping said that they would not allow any such things to happen in the region, and when I spoke to Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently, he also made it quite sure that China does not want any eruption of uncontrollable situation at their doorstep.

BLITZER: You're from South Korea. You're a former foreign minister from South Korea. You have gone through a lot of crises with North Korea, not just with this current young leader, but his father, his grandfather. Is this crisis more serious, different than others?

BAN: This crisis seems to be a much more heightened crisis.

But at this time, we should take the firm, but measured positions, not to fall into traps of North Koreans. What they are ratcheting up, these tensions, is just to frighten South Korea and other allies. And I was very much encouraged when President Obama just assured that the United States will respect the treaty obligations and commitment for the Republic of Korea.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because there's pressure building in South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapon to combat North Korea if necessary.

What do you say about that?

BAN: I don't think it is the general views of the South Korean people. The South Korean government has assured and committed to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in their joint declaration with North Korea in 1992. I'm sure that South Korea will continue to abide by that declaration.

BLITZER: Are you ready to go to Pyongyang and meet with Kim Jong-un?

BAN: I have made it consistently clear that I am ready to visit the DPRK when and if my visit is helpful, and in close coordination with the concerned parties, particularly the Republic of Korea and the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: All right, stand by for more of my interview with the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon. The U.N. secretary- general delivers a direct and powerful message to North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong-un.

I asked him to deliver that message in Korean, knowing that they watch CNN International in North Korea. At least the elite, the elite government officials and the military do. You will hear that message in Korean, what he has to say to Kim Jong-un. That's coming up this hour on our special report, "The Korean Crisis."

Up next, though, we have secret film from inside North Korea,a very dangerous escape route for people who are starving.

And the former President Bill Clinton once called the Korean border the scariest place on earth, gunfights, kidnappings, other dangers in the DMZ.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Famine has killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans over the last two decades, possibly even millions. What little we know with the country's starvation horror comes from defectors.

Angus Walker of ITN News talked to one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANGUS WALKER, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): Under the cover of darkness, smugglers cross a frozen river from North Korea into China, taking enormous risks, and food and fuel back to their impoverished country.

This was filmed a few weeks ago. The footage even shows an armed soldier who's been paid to cover their tracks at first light. Bribing the border guards and following in the smugglers' footsteps is how people escape from North Korea.

Now in hiding in South Korea, this woman defected shortly after Kim Jong-un came to power. We have protected her identity because she had to leave some of her family behind. Fighting back tears, she tells me she got out, risking death if she was caught, so she could live.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My family had decided to commit suicide, because for three days we didn't have anything to eat. We decided to starve to death. We said, let's die. But then I wanted to survive. I sold the house for 30 kilos of rice.

WALKER: Millions have little food. This footage smuggled out was filmed last month. Reports from inside North Korea suggest food prices have tripled in a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To survive, I had to eat grass. People pick grass and leaves. They used them to make soup.

WALKER (on camera): What do you think of Kim Jong-un and what do you think of what he's threatening to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Kim Jong-un is trying to be more extreme than his father and trying to distract the North Korean people from their own problems and complaints.

WALKER (voice-over): "Gangnam Style," South Korean pop in North Korea, on a smuggled DVD, the sights and sounds of the 21st century for those trapped in time in an Orwellian nightmare.

It's a glimpse of another world so near and yet so far away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Angus Walker is joining us now from the South Korean capital.

You have actually been there to North Korea a couple of times, Angus.

What's your assessment right now? How close are we to this crisis spilling over into actual military hostilities?

WALKER: Well, I think if Kim Jong-un launched a missile at -- aimed at South Korea, Japan, or U.S. targets, then he would be effectively committing suicide.

So I think the North Koreans will be trying to do something which will capture the world's attention. That's what they want. They want attention. They have launched missiles before. They have launched missiles which have flown over Japan before. I think what we're looking at, though, is if they launch a missile, what type of missile is it?

Almost to the day a year ago, I was standing in the main parade ground in Pyongyang watching a new type of missile being wheeled past, the piece de resistance of the massive military parade that went on a year ago to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Kim Il- Sung, the grandfather, the founder of this communist dynasty that rules North Korea.

There's an argument about whether those missiles were actually genuine or not. But if they are three-stage rockets that could fire -- have a range of about 2,500 miles, that will be a game-changer in this region.

BLITZER: Angus Walker in Seoul, South Korea, for us, Angus, thanks for that report. Thanks for joining us.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are trying to figure out Kim Jong-un's next move.

I spoke earlier with the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Mike Rogers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Wolf, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. and South Korean allies, the Japanese, are they still bracing for North Korea to launch a missile, or a series of missiles within the next few hours, or days? What is the latest assessment?

ROGERS: Well, anytime somebody like this who has capabilities to launch a missile makes those threats, you have to take them seriously.

So, yes, I think U.S. forces are on posture to deal with that, same with the Japanese, same with the South Koreans. And the unpredictable part of this is you see a little bit of a different behavior with the Chinese. They have got this on-again/off-again relationship with the North Koreans over time.

But they're their biggest benefactor. And about 65 percent of all their foreign goods come through China. They are taking a little bit of a different turn here, which is a positive thing, against North Korea. So you have the Japanese on edge, the U.S., the South Koreans, and now you see the Chinese taking a little bit of a different posture, Wolf. I look at that as a good sign to start trying to unwind this thing.

BLITZER: Are there any indications that Kim Jong-un and his top military leadership are seeking to tone things down, or it still seems to be ratcheting up the tension?

ROGERS: Yes, I think he sees that there's an internal to North Korea advantage for him to continue to do this, to try to solidify himself with his military base.

And North Korea is one of those countries that is an army with a country, not a country with an army. So he needs to solidify that base so that he can continue to solidify his power across the country. I think he is feeling pretty emboldened by all of these activities. The fact that they sunk a ship in 2010 and did some artillery fire earlier than that that killed South Koreans with no response, I think makes him feel emboldened to continue ratcheting this up until some common sense, or at least external pressure kicks in to have him ratcheting down.

I think he's going to continue to do this. I even believe, Wolf, that he may even be looking for a minor skirmish as they have in the past, in order to thump his chest and show that he is this new military commander and the defender of the people of North Korea.

BLITZER: How good is U.S. intelligence on what's going on in North Korea?

ROGERS: Never as good as you want it to be when you're the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I can tell you that.

We have got a little room to go. We have some indications, but we're a long way from having that comfort level about fully understanding across the board about not only with military intentions, but what the leadership intentions are. But, again, our intelligence folks are doing some great work under tough circumstances. And we continue to try to improve that posture.

BLITZER: Does it make any sense to send a high-level emissary to Pyongyang?

ROGERS: You know, I'm not sure. You don't want to reward bad behavior, especially war -- saber-rattling at the level he's doing now. So I would be cautious about that.

What I would love to see is China shut down the northern -- their southern border with North Korea, and shut off both luxury goods and the black market for fuel. That would have a huge and immediate impact on the regime in North Korea. If we could get them to do that, I think we could start -- then start negotiations on how they unravel it, because that pressure would be so immediate, and so real, and it would be felt, as I said, just almost immediately.

BLITZER: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

ROGERS: Hey, thanks, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still ahead, a former North Korean spy finds a new life right here in the United States. She talks to us about the crisis and the deadly price her husband paid when she defected.

Plus, it's the world's most heavily armed border. Right now, tension is soaring along Korea's demilitarized zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now: a direct appeal to Kim Jong-un to stop threatening the world.

The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, delivers that message from here in THE SITUATION ROOM to Pyongyang. This is a CNN exclusive.

A former North Korean spy who fled says she knows firsthand what the regime is capable of. And she believes war in fact is coming.

And horror stories from the border: why the line between North and South Korea has been called the scariest place in the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. And this is a SITUATION ROOM special report, "North Korean Crisis." Let's get back to the breaking news this hour, a chilling new assessment of North Korea's ability to launch a nuclear attack. A United States congressman quoting from a new Pentagon intelligence assessment, he says Kim Jong-un's regime currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about all of this, but some South Koreans already are developing a potentially dangerous plan to protect themselves. They want nuclear weapons of their own.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Seoul, South Korea. She's joining us now with more on this.

What's going on, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, Wolf, this is the country that feels like it has the biggest bullseye on it in the entire region.

So, regardless of the veracity of this report out of the DIA today, it is supporting a disturbing sentiment here in South Korea, that the only way to stop Kim Jong-un is for this country to have its own nuclear arsenal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): Seoul may seem reserved amid growing threats from North Korea, but there's a growing rage beneath this calm.

"South Korea's not powerful enough," says this woman. "If we have nuclear weapons, it would be better for our stability," a sentiment echoed loudly by Chung Mong-Joon, a prominent South Korean politician. Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, he minces no words to the American audience: We want our own nukes.

CHUNG MONG-JOON, KOREA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER: Telling us not to consider any nuclear option is tantamount to telling us to simply surrender. Let us try to prevent the unthinkable by thinking the unthinkable. Give Korea room to maneuver.

LAH: The call defies a longstanding principle to limit the nuclear club, one South Korea heeded for decades under the shield of America's nuclear umbrella. There's been no official policy shift from the government, but from the people?

(on camera): Public sentiment is shifting here in South Korea. Two recent national polls show that two-thirds of South Koreans believe they should have their own nuclear weapons. That's a sharp rise from just a few years ago. So, what changed?

(voice-over): Attacks from North Korea that claimed lives; 46 sailors were killed when a torpedo sank a South Korean warship in 2010, and a surprise artillery attack on the Yongbyon Island that killed four people, South Koreans weary of the persistent problems with Pyongyang. They see Kim Jong-un's seemingly uncontrollable ramp-up as a failure of Western diplomacy with no long-term solution.

Philip Yun helped managed U.S. policy toward North Korea under President Clinton. He says more nukes is a dangerous proposal for global security.

PHILIP YUN, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: It is not going to enhance South Korea's security. It is going to make South Korea less safe. I think it's not going to prevent North Korean provocations, and in the larger respect, it is not going to add to the ability of South Korea to deter a large-scale attack from North Korea. In fact, what will happen is that there will be a regional arm race.

LAH: Arm South Korea, then Japan will follow, and then China responds, a region that would tip even more out of balance and out of control.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: So these incremental steps that North Korea appears to be making to continue its own nuclear arsenal and nuclear testing, Wolf, having an impact on South Korea, the region, and thereby, the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah in Seoul, South Korea, for us. Thank you very much.

Nowhere is the tension with North Korea more evident than the so- called no-man's land that divides North and South Korea, what they call the demilitarized zone, the DMZ. CNN's Tom Foreman is here with a closer look.

What do we know, first of all, about the DMZ?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first thing that anyone needs to know, Wolf, is that there's simply no more heavily-guarded border anywhere on the planet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): One hundred sixty miles long, two and a half miles wide, the demilitarized zone is ironically bordered by hundreds of thousands of troops and heavy weapons. Former President Bill Clinton called it the scariest place on earth. And David Benbow, who served there in the late '60s, says hardly a week passed without gunfire over the border.

DAVID BENBOW, DMZ ARMY VETERAN: It was the scariest place I've ever been. Especially the night ambush patrols. Those were the worst. They were the scariest.

FOREMAN: Serious clashes have occurred in recent years along the border zone, but talks of gun fights, kidnappings and secret tunnels go back decades. In 1976 two U.S. Army officers were leading a work crew to cut down a tree when North Korean soldiers attacked and killed them with axes.

In 1994, a U.S. helicopter accidentally flew across the line and was shot down. The co-pilot died. The pilot was taken prisoner and released only after intense negotiations.

Hundreds of lives have been lost, and even when the guns are silent, North Korean troops crowd the dividing line. In Benbow's time, they steadily blared propaganda over loudspeakers.

BENBOW: They would call us capitalist dogs and tell us we were not supposed to be in Korea and tell us we needed to go home and we were going to die and that sort of thing.

FOREMAN: Troops call a single fairway near the DMZ the most dangerous golf course in the world. But it's no joke: when dignitaries like Hillary Clinton visit, North Korean soldiers stare through a window just across the border. A ready and constant reminder that the world is very different only inches away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Military analysts have pointed out many times over the years that the tension along this border, Wolf, and the forward positioning of all those troops and all those armaments send a signal that anywhere else would be seen as a signal of imminent war. And it's been that way for decades. The longest war. It is a most unusual place, and it's one of the reasons why it's so hard to read their intentions at a time like this.

BLITZER: I remember when I was there, when I was a White House correspondent for CNN during the Clinton administration, I went with President Clinton to the demilitarized zone. And I must say, you look at the faces of the troops on both sides, and they're pretty scared. And that picture we just saw of Hillary Clinton, that's pretty dramatic.

FOREMAN: Extraordinary. And everybody who goes there seems to tell the same tale.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks for that report.

Still ahead, the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, he issues a direct appeal to North Korea's Kim Jong-un from here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is the CNN exclusive.

And we'll also get reaction from CNN's Christiane Amanpour, and Fareed Zakaria. They are both standing by.

She plays beautiful music, but she's actually a former North Korean spy. And she's opening up to us about the regime and its military threats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Stand by for a CNN exclusive. The United Nations secretary-general speaks directly -- directly to north Korea's Kim Jong-un in Korean. You will hear it; you will see it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon making a direct appeal -- a direct appeal to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, in his native language. It happened during my interview with Ban Ki-moon. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: They're watching you in Pyongyang right now on CNN international. If you have a chance to speak directly right now to Kim Jong-un, you can make a statement, make some -- a request from him. What would you say to him?

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I would strongly ask him to, first of all, refrain from taking any such provocative measures, which is clearly in violation against the Security Council resolution, against the international community. I would strongly urge him to deter war, to enhance the living standards of his own people when they are suffering from this economic difficulty.

BLITZER: One final question, Secretary-General. Look at that camera right over there. Speak to Kim Jong-un in Korean.

BAN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: I would like to convey a sincere message to Kim Jong- un. In order to restore peace and unification to our Korean Peninsula so we can resolve all pending issues through dialogue. As Secretary- General of the U.N. and as a citizen of Korea I sincerely ask that you end the recent provocative actions and return to dialogue. Thank you.

BLITZER: Secretary-General, thank you so much for coming in. Let's hope this crisis with North Korea eases.

BAN: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're joined now by CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, the anchor of "AMANPOUR" on CNN international. Also Fareed Zakaria. He's the host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Christiane, that was pretty powerful, I thought, when I asked him to speak in Korean directly to Kim Jong-un, and he made that appeal. What did you think?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't know how that's going to go down in Pyongyang. It will be interesting to see. But I think one of the things that's very, very important right now is this breaking news about what the Defense Intelligence Agency has been saying. And it's very interesting to me that General Dempsey in that testimony on Capitol Hill said that he had not seen that report. And I find that really interesting.

I'm also interested to know, and I don't think it is, but whether it is the general consensus by the whole U.S. intelligence community that this so-called warhead, or weapon, can be -- can be sent on a missile.

I spoke to one of the top-level scientists, one of the only Americans who goes into Pyongyang regularly, and not just into Pyongyang but into the nuclear facilities, and he says that he does not believe that they have the ability to put a warhead on a missile right now. That whatever they have is quite primitive. And that's why they keep testing, and that's why they keep testing the missiles.

But he does not believe that one can be delivered by -- by a missile. Not even to South Korea. He told me that if they were going to threaten South Korea with any kind of nuclear device -- and they probably have about four to eight plutonium devices, he thinks -- that would have to be delivered by truck, by plane or by boat. He does not believe that they have the ability to put it on any missiles right now. But they are perhaps working on that in order to deter the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fareed, I think these -- this new DIA assessment, it is pretty chilling. But let's get back a little bit to what Ban Ki-moon told me.

First of all, he said he would be willing to go to North Korea and speak directly with Kim Jong-un, and then when I asked him to speak in Korean to the North Korean leader, you heard what he had to say. He made that direct appeal.

I suspect that kind of gesture is precisely what the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would like to see, to get that kind of respect, if you will, despite the provocative steps he's taken in recent days.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, clearly, this is a search for legitimacy, credibility.

But Wolf, Ban Ki-moon said something very interesting. And remember, Ban Ki-moon is a former foreign minister of South Korea. So he has dealt with this issue, essentially, for all of his professional life.

He said we should work for peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula. This has been the traditional view. But when he said it in Korean in that powerful, passionate appeal, it made me realize part of the problem here. Any kind of unification is going to take place on the Korean Peninsula entirely on South Korea's terms. South Korea is one of the richest countries in the world now. North Korea's arguably one of the three or four poorest countries in the world. So the North is in danger of being swallowed up by the South. And they know it.

So when Ban Ki-moon makes this gesture and says, "Let's work for peace and unification," perhaps to the North Korean regime, that sounds like the end of their regime.

You know, the odd thing about North Korea is, it is really in a struggle for survival at some level. The nuclear weapons, the international attention, all this -- this warmongering. This is all some kind of search for what will allow a deeply, deeply repressive, brutal, cruel regime that has failed its people to somehow survive.

So they might have listened to Ban Ki-moon and seen that as more of a threat than we realize.

BLITZER: Interesting. Both of you stand by for a moment. We're going to have more on the North Korean crisis.

Fareed is standing by; Christiane is standing by. We'll get back to them in a moment.

Also coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the musician, this musician living in the United States right now, she is actually a former North Korean spy. So is this woman, convicted of blowing up a South Korean airliner. And now they are both -- yes, both -- they're speaking out to us about the North Korean crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our State Department reporter, Elise Labott, is now reporting, quoting a senior administration official here in Washington as saying there are no indications that the missiles that North Korea has apparently already readied for tests, are -- those missiles, specific missiles are armed with nuclear materials.

This is significant because of the latest assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency over at the Pentagon, that they believe that North Korea does have -- and they say this with moderate confidence -- does have the capability of delivering ballistic missiles with a nuclear weapon.

Although once again, Elise Labott reporting that the current missiles that may be ready for a test are not specifically armed with nuclear missiles.

Let's get some quick reaction. Fareed and Christiane are still with us.

First you, Fareed. What do you make of all this?

ZAKARIA: Well, I think Christiane put it just right when we talked earlier. Every other intelligence assessment I've seen suggests they can't put nukes on their missiles. The warheads are too heavy. The missiles would misfire.

But it is important to point out, Wolf, they keep trying. So, you know, this is an ongoing story. This is not one where we can say with absolute confidence. They've had three nuclear tests. They had a whole bunch of missile tests that were spectacularly unsuccessful. And then last December they shot a missile that could have reached the Philippines.

So they are -- they are constantly trying. They seem to accept trial and error and failure. So this -- even if this one doesn't work, what you see is a regime that is constantly trying to get, you know, get one of these things to work at some point.

BLITZER: Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, I think so, too. And the scientists, the most plugged-in scientists believe that that is the aim of this regime. It's to continue to test missiles, delivery systems, more nuclear tests, try to do what they have to do, because it is becoming a consensus belief that North Korea wants to be taken seriously as a nuclear weapon state. And to be dealt with as other countries that have nuclear weapons. And that, you know, the U.S. And the world now accepts whether it is Pakistan or India or whatever it might be.

So that seems to be where experts believe North Korea is headed. So then, the question is what do you do about it? How do you contain that kind of thing? And how, in the words of the scientists that I've been talking to, do you make sure that they don't build more of them, they don't build better bombs and they don't proliferate these bombs.

So, you know, they're on that way. And I'm afraid to say, it reminds me of Iran, even though Iran claims it doesn't have nuclear weapons. It is saying to the world that it will be taken seriously as a nuclear power. That it wants the right to enrich. And no amount of discussions, sanctions, anything else has changed that equation right now in Iran or in North Korea, which is way further ahead than Iran with actual, you know, bomb capacity, even though it has not, according to the best estimates and the best analysis, it has not yet been weaponized and put on missiles.

BLITZER: Good assessment from both of you, guys. We'll see you back here tomorrow. The story, obviously, not going away.

And please be sure to watch Christiane on "AMANPOUR." CNN International is where it appears. The program airs weekdays at 3 and 5 p.m. Eastern. And also tune in to "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." It airs Sundays here on CNN, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

A former North Korean spy predicts war will, in fact, break out. She's living in the United States now after defecting. And she says the regime executed her -- her husband. She talks to us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The North Korean agent convicted of blowing up a South Korean airliner speaks out about the current crisis. We'll hear from her. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Once she worked for the regime. Now, a former North Korean spy who defected and is living in the United States. And she's speaking out. She's speaking out to our own Brian Todd.

Tell us what happened.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, she describes a regime she believes will push us into conflict, a group of leaders, she says, who have little regard for the safety of their own people or even themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): As sabers rattle on the Korean Peninsula, one woman has a sense of foreboding from half a world away. But Ma Young- ae has a perspective that few in the west can even comprehend. She's not only a North Korean defector; she once worked in the country's feared intelligence service, a spy whose mission was to catch drug dealers. She knows what this regime is capable of and says this about the current crisis.

MA YOUNG-AE, FORMER NORTH KOREAN AGENT (through translator): I believe that the war will break, and I believe that by 99 -- 99 percent. Because when you think about this, the psychology of this people, they're thinking that, "Oh, I survive, you all die." It's not that. "You're going to die and I'm going to die, as well." That's what they're thinking.

TODD: Another former North Korean agent says she thinks Kim Jong-un is using provocations to compensate for his youth and inexperience.

KIM HYUN-HEE, FORMER NORTH KOREAN AGENT (through translator): He is struggling to gain complete control over the military and win their loyalty.

TODD: Kim Hyun-Hee was convicted of blowing up a South Korean airliner in 1987. She was captured alive when she didn't bite her cyanide pill in time. She was sentenced to death in South Korea but then pardoned.

KIM (through translator): North Korea is using its nuclear program to keep the people in line and to put South Korea and the United States for concessions.

TODD: Speaking to former North Korean spies who defected is almost surreal. Ma Young-Ae, who defected in 2000...

(MUSIC)

TODD: ... occupies her days in ways you wouldn't expect.

(on camera): These days Ma Young-Ae makes a living this way, playing concerts on the yangqin (ph), a string instrument. She is politically active, though, and she says that comes with a price. (voice-over): Residing in North Virginia, she's engaged in protests in the U.S. against the North Korean regime. In New York in 2010, while she was protesting the sinking of a South Korean war ship, she says two North Korean agents threatened to kill her. When I asked if she fears for her life...

MA (through translator): I do feel it's unsafe. I feel it's not safe. However, actually I don't regret what I do. Because I feel that it's what I have to do, because what they're doing is definitely wrong. And although I have to look around and fear for my life, everybody has to die.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Despite the intimidation, Ma Young-Ae vows to continue protesting but always with a keen sense of what has happened before. Her first husband, who was also a North Korean officer, was executed, she says, after her defection -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, good report. Thanks very much for joining us.

That's it for me this hour. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Remember, you can always follow what's going on in North Korea, follow me, @wolfblitzer. You can tweet our show, @CNNsitroom.

That's it for now. The news continues next on CNN.