Return to Transcripts main page


Japan Urges Maximum Pressure on North Korea; Could Harvey's Damage Been Avoided; Diplomacy at Work

Aired September 4, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, enough is enough says the United States, as it calls for the strongest sanctions possible against

Kim Jong-un's growing nuclear arsenal.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: His abuse of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war.


AMANPOUR: And high stakes indeed for the region, Japan's U.N. ambassador joins us.

Also ahead, Houston reopens for business says the mayor. But could Harvey's devastation have been avoided?

We ask the global flooding expert Henk Ovink who helped keep the Netherlands high and dry.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

United in condemnation, but still split on what to do next. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting after North Korea's

latest and most powerful nuclear test yet.

One after another, diplomats denounced Sunday's test to what Pyongyang claims was a hydrogen bomb capable of fitting onto an ICBM. Some of the

strongest words coming from the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley.


HALEY: For more than 20 years, the Security Council has taken actions against North Korea's nuclear program. And for more than 20 years, North

Korea has defied our collective voice. Enough is enough. We have taken an incremental approach and despite the best of intentions, it has not worked.


AMANPOUR: And today South Korea's military conducted live fire drills simulating a strike to wipe out North Korea's nuclear test site. And

Pyongyang's timing was aimed potentially at humiliating China's President Xi Jinping.

The test came while he was hosting Russia's President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the so-called BRICS bloc, which means all diplomatic eyes are

now on Xi to see whether he will significantly tighten the screws on North Korea.

There is high anxiety and alarm in the region, and Japan's ambassador to the U.N. called on the Security Council to authorize all diplomatic means

necessary to deter Pyongyang.


KORO BESSHO, JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: We should make it clear that continuation of the current policy will bring about serious

consequences. We must put maximum pressure on North Korea to change its policies.


AMANPOUR: Just seven days ago, North Korea fired mid-range missile over Japan.

Ambassador Koro Bessho joins us live now from the United Nations.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, welcome to the program. This is an incredibly tense moment, obviously, and you are right in the line of fire.

What is it that you can do? What do you think will happen next after this unanimous condemnation today?

BESSHO: Well, condemnation is one thing. I hope that the North Koreans will hear it loud and clear. But at the same time, I think it's very

important that the international community unite to act so that North Koreans will feel the pressure, feel the heat of the international

community, saying no to their nuclear development.

AMANPOUR: But ambassador --


BESSHO: And I think what is -- sorry. No, I was going to say that what's immediately necessary is to have a very strong resolution, new resolution

for the sanctions.

AMANPOUR: You know, I was going to say, what is another resolution and more sanctions going to do? As yet, they have not change North Korea's


BESSHO: Well, I think what ambassador Nikki Haley was saying in the video you show, we have been incremental, and whatever we have been doing has not

really had enough impact so far, perhaps. But I think it's very important that since last year, the Security Council has become very clear in their

demands that no financial flows, no resources will flow into North Korea to allow them to develop nuclear arsenal.

So this time I think there are things which we should look at in terms initially so that they won't be having these resources that are necessary

to continue with the development.

So, apparently, the South Korean president and the president of Russia discussed cutting off North Korea's crude oil supplies and cutting off

sources for foreign currency. So they are having these talks.

I want to know what you make of yesterday's very somber, very direct message from the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, outside the White

House. This is what he said about U.S. allies in the region.


[14:05:00] JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan

from any attack, and our commitments among the allies are iron-clad.


AMANPOUR: Does that reassure you? Because obviously, there has been back and forth over this very issue throughout, you know, Donald Trump's

administration and before he became elected.

BESSHO: Well, the leaders of Japan and the United States, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe have been contacting each other very, very


They have had two telephone calls yesterday. I think there is a very strong feeling that we have very good bonds. And we do appreciate

President Trump saying that every option is on the table. We feel that our alliance is very secure and very strong. And it is very good to have this


AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about one of your neighbors in the region. China, obviously, is considered the country with the most leverage over

North Korea.

How do you assess the timing of Kim Jong-un's firing of this test yesterday, as we pointed out, and do you think it will provoke President Xi

to take tougher action than he has already?

BESSHO: Well, I can't assess what the North Koreans were thinking when they timed it. But in the past, they have tried to time it so that it is

embarrassing to other big nations. China, of course; United States sometimes.

I think the important thing is that the international community unite the Chinese. The Russians needs to be on board. Anything that we do, United

States, Korea and Japan are closely working together, but we do need China and Russia together. And so we hope that the situation is ripe to make a

very strong move forward.

And, obviously, we're looking at the militarization of the region because of all of this. I mean, your own country, you had that missile flown over

Hokkaido about nine days ago. There is a whole debate going on about whether there is going to be more emphasis on the military. Of course, the

pacifists don't like that at all.

Your prime minister called, you know, North Korea's threat most grave and imminent.

How is this going to play out in your own country?

BESSHO: Well, obviously, what the Japanese government want and what the Japanese people are very strongly behind the government about is to get the

North Koreans to denuclearize and not to militarize ourselves. I think that seems very clear.

We do our best to defend ourselves. We have very good relations with the United States alliance. But, obviously, I don't think there is any doubt

that we will be militarizing in the sense that would be of a menace to any other country.

AMANPOUR: Perhaps go for greater self defense. Ambassador Bessho, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And now to drill down further into the details of what's happened in North Korea, and as to whether there is a possibility of a denuclearization, we

turn to Ernest Moniz. He was President Obama's energy secretary, and he helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal. He also, of course, is a nuclear

physicist and he's joining me now from Boston.


AMANPOUR: Secretary Moniz, welcome to the program.

You just heard the Japanese ambassador, and you heard the continued hope that North Korea will denuclearize. Do you actually think that's viable

now that they have the goods?

ERNEST MONIZ, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: I think we have to stay the course on looking to North Korea to denuclearize. To be honest, I don

think it's going to happen quickly and easily. I don't think sanctions alone will lead to that end result.

The sanctions, I think, have always proved in other contexts to be very important. I would take the Iran context, for example, as one in which

sanctions were important, forgetting the serious discussions going. And I think that's what we need in North Korea.

I think we do need the sanctions to be tightened, to bring North Korea to a sensible negotiating position, shall we say. But, ultimately, I just don't

see a solution without having an effective multilateral set of discussions as we had with Iran; perhaps a structure similar to how that multilateral

negotiation was held. But most important, I think, is that we need to broaden the discussion beyond nuclear weapons.

[14:10:03] I believe it's a mistake in the North Korean case to focus only on nuclear weapons as opposed to the overall national security needs,

national security posture of North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and of course U.S. and Russian interest common there as well.

But I frankly do not think that we had re-look in a coherent way at the overall security posture within which I believe we can eventually solve the

nuclear weapons challenge.

AMANPOUR: So just to drill down on this solution, we've all been mentioning the Iran nuclear deal and some of -- like Chancellor Merkel have

held it up as a model.

But let's not forget that Iran didn't actually didn't have nuclear weapons. They had a different issue. North Korea clearly does.

Is it really viable to pressure them into anything now, or does it have to go to some kind of containment ala cold war style with the USSR?

MONIZ: I think the issue you raise with Iran, Christiane, is absolutely correct. That's why in the Iranian case, by the way, as we have discussed

previously, I argue that narrowing to the nuclear issue for the negotiation was the right choice. But it is not the right choice, I believe, the North

Korean case, precisely because they have nuclear weapons. And that's why it's the overall security posture.

Now, in terms of deterrence and containment, if that's the option, there is no question that we have very, very strong deterrence capacity. Obviously,

if it came to a military confrontation which would be -- others have said, including, I believe, General Mattis -- Secretary Mattis have said there is

no good military option, but if -- because there would be tremendous destruction not only in North Korea, but certainly in South Korea, as well.

But, nevertheless, we clearly have the capability as has been emphasized in the last day to -- to win any such conflict. And, frankly, we would not

need nuclear weapons to do so.

But -- and also, I want to point out North Korea had and unfortunately still has a very strong deterrent, even without nuclear weapons. That is

the artillery fire they could bring on to Seoul would be extraordinarily destructive.

So, look, I think in the meantime, we have this standoff. But I think the pathway is clearly tightened the screws, but look for the multilateral

discussions and negotiations that ultimately will lead to the abandonment of the nuclear option in North Korea in return clearly for sound security

environment for all in that region. And, presumably, ultimately, the development of their very, very poor economy and bringing help to their

people, obviously, who are suffering greatly.

AMANPOUR: We've got a little bit of time left. I've got two more questions to ask you.

How do you assess the red line, i.e., what is the actual threat that General Mattis -- Secretary Mattis referred to. If there is a threat, he

said that there would be a massive and overwhelming response.

What does that mean? Another ICBM test as is now being rumored. Where do you see that line?

MONIZ: Well, I cannot say what Secretary Mattis meant in that case. And I'm not one that's very enthusiastic about drawing these lines. I believe

more in the soft-speaking and big stick approach of a president from some time ago.

But I do want to emphasize, you know, I have to say that yesterday's nuclear test, obviously, it's a great concern. But I do want to emphasize,

it does not establish the statement made necessarily that they have the capability to actually deliver such a weapon on a long-range missile,

number one.

And number two, qualitatively, they already had demonstrated their ability with nuclear explosives. So, to me, I'm reluctant to have an overreaction

to yesterday's event as opposed to keep turning up the pressure, as I say, and get into discussions that can actually resolve the security environment

in that part of the world.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Moniz, thank you so much. And as an expert, a nuclear physicist, you have just also confirmed some of the questions about whether

or not that's a real deliverable nuclear weapon right now. We'll wait to see how it plays out.

Secretary Moniz, thanks for joining us from Boston.

MONIZ: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, how to prevent a natural disaster.

In Hurricane Harvey's wake, could the world's only super power get some answers from a tiny nation that works with floodwaters? We talked to the

global expert. That's next.


[14:16:40] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

One week, dozens of deaths, billions of dollars, and 27 trillion gallons of water. That's the toll on Texas, which is trying now to recover as the

waters of hurricane Harvey recede.

Around 30,000 people need temporary shelter amid fears of toxic waste churning through the floods. It is not just America, either. From Africa

to Southeast Asia, thousands have been killed by rains and extreme weather recently. At one point, about a third of Bangladesh was under water.

So how to prevent it when we can?

Joining me now with answers is the Dutch innovator Henk Ovink who has faced the raging waters and he's won.


AMANPOUR: Thanks for joining us again Henk Ovink. Welcome to the program.

Let me just start by asking you from your vantage point, what did you think when you saw the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, especially on


HENK OVINK, SPECIAL ENVOY FOR INTERNATIONAL WATER AFFAIRS, THE NETHERLANDS: It's, of course, terrible when you see such a disaster happening, and we

saw it coming. The satellite images and the floods and the rain and the wind and the sewage along the Texas coast. And then it stopped on the

coast near Houston. And it rained and it rained and rained.

So first response is, well, this is messy.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, given that it was seen coming -- given that, you know, there's been, you know, Sandy and Katrina and so many others. Could

anything have been done differently? Could any of -- and I don't just mean the last moment. Any sort of planning, any sort of infrastructure?

OVINK: Yes, of course. And it's three things we have to take into account as a world. Not only as Texas or Houston, but also in the Netherlands, in

Bangladesh, as you said.

First, we have to protect ourselves with dams, dikes and levees, natural solutions, any type of measurement.

Second, we have to plan our cities for the future. For those uncertainties that come with climate change.

More extremes will hit us harder and more severe. We have to plan our cities for that.

And, third, response.

Now in the United States, you would see the last one being there, a collective effort to help when the disaster happens. But that' not the way

to go. We should not respond to the disasters that happen to us. We have to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future. And that's exactly what

could have been done differently, but now after the disaster, we should focus on it.

AMANPOUR: So give us a few actual concrete examples of what should have been in terms of infrastructure done differently?

OVINK: Well, Houston is a city that is only hard in surface. There is no capacity to hold any rain, and especially not in these amounts.

If you look at the riverine system, it's totally urbanized or channelled up. So there is no room for the river to actually hold more excessive

rains. And then there is no calamity story or flood capacity in the inland system. So without any measurement at depth level, you're in trouble.

[14:20:00] If you look at the coastline of Texas and we've done studies with (INAUDIBLE) and other research institute like Deltares in the

Netherlands and engineering firms like our Arcadis and Royal Haskoning on how to enforce the coastline with natural barriers and increasing those

barriers, but nothing is in place.

So on protection as well as in storing the water and holding it and letting it go in a better flow, then only having this massive amount, this is one.

The other, of course, is critical infrastructure in your hospitals, your emergency shelters, your energy supply. They're all in vulnerable places,

and therefore hit first and hardest. And then the system breaks up. Your city breaks up.

And I have to say the latter, too, poor people live in poor places all over the world. You see it again happening in Houston, where the most

vulnerable are not only hit hardest because they're in the worst place, they will also have the hardest time to get back on their feet.

AMANPOUR: You're absolutely right. It's always them who pay the heaviest and the hardest price.

It's a little interesting what you say, though, about the concrete, the organization, the inability for water to move and find a different level

other than rising. You've talked about big parks that could act as reservoirs in these situations.

I guess my question is, you know, you've been preaching this for a long time. We've seen the extremes of the weather. We have seen the

hurricanes, the floods.

Do you get a feeling that around the world people are taking it more seriously or not?

OVINK: Yes, I actually think so at the Paris Climate Agreement. In 2015, climate adaptation are preparedness for these future extremes. What's half

of the agenda. That was the first time. And the world agreed on the Paris agreement to move this forward.

Second, as you mentioned in the intro, also the flooding in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a country where we as the Netherlands, but also the

international community works closely with.

And Bangladesh now is much better prepared for floods coming in from the sea as well as rain events. They are not there yet, but it's top and

center of their agenda.

And, third, we work around the world. This is really about collective effort. We need to collaborate.

Also, one of the reasons why the Netherlands will host as of next year a global center of excellence on climate adaptation to not show off, but to

work with the world to invent new ideas and new projects and to get the funding in place and the collaboration and the governance to ensure that

the world is safer tomorrow than it is today. We are not fit for the future, but we can be.


AMANPOUR: Well, that is alarming, not fit for the future. And we thank you for keep pushing and fighting the good fight.


AMANPOUR: From the Netherlands, Hank Ovink, thank you so much.

And when we come back, we return to North Korea. As the U.N. Security Council calls for more diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang, we

imagine an earlier crisis when it was job, job and not war, war.

My rare trip into North Korea's nuclear reactor as it was being disabled. That's next.


[14:25:00] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the most delicate diplomacy, even with the most intractable foe, can work. At least

for a while.

Ten years ago, the Bush administration managed to talk down Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. And through an extraordinary diplomatic window, I

visited the Yongbyon nuclear plant.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): We are 60 miles outside the capitol, Pyongyang, driving down a long, bumpy road on the way to a tightly-shuttered outpost

at the center of worldwide controversy.

(on camera): Thank you for having us. We're very interested to see what's going on here.

(voice-over): This is the top secret Yongbyon nuclear plant, where North Korea used to make energy, and has made plutonium for nuclear weapons.

(on camera): May we? OK.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): This is the last place we thought the North Koreans would ever let us film, but they want to make a point to CNN and to the


(on camera): It's black as anything in there. It's scary as hell.

(voice-over): In February, 2007, North Korea agreed to disable Yongbyon in exchange for fuel oil, trade, and being removed from the U.S. list of state

sponsors of terrorism.

(on-camera): Is it strange for you to have press here?

(voice-over): Though some might call this a carefully choreographed show - - the heart has been removed and only the shell remains -- the tour appeared to be a sincere effort to prove that they have shut the plant


(on-camera): How long do you think it will take to get all the fuel rods out?

(voice-over): U.S. technicians helping North Korea disable its main Yongbyon nuclear facility help us suit up for a rare tour of the reactor.

Here, 1,600 nuclear fuel rods have been neutralized under six meters of now freezing water, in the so-called fuel rod pond.

Walking around Yongbyon, officials show us what's been disabled since the plant was shut off last summer. And this is the reprocessing plant, where

plutonium is extracted from the fuel rods.

(on-camera): Plutonium that can be used for weapons. "Yes, it can," the chief engineer tells us.

But today it, too, has been disabled. Parts have been taken out, stored and wrapped in plastic.


AMANPOUR: And a couple of months later, I returned to watch more progress. Yongbyon's cooling tower being finally blown up by the North Koreans

themselves under the eye of American expert observers.

A couple of years later, this progress all stalled, and the rest, of course, is history as we are witnessing today. But it is a reminder of

what serious, tough negotiating can achieve.

That is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.