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North Korea Situation Examined; Previewing Anthony Bourdain's New TV Show

Aired April 12, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program, where we bring you two of the big stories that we covered this week.

First up, the missile watch continues on the Korean Peninsula and no one knows quite what Kim Jong-un's intentions are. If the expected medium range conventional missile is launched, it's said to have a range of over 2,000 miles or more than 3,000 kilometers, as we're showing you on this map. And 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 has been on high alert for days. Everyone has their missile defense systems in place.

In Pyongyang, the same old propaganda has been 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. We've seen flowers and the caption reads, "Gardeners at the Central Botanical Garden, helping the Immortal Kim Il-sung Flowers blossom beautifully for the Day of the Sun," leaving 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's, in fact, the most important day of the year in the Hermit Kingdom and it's often the time North Korean leadership decides to flex its muscles.

Journalist Mike Chinoy is one of the few Americans who knows North Korea and its leadership well. He was a colleague, a long-time CNN correspondent and he's met the late Kim Il-sung. He's visited the country 15 times. And I spoke to him about all of this from Hong Kong.


AMANPOUR: Mike Chinoy, welcome to the program.


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 a 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.


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.


AMANPOUR: So there is President Obama, talking about engagement. And yet the name of the strategy towards North Korea is strategic patience; that basically hasn't produced engagement.

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 is 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.


AMANPOUR: There's so much obviously that's unknown about North Korea. When we return, we will literally go to "PARTS UNKNOWN." That's the new series by renowned chef and author Anthony Bourdain, and it's premiering this weekend on CNN.

In his culinary travels, Bourdain has sampled everything from seal eyeball to cod sperm. Obviously he has an unusual take on the world. And we will sit together at table -- this table -- when we return.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

Anthony Bourdain, the renowned chef and bestselling author, has a new program premiering on CNN this weekend. It's called "PARTS UNKNOWN," and it showcases Bourdain's gift for finding the essence of a country or a culture while sharing meals with the people who live there.

Bourdain has traveled the world for this show, from Myanmar to Libya to, well, Los Angeles, but not in a way that you've ever seen it before.

I managed to pin him down for a conversation right here in New York.


AMANPOUR: Anthony Bourdain, welcome.


AMANPOUR: It's called "PARTS UNKNOWN." What does that mean and what surprised you the most?

BOURDAIN: Well, I mean, it's places less familiar, locations less familiar to television audiences, like Myanmar that a lot of people haven't seen, particularly a lot of Westerners but also better-known places looked at from a new perspective, an unfamiliar perspective.

AMANPOUR: I want to play a clip from one of your programs, which is about Libya. And it goes to what you're saying from a different perspective.


BOURDAIN: Watching the news is not encouraged. Kidnappings in Algeria, unrest in Tunisia, terrorist cells to the south, deadly riots in Egypt and, of course, extremist attacks in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador. All those things are very real concerns.

But if you only look at what's on the news, you can miss maybe what's a bigger picture.


AMANPOUR: So missing the bigger picture, missing the parts unknown, maybe, goes to the heart of what you're trying to do.

So what do you think we're missing in Libya?

BOURDAIN: Who fought that battle? Who fought that war?

Who are these people who toppled a regime that, only a day earlier, everyone thought would be there forever?

In many cases, the people we met in Misrata, they're kids. They're kids who were playing PlayStation a few days earlier in Montreal, in Europe and elsewhere, who went home to fight and who fought with homemade weapons, using hair dryers as triggers, who faced tanks with crossbows, that launched petrol bombs, kids for whom a fast-food chicken place is the realization of a dream.

AMANPOUR: So is it about the journalism? Or is it about the tourism?

Is it about the people? Is it about the food?

BOURDAIN: Well, I'm not a journalist. But I guess it's -- I'm looking at these places from the point of view of someone who's interested in how people live, what they eat. I'm not reporting hard news. I'm introducing audiences to people, cultures, so you can get a little -- get to know a little bit about them so when hard news happens, you know who we're talking about.

AMANPOUR: All right. So let's go this next clip from Libya to that point.


BOURDAIN: Martyrs' Square is filled with families, kids, teenage skater boys, hot shots on motorcycles. It's wild. (Inaudible). (Inaudible) after 42 years of nightmare.

How to build a whole society overnight and make it work in one of the most contentious and difficult areas of the world is what people are trying to figure out.


AMANPOUR: So what did you think when you ran into that scene?

BOURDAIN: It was a very difficult shoot for the usual reasons. I mean, security was a concern; a lot was happening; a lot of it went bad when we were there. But the mood was palpably exuberant. I mean, kids who, just like American kids, they want to -- they want to rollerblade, they want to play on motorcycles.

They want to party. They want to have a good time. And that has been denied to them for decades and was, until just a little while ago, unthinkable.

AMANPOUR: I think what you said about, you know, you need to know about a place so that, when the hard news happens, the breaking news happens, you know what we're talking about. And I think that's often missed in sort of traditional journalism. We just hear about something when there's a massive crisis.

What is it about your choice of vehicle -- which is the food -- that you think -- or that you've found introduces you to people in a different way?

BOURDAIN: Well, I think it's immediately disarming. I mean, I've found, over many years, it's immediately disarming, even in places where people disagree with you in every important way, a person who shows up and just says, look, what do you cook? What do you like to eat? What's -- what is it that your mom makes you that makes you happy?

What do you do for fun, you know, when the bar's closed? These are simple questions, and when you ask them and express a willingness and a curiosity, people open up to you in really remarkable ways that maybe hard journalists don't get because there's an agenda to report on a story.

And there's just this -- tell me about your life.

AMANPOUR: I want to play this clip. It's just so great and it caught my imagination and my attention when I watched it.



BOURDAIN: Tazaungdaing (ph) -- Full Moon Day -- a holiday marking the end of the rainy season. And today marks the beginning of three days of break out the crazy.

Check this out. OK. It's a Ferris wheel, but the power source, not unusual for these parts, is not electric. It ain't gas. (Inaudible). It's human power.


An absolutely insanely dangerous, closely choreographed process of first getting the giant, heavily laden wheel in motion, and then getting it up to top speed and keeping it there.

Wow. Look at this thing (inaudible) out, too.


AMANPOUR: So that kind of break out the crazy, as you say, is so counterintuitive. I mean, you know, we imagine it as this, you know, really sort of sad and dour military dictatorship. There's that. And then there's these people who are making the Ferris wheel go.

BOURDAIN: And as incredibly, the music in this segment is by a local punk rock band, who have been playing punk rock in Yangon for something like 10 years.

That takes some dedication to do, you know, anarchistic music like punk rock under a repressive military dictatorship and to stick with it --


AMANPOUR: And that's something we didn't know, for sure.


AMANPOUR: -- punk rock as seen in Rangoon.

What was your favorite meal in anywhere that you've been on this particular "PARTS UNKNOWN"?

BOURDAIN: Wow, I mean, there's this sort of the human experience of just sharing noodles with someone.

But I just got back from Spain. And it is not -- one doesn't suffer - -


AMANPOUR: You don't suffer at all there.

BOURDAIN: But maybe Korea Town in L.A.


BOURDAIN: Yes. It's great to find a subculture doing delicious things -- basically a whole other country within the most overphotographed, overcovered location in America. You feel particularly good about the world and as if you're enjoying something that few others get to try.

AMANPOUR: This is not luxury tourism; this is not boutique hotels. I mean, you're in, you know, sort of -- kind of ramshackle vehicles. You're on the train. You're staying I don't know where, but not in Amman resorts.

BOURDAIN: It's a mix. I was --


AMANPOUR: Or maybe you are.

BOURDAIN: -- I was not uncomfortable in L.A. certainly. Some of the shows, you know, we mix it up. I'm doing fine dining, all-food porn shows, but the next show will be a place like the Congo, where anything resembling running water or electricity, any -- a bath, you're not seeing that for days or even weeks at a time.

AMANPOUR: Anthony Bourdain, thank you.

BOURDAIN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: We'll be watching with pleasure and interest.

BOURDAIN: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And once again, Bourdain's program premieres on Sunday, so check for your local times.

And after a break, a final thought about the legendary life of Margaret Thatcher, who died this week. Imagine if she had gone on to win the Nobel Prize for chemistry instead of Britain's highest political prize. What might have been, when we come back.



AMANPOUR: And finally, invitations have gone out to more than 2,000 people around the world, including leaders around the world, for the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister. That'll be held in London next week.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now imagine if Britain's Iron Lady had become a scientist instead of a politician. Long before she was a polarizing prime minister, Margaret Thatcher was this young girl. She's the one on the left with her oldest sister, Muriel. A small-town grocer's daughter, her family lived above the store that is now a chemist's shop.

Young Margaret Hilda Roberts adored her father and always credited him for her values and her success.

"I just owe almost everything to my father," she said. "He brought me up to believe almost all the things I do believe."

Chosen head girl in her local girls' school -- there she is the top left corner -- young Margaret was marked for leadership even as a teenager. However, her love of science led her to Oxford to study chemistry. And who knows; she might have become the next Madame Curie instead of the first female British prime minister.

But when she applied for a job in a chemical company, she was rejected. Years later, by now a legend in her own time, she saw the interviewer's notes on that job application.

"This young woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self- opinionated," it said, words that reverberate for other women who've dared to carve their own paths in a man's world.

And yet, surely, they are the precise qualities needed for leadership in any arena. And though she wasn't destined for a career in science, a shared interest in chemistry did lead her to her future husband, Denis Thatcher, whose family owned a chemical company. And with his support, she launched her political career.

Still, her love of science never left her. And in 1989, she became the first world leader to take up the cause of global warming in a speech to the United Nations. She would later reverse herself and become a skeptic. But she remained interested in the effects of climate even at the unveiling of her bronze statue in Parliament.

"I might have preferred iron," she said, "but bronze will do. It won't rust."


AMANPOUR: And that's it for our weekend edition of this program. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.