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North Korean Crisis

Aired April 12, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is a SITUATION ROOM special report, "North Korean Crisis."

Happening now: Kim Jong-un unleashes a new threat of nuclear war amid startling revelations about his ability to launch a nuclear attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry, he's in the region right now, and he's warning North Korea not to make what he calls a huge mistake. We're tracking the missiles that could fire at any time.

And the frightening power of propaganda -- how North Koreans are brainwashed from birth to worship their leaders, emotions that linger until they die.

Right now, North Korea is expanding its threats of war, warning it may target Japan first and in their words swallow Tokyo in nuclear flames. Here in the United States, there's a heated discussion about new intelligence suggesting the regime has made advances in its nuclear weapons program.

But the most urgent concern right now, Kim Jong-un's missiles in position for a possible test launch in the coming days, maybe even the next few hours.

Our correspondents are covering the crisis in the region. They're covering it here in Washington, and indeed, around the globe. Christiane Amanpour and Fareed Zakaria, they are both standing by. They will join us for every new development.

But let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, right now for the very latest -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest and newest round of concern about North Korea's nuclear threat comes from a report from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and tonight we're learning that their concern goes back years.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): North Korea's troops could be seen practicing airborne assaults Friday. But it's not parachutes falling from the sky that has the United States worried. It's questions surrounding a nuclear North Korea.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: North Korea has not demonstrated the capability to deploy a nuclear-armed missile.

LAWRENCE: U.S. officials say that capability refers to a fully developed system. U.S. officials don't believe North Korea has made a warhead small enough to fit its missiles and done the testing to accurately aim it.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, they have conducted a nuclear test.

LAWRENCE: In fact, three tests, and recently launched a satellite into orbit. U.S. officials do not dispute North Korea has the components to build a nuclear missile.

DAVID REETHS, IHS JANE'S: I think delivery on the Korean Peninsula is something that we would expect to see first. I think it's quite possible that they might be able to do that already. They may actually even be able to reach Japan.

LAWRENCE: Officials say North Korea has successfully tested missiles with a range of 800 miles. Because they use basic Scud rocket technology, miniaturizing a warhead wouldn't be as big of an issue.

REETHS: You could potentially have a larger warhead on a delivery system if it doesn't have to go nearly as far.

LAWRENCE: But long-range ballistic missiles are another story. To reach the U.S., North Korea would have to perfect an ICBM like its Taepodong-2, which could put Anchorage and possibly Honolulu within range. It's estimated that missile could travel 4,200 miles, which means it would still be short of hitting mainland cities like Seattle and Los Angeles.

KERRY: We do not operate on the presumption that they have that fully tested and available capacity.

LAWRENCE: A former Obama administration official says fully tested doesn't mean launching a missile with a nuke attached. The test involves matching the weight of an actual warhead, putting all the components in it except for the nuclear material, then being able to control its trajectory without the warhead disintegrating.


LAWRENCE: And CNN has learned that the DIA's concerns go back years, the concerns that were raised in that report. In fact, we learned that about two years ago, the head of the DIA testified that North Korea could have plutonium-based missiles that could be used, plutonium-based warheads, I should say, that could be used on ballistic missiles or planes.

An official told us tonight that basically this is the same language essentially that's in this latest report. She called it a lower-level report, and officials are telling us it is just one version of the thinking in the intelligence community. Other intelligence agencies within the U.S. government have not reached that same conclusion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Chris Lawrence, thanks very much.

Let's take a closer look right now at what it takes to put a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile and then actually launch what would be a potentially horrific attack.

Tom Foreman is over at the magic wall with the demonstration -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it largely is believed that size is going to make a big difference here.

This is one of the first bombs dropped by the United States at the end of World War II. It was called Little Boy. That was the nickname. But it was huge. Look at that, four-plus tons of weight that had to be dropped there. This is the challenge that is facing the North Koreans. We largely believe that if they have developed a nuclear weapon up to this point, we have thought it's probably a crude one like this and it will weigh a lot. This is the big challenge, because the Musudan missile, for example, the one that we're talking about right now on the east coast there, only has a payload of about 2.5 tons.

It simply cannot carry one of these nuclear weapons. The challenge then becomes somehow making it smaller. So let's talk a little bit about the nature, the architecture of nuclear weapons and how they would do that. The core of a nuclear bomb, like that one we talked about in World War II, is not very big, about the size of a shot put, maybe here, maybe 10, 15 pounds of plutonium, something like that.

But to make it blow up, what you have to do is compress it suddenly and powerfully. That's what starts a reaction. You do that by surrounding it with high explosives which are inside a container. Now, this is nothing that is not on the Internet. Everybody knows this. Certainly the North Koreans know it. So, we're not giving away any secrets.

When you make something this big, this is where all the weight comes, not from the nuclear material, but from everything else. If you want to make it smaller, you have to improve the efficiency of this material. You might do that by putting better igniters all around here, so that all of this material goes off at precisely the same moment, blasting inward, and producing your explosion.

If you do that really, really well, then you may not need so much out here. You might do it by hardening this better, so that it contains the blast and gets more power going in all at once. That would also allow you to use less material out here. And there's one other option out here which is often considered which is that you can actually make the air pocket between this and the core bigger, so this gets a running start at it, and hits it.

If you do all of this right, you do wind up with a small nuke, smaller than before. And that would weigh under 2,200 pounds, and that, Wolf, could be carried by one of their missiles.

BLITZER: So far, Tom, their nuclear tests have produced relatively small explosions. There's a question. Doesn't that suggest they're having some problems with even basic nuclear technology?

FOREMAN: You know, a lot of us have thought that, Wolf. But now one idea that has been raised by a researcher I talked to today was maybe what they have been trying to do all along is to make a small nuke, which would have a smaller explosion, because they might say, we don't have the capability of carrying something really heavy anywhere. We need to start with something small, and more efficient.

And here's the trick of all of that. To do that, you need expertise. We had to develop that all on our own. The Russians developed it all on their own. But now that information is out there. So the question is, to what degree is North Korea getting expertise and guidance from places like Iran and Russia, where they have a lot more information, a lot more experience and a lot more scientists who have done this before?

If they're getting enough information, that could spur concerns that they may be further down this road to that very process I just described, Wolf, and they might in fact be able to have a small nuke on top of a missile going somewhere, not to the United States at this point, but somewhere, and toward a target -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's scary indeed. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman.

The secretary of state, John Kerry, he's on the Korean Peninsula right now, delivering a verbal shot across the border directed right at Kim Jong-un.

Let's bring in our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. She's the anchor of "AMANPOUR" on CNN International. Also joining us, Fareed Zakaria, who is the anchor of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Guys, listen to what Secretary Kerry said in Seoul earlier today.


KERRY: We will defend our allies. We will stand with South Korea, Japan and others against these threats, and we will defend ourselves. And Kim Jong-un needs to understand, as I think he probably does, what the outcome of a conflict would be.


BLITZER: Kerry certainly spoke tough. But President Obama has actually ordered that some of the military exercise scheduled in the region be canceled.

So, Christiane, what is the message that the Obama administration is trying to send right now, and will it work? CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, they have been sending this message from the beginning of this conflict.

It all starts around the joint exercises that the United States and South Korean militaries have been having throughout this month of April. And when things started to get really heated, sort of mid-last week, we saw that the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. administration wanted, and sent very clear signals from both the White House and the Pentagon and the State Department that they wanted to move things into a more sort of diplomatic sort of off-ramp kind of situation, because, it turned out that one provocation from North Korea was met with sort of, you know, here we can do this.

You remember the overflights, all the things the military was doing late last week. And they decided to try to ratchet that down a bit, not wanting to provoke North Korea into doing something unwise. So, yes, some of those military exercises have either been canceled or are not being done in full public view.

On the other hand, the United States has said, and Admiral Locklear said it very, very clearly, in congressional testimony, they have total plans to defend, if necessary, not just the homeland, which they do not believe will be attacked, but also the allies.

And beyond that, as everybody tries to figure out if there's any missile launch should it be responded to, Admiral Locklear was very clear in saying he would not recommend shooting down any missile if it was not, you know, targeted towards either an ally or U.S. bases in Guam.

BLITZER: Fareed, here's something that was intriguing to me. And I'm anxious to get your assessment. Secretary Kerry is not, repeat, not making one of those high-profile visits to the demilitarized zone, the DMZ between north and South Korea. It's usually a tradition for American dignitaries visiting the area, especially on his first trip as a secretary of state, to South Korea. What does this say to you?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that very clearly, Wolf, you picked up on the two things, the canceling of the military exercises, or the camouflage of the military exercises, and Kerry not going to the DMZ.

The signal is, we are not going to do anything that either advertently or inadvertently escalates this crisis. We're going to try to stay calm. We're not going to back down, but we're not going to step forward. It's a very delicate balancing act, because ultimately this is an exercise in extortion.

This is what North Korea has done several times over the past decade. This is what it's trying to do now. Remember, this is a bankrupt regime. They have, you know, essentially a war economy. The entire society is marshaled around producing for this war machine and for the palace, for the court of the Kim family, and the military junta running the place. But that doesn't tend to be enough, so they then try to extort foreign exchange in various ways by these kinds of threats. So you can't quite give in to them, and at the same time you have to take them seriously enough to reassure South Korea, to reassure Japan, and to demonstrate to the North that this is not going to work.

It's a balancing act. And I think the Obama administration is playing it reasonably well. They are trying to stay firm, but they're trying not to do anything that could needlessly, and as I say perhaps most importantly inadvertently do something.

Secretary Kerry said something interesting. He said, I think he knows what the outcome of this conflict would be, meaning if we were to begin a war, as Richard Haass said on my program, the next Korean war would be the last Korean war, because there would be no North Korea at the end of it. The regime would almost certainly collapse.

We think he's deterred, but you just want to be sure that no miscalculations occur.

BLITZER: Let's hope. All right, Fareed, Christiane, both of you, please stand by. We're going to come back to you in just a moment.

Up next, some dramatic evidence of the power of propaganda. A defector from North Korea still gets emotional when she sees images touting the country's leaders as gods.

And North Korea's mysterious first lady, the rumors and her role in her husband's regime -- all that and a lot more coming up this hour.


BLITZER: All eyes right now on North Korea, now inside a window for a possible missile launch, a launch that literally could come at any time.

The country survives on a cult of devotion to the Kim dynasty fueled by a massive propaganda machine. One defector tells us that the brainwashing begins at birth.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in the South Korean capital of Seoul right now.

Kyung, you had a chance to speak to one North Korean defector about this brainwashing. What did she tell you?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it wasn't so much what she told us, Wolf. It's what she showed us. She had not seen North Korean propaganda in 10 years. And see for yourself what happened.


LAH (voice-over): Bizarre, over the top. Welcome to the one and only television channel available in North Korea, Korean Central Television, KCTV.

To the outside world, the state-run images run from the weird and ridiculous to unbelievable and outlandish propaganda. But look what happens as Chae Young Hee watches KCTV.

"They're gods," she says, referring to North Korea's trinity, Kim Jong-un, his father and grandfather.

(on camera): But how can people think of him as a God?

(voice-over): "That's what you're taught since birth," says this defector, who escaped North Korea 10 years ago fleeing the brutal regime.

She says: "It's been a long time since I last saw this, and I feel -- I'm getting emotional. I don't know how to express this. This is not a lie. This is not an act. It's real. If anything happens, North Koreans will give up their lives. They will even jump into a fire."

(on camera): This is very powerful. Even though you left 10 years ago, this still has power over you.

(voice-over): We watch a children's show that Chae fondly remembers, the good North Korean cat defeating the South Korean rat, and a war film that depicts the North Koreans defeating Americans.

But if there's a revelation for this woman who fled North Korea so long ago, it's this.

(on camera): You didn't know Kim Jong-un. Do you feel the same love and devotion to him that you felt to Kim Jong Il just by watching this television?

"Yes, I feel the same. He looks like Kim Il-Sung. He looks exactly like his grandfather. He's the same. He's doing exactly what his grandfather and his father did."

The power of propaganda on a people, the power of a regime.


LAH: Remember, this is a woman who risked her life to get out of North Korea to escape this regime. And she's still having this response. Wolf, it is certainly a window into us understanding how North Korea can continue to exist.

BLITZER: It really is amazing when you think about it. Kyung Lah in Seoul, thank you for that report.

Let's bring back our chief international correspondent and anchor, Christiane Amanpour, also Fareed Zakaria.

Christiane, you see this love supposedly that even this defector still has for the Kim dynasty, what does it tell you about that power that that family wields over the North Korean people? AMANPOUR: Well, I think that it's infatuation.

Look, I have been there. I was in Pyongyang twice, and I went up to where the big gold statue of Kim Il-Sung, the founder, is. And people go there on special occasions. That is their pilgrimage venue. And I watched this unbelievable devotion, people prostrating themselves in front of a statue, people insisting that those of us who were not North Korean, who were visitors act very respectfully around there.

And I have watched all those television programs and I have seen some of the performances. And what I can say is that it's almost like a nation that has been infantilized. She said it very clearly, that defector, that from birth you're fed this diet of the cult of personality. In North Korea, the Kims are gods. They're not just maybe or pretending or whatever. They are considered gods.

The Day of the Sun, Kim Il-Sung's birthday, is the most important day of the year. And this is what they're fed all the time. Unless you're in a prison camp and you know what the reality is, or unless you're the elite and you have some access to outside, by and large, most of the people are cut off, and they're told that the rest of the world is against them, and they're brought up in this way.

You know what, I remember going to China, having the opportunity to visit China in the 1970s, '78, when it was really still very communist, and I went to some of these young children's training centers, table tennis, and violin, and all sorts of unbelievable things, and they, too, were full of the power of Chairman Mao, who had just recently died.

And you saw that emotion on their faces, the crying, the exertion, the, we will die for the homeland, all of that. To them, it's real.

BLITZER: Fareed, at this point in this crisis, this current crisis, do you believe Kim Jong-un really has to fire, at least fire a missile in order to keep some legitimacy with his people after this huge buildup?

ZAKARIA: I don't think he needs to do it for his people. His people are living in a vast prison camp.

I think he may have to do it for his international bargaining position, because he is, as I say, try -- running an extortion racket. By the way, I wouldn't worry too much about the brainwashing. We heard about the same things about Soviet citizens worshipping Stalin, about Chinese citizens worshiping Mao.

It fades very quickly once the apparatus of the totalitarian state is dismantled. You would be surprised at how these people who seem as though they are obedient sheep become individuals very, very quickly, and, as Christiane says, once they get to know and learn about the outside world.

The challenge we face really is what to do about a regime that is trying to essentially extract resources for itself. Edward Ludwig (ph), the strategic analyst, has an interesting argument where he says we should tell even the South Koreans to stop subsidizing the regime. The South subsidizes the regime in all kinds of ways. It sends food and fuel. It employs workers in the joint park -- by the way, all that money that is paid to the workers goes straight to the regime.

Because if we can't get an actual nonproliferation deal, if we can't get them to stop this kind of thing, you are in a sense feeding the beast. And at some point, we may want to ask ourselves -- we can't influence the Chinese. What we can do is influence ourselves, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and we say to this dictatorship, look, either you get rid of your nuclear weapons, or no money of any kind, no goodies, no fuel, nothing. The extortion racket is over.

BLITZER: Fareed Zakaria, Christiane Amanpour, guys, thanks very much.

This important note to our viewers: Please be sure to watch Christiane on her show, "AMANPOUR." It airs on CNN International. It's CNN International's foreign affairs program weekdays 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Also tune in to "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." It airs here on CNN Sundays 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Still ahead, North Korea's first lady is rarely seen, rarely heard from, if ever. We're pulling back the curtain on her secretive life and her influence.


BLITZER: Happening now: There's new information about the nuclear threat from -- North Korea's military and intelligence insider gives us his assessment.

Plus, how North Korea's children are taught to hate Americans and why they say they must kill them. It even goes on in math class.

And the woman behind North Korea's unpredictable young leader, her role, her secrets, and speculation she's given him an heir.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and this is a SITUATION ROOM special report: "The North Korean Crisis."

The secretary of state, John Kerry, is in the crisis zone right now. He's hoping to stop North Korea from going ahead with a provocative missile test.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is traveling with the secretary.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's drama in this visit by Secretary Kerry to South Korea. And he's using it to drive home a two-pronged message to Kim Jong-un.

(voice-over): Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Seoul, the South Korean capital, just 30 miles south of the demilitarized zone with North Korea. Warning the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, not to even think of launching a missile.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is a huge mistake for him to choose to do that.

DOUGHERTY: In meetings with South Korea's new president, Park Geun-Hye and the foreign minister, the U.S.-South Korea alliance was on full display.

KERRY: We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power. The United States will, if needed, defend our allies and defend ourselves.

DOUGHERTY: But even in the midst of a blistering barrage of threats from Kim Jong-un, Kerry said relations between North and South can improve, and quickly, if North Korea makes the right decisions. The U.S., he said, would engage in bilateral talks with the North if Pyongyang lives up to its international obligations and moves toward negotiations on getting rid of its nuclear weapons.

KERRY: I think we have lowered our rhetoric significantly, and we are attempting to find a way for reasonableness to prevail here.

DOUGHERTY: John Kerry also singled out China, a country he said with an enormous ability to make a difference with North Korea.

KERRY: No country in the world has as close a relationship, or as significant an impact on -- on the DPRK than China.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Saturday Kerry takes that message directly to Beijing, laying out a path to the Chinese leadership, he says, on how to defuse tension -- Wolf.


BLITZER: And Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland is joining us now. He's the top Democrat in the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee. Congressman thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: What can you tell us about this latest assessment, apparently from the Defense Intelligence Agency, that the North Koreans have apparently been able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to put it on a missile.

RUPPERSBERGER: That's not the assessment from the entire intelligence community. We have many different committees: CIA, NSA, military. And that assessment was by one agency. And even in that assessment, the fact that there was a moderate assessment that this could occur.

BLITZER: Moderate likelihood.

RUPPERSBERGER: Moderate likelihood.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is that the CIA, or other agencies -- there are 16 intelligence agencies.

RUPPERSBERGER: Sixteen intelligence agencies.

BLITZER: They may have different assessments than the DIA's assessment?

RUPPERSBERGER: It's just one assessment. And then all the intelligence comes together and then it's analyzed.

BLITZER: Is there a national intelligence estimate, though, on this specific sensitive issue?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, there have been assessments it the past. I can't get into some of the classified information. What I can say, as a result, all the intelligence comes together, and then the director of national intelligence coordinates that, General Clapper, and he clearly made the statement yesterday that that was one assessment. That is not the assessment of the intelligence committee. The secretary of state, Kerry, said that. But whatever it is, it's a serious situation.

BLITZER: How close are they, the North Koreans, to having this kind of nuclear military capability?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, they have nuclear capability.

BLITZER: We know they have the military capability. We know they have nuclear capability. The question is, can they marry a nuclear warhead on a missile?

RUPPERSBERGER: At this time our intelligence assessment is they cannot. It's very difficult to have that ballistic missile, which is really what allows them to shoot a missile somewhere, whether it's South Korea or the United States.

BLITZER: If they were to launch a missile in the next few hours, or the next few days, should the U.S. shoot it down?

RUPPERSBERGER: Of course, we need to make -- depending on where it's going, obviously.

BLITZER: Let's just say it's going anywhere.

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, that depends. You have to look at the situation as it occurs. We are standing behind South Korea 100 percent. We're going to do whatever we can do to make sure that we protect our citizens. Now, if they're testing it, that's one assessment.

BLITZER: If they're testing it, they just launch it, and let's say it's going to go into the Pacific ocean.

RUPPERSBERGER: One of the reasons that Secretary Kerry is over there now to try to tone down the situation. You have a very young leader who really does not have a lot of experience. His father made him a general two years ago, in the military. And now he is attempting to show to the world, and also to his own people, that "I'm a tough, hard leader."

Well, he doesn't realize how serious the situation is. You don't -- you don't threaten the United States of America or South Korea or our ally or anyone in that region. And if you're going to threaten, we have to be ready for anything.

The biggest difference here is that his father used to threaten a lot and then pull back. He'd threaten and pull back. Because we don't know enough about him and who he is or how he will react to certain situations. I can say this: we know that he is being advised by the same people that were advising his father. And I would hope that they understand, it's time for him to back off on what he's doing at this time. Because it's very, very serious. The consequences could be very severe.

BLITZER: so if he tests a missile in the next few days, should the U.S. shoot it down or -- or not?

RUPPERSBERGER: It all depends on where the test is, and whether it's going to affect people. But the issue here...

BLITZER: So what are the -- what are the criteria for actually intercepting and destroying...

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, it would be an assessment from the intelligence community and our military, our defense. And they've done that before. That's what the assessment is. You've got to look at the facts.

BLITZER: In other words, only shoot it down if it's heading towards a populated...

RUPPERSBERGER: I'm not making that decision. That's the assessment at the time...

BLITZER: Let it go into the water if it's going to go into the water.

RUPPERSBERGER: If it's not affecting people's lives, and it doesn't have anything to do with our ally, which is right next door. And the biggest problem is that you have South Korea with millions of people right next to the North Korean border. So every -- every day, those people are right now very concerned about this. It's like -- it's like Washington, D.C., is threatening to attack Virginia or the state of Maryland. That's -- that's what they're dealing with right now.

BLITZER: Because they have said their No. 1 enemy is Japan. There's a lot of nervousness on Japan right now. And you know the history between Japan and the Korean Peninsula during World War II.

RUPPERSBERGER: Japan is another ally. And because of what North Korea's threatening to do right now, I'm worried that Japan, South Korea, will attempt to also protect themselves by developing nuclear capabilities.

BLITZER: Are they -- do you think they're seriously thinking of doing that?

RUPPERSBERGER: I think if they think they need to do that to protect their people. But the issue is -- now is that we need to get China more involved. I think -- I hope Secretary of State Kerry, who's over in South Korea now, will bring China to the table. This is not in China's best interests. And that's what China's looking at.

BLITZER: Do you have a good sense what Kim Jong-un, this young leader of North Korea, what his end game is?

RUPPERSBERGER: That's the problem. We know what his father was like and his grandfather. But right now we're not sure where he is, who -- we think we know who's advising him. But whether or not he is just a very immature person who is attempting to show off and make all these veiled threats. And that's the problem.

We had a pattern before with the father and the grandfather. But right now we don't know this immature person. I mean, the first American he really reached out to was Rodman. The basketball player.

BLITZER: Dennis Rodman.

RUPPERSBERGER: That's right.

BLITZER: That's a strange situation.

RUPPERSBERGER: He loves -- he loves Jordan, too. Maybe we should...

BLITZER: I think Michael Jordan declined that invitation.

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I think he was wise to decline it.

BLITZER: Dutch Ruppersberger is the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee. Thanks for coming in.

RUPPERSBERGER: OK. It's good to be with you.

BLITZER: And coming up on -- coming up here on our special report, she's sometimes seen, but she's never heard from. North Korea's mysterious first lady.

Plus, a closer look at indoctrinating North Korean children, including lessons about killing Americans.


BLITZER: A very tense window is now open, and North Korea's Kim Jong-un could give the order at any time to carry out a missile test launch. His country is one of the most secretive on earth, but even by that standard, North Korea's first lady is shrouded in mystery. CNN's Anna Coren has what information we do know.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes seen, never heard. The lady in red is Comrade Ri Sol-Ju, introduced to the North Korean people as Kim Jong-un's wife last July. And seen here touring a new pleasure center, always a deferential step behind the great leader.

PHILIP YUN, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: There's very little publicly now. And I know that there were some reports that he had been married in 2009. There's speculation that he might even have a child.

COREN: Analysts say that introducing Ri Sol-Ju serves several purposes for the regime. It shows that the Kim dynasty is already thinking about its next generation. And it helps Kim Jong-un come across as more personable and connected to the people. Here, the couple tour a preschool. But at the same time it gives the 28- or 29- year-old leader an aura of maturity.

YUN: I think that announcement is sort of just for consolidating the fact that he is really a person who is of substance. And an adult who can handle whatever it is that North Korea has coming at it in the future.

COREN: Of Ri Sol-Ju's background, little is known, though some reports say she is the daughter of an academic.

The South Korean media has been rife with rumors that she is now a mother, especially after she and Kim attended a concert at which the Johnny Mathis song "When a Child is Born" was performed.

But in a country where most people struggle to avoid hunger, she has no shortage of designer outfits. In fact, she's been seen clutching what appears to be a Dior designer handbag at official outings, a brand selling for more than $1,000 south of the demilitarized zone but unattainable to nearly every citizen in her own country.

Anna Coren, CNN, Seoul.


BLITZER: A chilling culture of indoctrination. Coming up, how North Korean school children are taught to hate America and worship the Kim dynasty.


BLITZER: Indoctrinating children into the cult of the Kim dynasty. We have disturbing details of how North Korea's children are brainwashed. That's next.


BLITZER: Some of Kim Jong-un's most passionate supporters are children, taught to worship their leader and to hate America. CNN's Brian Todd is here. He's been investigating what's going on. You had a chance to speak with a man who went through all of this as a child. What did you learn?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he said that indoctrination was such a huge part of their lives as children, they thought it was all normal.

Analysts say North Korea is such a militaristic society that children march in military-style uniforms from very early ages. And the key to getting into college and getting ahead is to be part of the propaganda machine.


TODD (voice-over): A captivating sight in Pyongyang Friday: a rally staged by the Korean Children's Union. They pledge allegiance to the state and get their red scarves. At another similar event, a young lady could barely get her words out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My heart is pounding. It's my first time seeing the venerated leader, Kim Jong-un, and I am deeply touched by his love and care.

TODD (on camera): Does that look familiar to you?

DANIEL CHOI, GREW UP IN NORTH KOREA: Yes. It's what I did all the time when I was in North Korea.

TODD (voice-over): Daniel Choi grew up in North Korea's world of child indoctrination. Choi, now 24, says from as early as he can remember, he had to sing songs at school, paying homage to Kim Jong-Il and his father, the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. He often had to visit monuments in their honor and bow before them. Marching military style was routine.

Kids who failed to toe the line, he says, saw this happen to their families.

CHOI: They're sent to a farm or a very cold place.

TODD: An official with Amnesty International tells us North Korean children are taught to monitor each other. Daniel Choi says even math class involved propaganda.

CHOI: There is five Americans, American soldier in -- invade North Korea. And brave North Koreans kill them all, kill them all, the Americans. How many lived like that?

TODD: In school, Choi says, stones were used to simulate hand grenades.

CHOI: They practice. And throw how far -- how far or how little.

TODD (on camera): And that's for gym class? CHOI: Gym class. And there's targets. They make targets for American soldier.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say North Korean children are, in effect, brainwashed from time they're first cognizant. There are youth cells for the army, experts say, as well as for factories, government agencies, farms.

Analyst Gordon Flake visited a place called the Children's Model Farm in 1996.

GORDON FLAKE, ANALYST: They brought all the kids out to greet us. And they came out, again with, that kind of well-rehearsed, kind of glassy-eyed stare saying hello, hello, hello in Korean. And good- bye, good-bye, good-bye. But again in a remarkable way that there was a degree of indoctrination.

TODD: Getting the red scarf means you're in the Young Pioneer Corps. The parallels to previous dictatorships, Flake says, are startling.

FLAKE: I don't even make the comparison. It's obvious. Right? This is clearly highly indoctrinated totalitarian state where the children are tools of the state. Just like it was in Hitler. Just like it was in Stalin's -- in the Soviet Union.

TODD: Designed to get children to follow their leaders to the very end.

Choi was lucky. He was smuggled out at age 14.

CHOI: Until I escaped to -- from North Korea, I could die for them.


TODD: So what does Daniel Choi think of Kim Il-Sung and his family now? He says, quote, "Nothing special. They're ordinary men" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

Stand by. We have a moving story, a very moving story of a Korean War veteran. That's next.


BLITZER: Stand by for an emotional reunion. A U.S. Air Force veteran tracks down a woman whose life he saved when she was a girl during the Korean War. That's just ahead.


BLITZER: Here's a look at the Korean War Memorial right here in Washington on the National Mall. It's dedicated to the veterans. A wall at the memorial says, "Freedom is not free." The rising tensions between North and South Korea right now bring back a lot of painful memories of the Korean War. Many U.S. military veterans are haunted to this day. But one retired U.S. airman found a way to ease some of the pain by tracking down a young Korean girl he saved many decades ago.

CNN's Kyung Lah was there for their emotional reunion.


RICHARD CADWALLADER, KOREAN WAR VETERAN: Aircraft is strafing on -- went down through this field here.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sixty years is a lifetime ago for most of us.

CADWALLADER: My guess was it would have been right over there.

LAH: But not for Korean veteran Richard Cadwallader, who has spent every day of those past six decades thinking about this airfield.

CADWALLADER: Unbelievable.

LAH: Cadwallader was 22 years old in 1953, an enlisted airman who landed in the final year of the Korean War at a remote base on the Yellow Sea. A bloody war with heavy American casualties.

Now 82, Cadwallader to this day can't talk about what he saw, except the story of this 10-year-old girl.

CADWALLADER: We found that she was burned very badly, from her waist all the way up to the neck and right to the bottom chin. In fact, even her ear lobes appeared to be burned off.

LAH: The girl's mother carried her five miles on foot in the brutal winter to Cadwallader's base.

CADWALLADER: She stood on her feet in front of the medic during that two hours, and what's remarkable is she never shed a tear or made a sound.

LAH: Cadwallader, just an airman second class, begged the highest ranking officer he could find to airlift her to a burn unit before she died of her infections. That saved her life.

(on camera): You didn't even know her name.

CADWALLADER: I didn't know her name. Hardly even knew where she lived.

LAH: But he never forgot that brave little girl. Repeating the story again and again for 60 years, a story that made its way here to Korea.

Earlier this year the government put out this flyer nationwide, hoping to find that little girl. They found her.

(voice-over): Before national Korean media, the now elderly woman met the American veteran once again. Her name is Kim Yeun Soon, now age 72. She married and raised three children. She bears the scars of her childhood wounds and, since that day she was hurt, carried the memory of the American who saved her.

(on camera): Why you call him your American father?

(voice-over): "He's the hero who saved me," she says. "He healed me. Wouldn't you call him that, too?"

Arm's length with Cadwallader and his wife, they remember the war that never truly ended, a divided nation still in conflict today. But for this veteran, being here closed some old wounds we can't see.

CADWALLADER: The time spent over here was worth it.

LAH: The Korean War is often called the forgotten war. But it's good to know that even in war, some things are worth remembering.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Hwaseong, South Korea.


BLITZER: What a wonderful story, the way they reunited after so many decades. Thank you for your service to the United States.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on here IN THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter, @wolfblitzer. You can tweet the show, @CNNsitroom.

Thanks very much for watching. The news continues next on CNN.