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Interview With U.N. Under-Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman; Interview with Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 15, 2017 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, my conversation with the highest level western official to visit North Korea in six years as Kim
Jong-un makes giant leaps with his nuclear program. Plus, she is still the first and only U.S. Secretary of State to have held talks with
(inaudible). Madeline Albright joins the show.
Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London with the global perspective. President Trump's tweets have given us
a glimpse of how he views the world, but when it comes to the big picture, much is a mystery. On Monday that will change when the president plans to
unveil his long-awaited national security strategy. It will likely identify global threats and rogue regimes. No doubt, high on that list,
North Korea. Few outsiders ever get into North Korea, let alone speak to officials at the highest level. The U.N.'s Political Affairs Chief Jeffrey
Feltman is just back from Pyongyang from what he calls the most important mission he's ever undertaken. Feltman has also served in the U.S.
Government as assistant secretary of state, and he joined me from the U.N.
Undersecretary General Feltman, welcome to the program.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, U.N. UNDER-SECRETARY GENERAL: Thank you
AMANPOUR: So you have just come back from Pyongyang, the first high-level UN official Western official in years and years. Have you come back
reassured? Is the threat of war or an accidental conflict with North Korea off the table now?
FELTMAN: Christiane, I went to Pyongyang concerned about the situation, and I returned from Pyongyang concerned about the situation. I had the
opportunity, the time, the space to really convey our messages of concern, of alarm, our insistence on the importance of U.N. Security Council
resolutions. But whether or not this message will have an impact, I think; only time will tell. The situation is very, very dangerous and I hope that
my hosts understand how risky the current direction is.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Feltman, I hear some coded language that you hope your (inaudible) understand how dangerous the situation is. Let me just quote
what you have been quoted as saying behind closed doors, briefing about your trip, that you're deeply worried by the North Korean response and the
lack of urgency in Pyongyang to address the dangerous crisis. I mean, what made you worried? What did the foreign minister say to you?
FELTMAN: Well, again, these are the first policy dialogues we've had - in depth policy dialogues in nearly eight --- in nearly eight years. So,
don't want to draw too many conclusions from one series of meetings. We had more than 15 hours of discussions between the DPRK delegation and the
U.N. delegation which, again, gave us the opportunity to explain why we were so concerned, to emphasize the importance of full implementation of
the Security Council resolutions.
Where we agree is on the need to prevent war. But what concerned me was the reliance of the DPRK hosts solely on deterrence, meaning their military
programs. Whereas we see the prevention of war as depending on a lot of things, including implementation of the Security Council resolutions,
addressing the concerns of the international community about the nuclear missile program and starting to open some kind of channel of communications
at a technical level that can prevent, you know, any incidence from turning into, you know an accidental war.
AMANPOUR: Jeffrey Feltman, did you get what they think of the United States policy, for instance, what they think of Rex Tillerson saying, as he
did this week, that they are open to negotiations with preconditions, and then to see the White House sort of slap that down and say, no, our policy
hasn't changed. Do you get a sense that they know what's coming at them from the west?
FELTMAN: I'm a bit concerned, Christiane, that they don't not simply a United States concern. They are quite focused, at least based on the
discussions I had, it seems as though they're quite focused on the statements from Washington, on the policy as they interpret it from
But one of the purposes of the secretary-general sending me to Pyongyang was to make sure that they understood the concerns extend far beyond
Washington or Seoul or Tokyo, that neighbor and traditional friends of the DPRK share the same concerns about the direction of events on the Korean
peninsula. That the Security Council resolutions are passed, unanimously, that that's a signal to them that they don't only need to be addressing
concerns with Washington, they need to be thinking about the overall alarm of the international community in their refusal to abide by the Security
AMANPOUR: You must of got a sense from them that they don't intend to give it up. I'm going ask you out now; did they give you any sense that there
was any diplomatic route that would lead them to deem you denuclearization as the whole world demands?
FELTMAN: It's a topic that I kept trying to go around from all sorts of directions, Christiane, and I think that, at least, in terms of long term
aspirations they understand that there has to be peaceful denuclearization of the, of the Korean Peninsula. That there has to be some kind of
arrangement that's based on, that's based on a diplomatic solution.
I mean, even the Security Council resolutions that they don't like, always talk about the need for a political, diplomatic, peaceful solution to the
security challenges of the Korean Peninsula. But they also kept sighting the lack of trust and that the lack of trust in in in their mind meant that
they had to rely on deterrents, meaning military deterrents rather than on the diplomatic dialog in in the short term.
AMANPOUR: What was going to give them more of a feeling of trust? What could happen?
FELTMAN: Well, you know, they've -- they've talked publically about what they describe as hostile US policy. They need to see a change in hostile
US policy and so we tried to explore that. Exactly what does that mean? What would, what signals would they would they be would they be looking
But I'm really concerned, Christiane, you've got a lack of any kind of viable communication at the technical level. You know, there's no military
to military talks across the the thirtieth parallel. There's a lot, there's no trust right now and there's nuclear and military development
that defy Security Council resolutions. This is a really dangerous combination.
So we're really trying to emphasis the need to move in a different way. Comply with the Security Council resolutions. Open up some kind of of of
technical channels that would, that would prevent the risk of war. I'm -- I'm reminded of that, that recent book that came out by the historian,
Christopher Clark, about World War I, you know, The Sleepwalkers. I'm really worried about a accidental move toward conflict given the overall
the overall refusal to comply with the Security Council. And the lack of trust, the lack of communication, the high risk of some kind of some kind
AMANPOUR: Now we're seeing the Security Council area behind you, so there's obviously still a lot of diplomacy trying to make itself work.
But, you know, you talk about the sleepwalkers, the UN Secretary General today warned against the risk of sleepwalking in to conflict. And the
North Koreans started to get very exercised, telling the United States that they must stop their blockade or their planned blockade. And that the
United States seemed to bent on going to war. Does anybody know what they're talking about? Is there a blockade planned?
FELTMAN: I'm not aware of what of of the what the US or other members states, you know, measures they're planning are but I'm very aware of the
unity of the Security Council. You know, the North Koreans talked a lot about the need for deterrents because of the lack of trust. Well
deterrents is enhanced by some kind dialog.
If you look at the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, there were always channels that were open of some kind of communication to
to defuse potential, to potential crisis. And I think that we need to, we need to be encouraging the DPRK officials to reopen the types of channels
that they closed in 2009. But that's within the context of continuing to push for the full implementation of the Security Council resolutions.
AMANPOUR: And lastly, while the feed behind you changes to the UN logo let me ask you, Secretary General, you keep talking about their insistence on
deterrents and your insistence, the worlds insistence on following the UN Security Council resolution and denuclearization. The former the CIA
Director, Michael Haden, says of course this will be difficult, but I think the very, very sad truth is, that it's his judgment it would be more
dangerous to prevent North Korea from getting to the state than it would be for us to try and cope with North Korea in that state. What do you think
FELTMAN: Well, I mean, Christiane, I'm a I'm a UN Secretary official, I'm the other Secretary General for political affairs, I am guided by the
Security Council resolutions which have a clear aim of peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And my host didn't reject that
over as a long term goal. But they would continue to repeat the fact that right now that they need the deterrent that their program provides.
FELTMAN: What encouraged me, was the seriousness in which they treated our discussions. You know, I've been in many diplomatic meetings where one
side of the table, or maybe both sides of the table, simply read talking points and give long monologues to each other that that repeat well known
positions or politics in vitriol.
That's not what happened. They listed extremely carefully to the points that we were making over over the four and a half days that we were in
Pyongyang. I'm not saying that they accepted everything that we said. I don't know if they'll accept anything that we said. But they gave us a
fair hearing about why the international community was so alarmed. About why they have an obligation under the charter to abide by the Security
Council resolutions, but defiance more than simply a legal matter of the UN charter.
That is a matter of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula that they start moving in a different direction. They gave us the time and the space
to go over a lot of different ideas, it wasn't simply a a passing back and forth of real talking points. And that's one thing that I found to be
constructive. Whether or not the trip was successful, I don't know only the long term will say. But I think it was a constructive engagement that
we were able to have when we were in Pyongyang.
AMANPOUR: Well, that is kind of an encouraging note to end on. But can I also ask you in that regard then, will you keep the North Korea channel
open? I mean, there is a North Korean Ambassador at the UN; you have been meeting with him. Is that a channel that you can use as as you go forward?
FELTMAN: I mean, we met, he and I met earlier, a couple of hours ago, in order to compare notes about the trip. He's, he was there as part of the
delegation. He stayed afterwards, helped prepare the reports to the senior leadership about the trip. So he and I compared notes today about our
impressions, about what might happen, what we might do later.
I mean, we are available, we in the UN are available for whatever the party would think would be helpful. I'm not pretending that we're miracle
workers. I'm not pretending that suddenly UN mediations is going to be able to resolve what's a very, very serious issue of nuclear (ph) of (ph)
security on the Korean Peninsula. But whatever we can do to lower tentions, we will try.
We have impartiality of the organization; we have channels to all parties in the talks. We're a voice for peace and I think we can contribute a
conducive atmosphere for a time when talks can resume. Talks with a purpose can resume. So I I want us to remain available to play any kind of
role but I can't speculate right now what exactly that might be.
AMANPOUR: Well, we wish you luck because it really is such a difficult and dangerous crisis. On the Secretary General, Jeffrey Feltman, thanks for
FELTMAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now my next guest is in a unique position to discuss North Korea. Madeleine Albright is still the first and only US Secretary of
State to ever visit the country. And to have held direct talks with it's leader. In a trip that she made, in the year 2000, this week, she sat down
with me to talk about President Trump's handling of the crisis and is shifting policy on Russia, Syria and climate change.
In the second part of our conversation, we drill down on North Korea. And whether President Trump's hopes that China can step in and save the day. A
well founded or misplace? Secretary Albright, welcome to the program.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Let's take the really biggest crisis, at least, as far as I can see right now on the world stage and that is the North Korean crisis. The
potential for some blundering into a wall, military intervention, or the very fact that North Korea has such an advance nuclear weapons program. I
was stunned to read today that certain Chinese villages and towns near the boarder, are starting to set or start the process of building refugee
camps, just in case there is an excites of North Koreans across their border.
I mean, what is your sort of weather vane say? How worried are you that this actually could descend into a very bad way?
ALBRIGHT: Well I, I am worried that it could in another way, which is that there will be an accident that happens between the North Koreans and
the Americans who are there and in terms of these exercises, and planes flying, and another of different aspects of it. I do think that the
Chinese keep wanting to stress this issue about refugees. I was in a very interesting discussion recently where somebody said, it's more likely that
the North Koreans might want to go to South Korea, where the language is the same and where they would be respected. Not in the way that the
Chinese are dealing with them.
ALBRIGHT: But I think people are concerned generally about instability in a very important part or the world, and that the United States is not, to
go back to your original question, is not as fully engaged as it should be. And that sees, that talks, that everything has to be a zero sub game, that
we are not fully aware of what our responsibilities are in the region.
AMANPOUR: You know, we sort of seen this kind of seesawing in recent history between the United States and North Korea. You are still the only
sitting U.S. official who's visited Pyongyang, you met with Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader. Under President Clinton, there was this
thing called the agreed frame work which tried to control their nuclear ambitions.
And then came President Bush, who though he could get a better deal. And apparently President Obama told President Trump that North Korea would be
the biggest challenge on his foreign policy agenda. Give us an idea, to skeptical people, of where diplomacy has ever led the United States with
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think all of us could have dealt with North Korea or studied it since the end of World War II, know that this has been an
incredible difficult problem. There's no question about it. And I think that nobody should really underestimate how difficult this truly is and
that it goes back and forth. I think, I am very ready to say that we were, at the end of the Clinton administration, in a position where we had begun
to talk to them about their missile limits. And by the way, when we left office, the North Koreans did not have (ph) material, did not have nuclear
weapons, or ICBMs.
And we were in the middle of talks, and I think that it's unfortunate that the Bush administration did not follow those talks. But I do think that it
is a difficult situation and diplomacy might work, by the way, what is interesting is the Under Secretary General of the United Nations, Jeff
Feltman, has just been there as a U.N. envoy. I think that multi-lateral diplomacy also has a role in this and that we can't give up, in term of
using the diplomatic tool or the economic tool of sanctions. Or frankly, that it is important that we have a deterred force out there in order to
show what all is in the tool box.
AMANPOUR: The President seems to put everything on China, seems to really believe that only China can fix this for the world and for the United
States. And in fact, he has said, I'm very disappointed in China. They do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We'll no longer allow this to
continue. China could easily solve the problem. Can it?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we do believe, and I do, that the Chinese have the greatest influence on North Korea. There are those who will tell
all of us that the Chinese don't have as much influence as we think. But they clearly have more influence than most of us on China because they do
provide an awful lot of the fuel that serves their economy and allows them to move forward.
But that doesn't mean that it's the Chinese alone. The truth is, I believe that the United States really does have a role in this. And I know from my
own experience, by the way, I'm still the highest level sitting official to have ever gone to Pyongyang to meet with a leader. And I know how
important it is, for them to have some contact with the United States.
And if there's nothing, it's not a gift to talk to another country; diplomacy is a tool and very important one in the national security tool
box. The Chinese have to be a part of this, but so do the Japanese and the South Koreans, and Americans, in some way to try and help solve, what I
agree with you, is a very very dangerous situation.
AMANPOUR: I've been told by intelligence and security people here in the United Kingdom that, while the US and China are talking a lot about North
Korea, they appear to have different agendas talking past each other. For the United States, it's all about North Korea I'm told. For China, it's
all about keeping the United States at bay, reducing the US presence, especially military presence, in that area. Does that ring true to you?
ALBRIGHT: I do think that the Chinese have made clear that they do not want to have an overwhelming American presence. And they don't like the
fact that the South Koreans are wanting to deploy a defense mechanism, or that we do towards exercises with the South Koreans or that Americans are
in South Korea. But I, they are much more interested in in having a larger influential role in that part of Asia. But it doesn't mean that we are
totally talking past each other.
I do think, we do have different interests and as you know, there're many times that we do cooperate with countries that have a slightly different
interest and you do try to get others involved in statecraft to try to get some solution to a difficult problem.
And the Chinese are part of it. I think that part of the Christiane is that they believe that all we want to see is a collapse of North Korea and
they are afraid about a lot of refugees coming into China and they do not want to see a reunified North Korea with the Americans coming up close to
their borders. So we do have a somewhat different approach to this.
AMANPOUR: You mentioned China when we first started to talk just now and you mentioned that China seems to be seeing an opportunity to fill a
leadership gap vacuum in the Pacific area. Is that really the case? I mean hasn't China always been reluctant to step into the world leadership
ALBRIGHT: It's very interesting that you say that because I was at the United Nations at the time where the Chinese were reluctant to step into a
leadership role and they didn't want to discuss anything unless it had something to do with interference in internal affairs.
And so one of the issues was when China was actually going to be more involved regionally in the issues that affect it. I think the opposite has
happened now. The Chinese are working to fill that vacuum whether it's President Xi at Davos where he starts talking about climate change and
Where they are talking about one belt one road where they in fact are making inroads in a lot of economic ways all over the world in the Middle
East. And I've just come from Latin America and talked to a number of leaders there and basically also the Chinese are investing in a number of
places and being very involved.
So I think they are very deliberately moving forward and filling the vacuum. This is not an accident China is rising or has risen and they are
working to fill that vacuum.
AMANPOUR: And to play the devils advocate certainly to you who believed in American global leadership, if China becomes the global superpower the
dominant player on the world stage. Why is that bad? I mean is that good does it take a lot of burden away from the United States, what does a China
led world look like?
ALBRIGHT: Let me say I don't think that the United States should be leading the world alone. I believe in partnership and there's nothing about
the world a you know that we are -- that we really do want to lead the world alone. I do think that it does harm American interests when in fact;
there is a huge power that has different views on issues in terms of what kind of a democratic or economic model.
It has, I would welcome partnership with the Chinese and other powers. I think that's the way it ought to work, but the United States as the
indispensable nation and by the way, there's nothing in the word indispensable. It says alone, but that it's better to do things in
partnership so when the Chinese take a larger role at the U.N. and provide more peacekeepers.
I think that's a positive aspect when they try to keep us out of somewhere, or where we are not, because we're not engaged I think then that lessons
Americans influence and power.
AMANPOUR: And you talk about people who need to know what they're doing and -- and you know diplomatic work that really does work. Now what do you
make than of Jerusalem, the issue that President Trump has now put on the table in a way that took the world by surprise.
Obviously I ask you because during the Clinton administration there was a so called peace and prosperity (year), there was an active Middle East
peace process and it looked like it was going places. What do you think this statement on Jerusalem means? I mean there is no peace process right
now to make any difference?
ALBRIGHT: Well I think it does make a difference. First of all, again just to prove the point that diplomacy is difficult and things take a long time.
The issue of Jerusalem has been central to the peace process for very long time. But it is been seen as a final status issue, and I know that when we
were at Camp David in the summer of 2000, there were all kinds of ideas about what could be done about Jerusalem and who would have sovereignty and
we even talked about divine sovereignty for the holy places and tried a number of different ways to look at the issue.
It is in so many ways not only final but central to the issue and so for President Trump to just kind of say that he was going to do something that
undermined the overall approach to this I think was a --one could say it's a surprise because but he had talked about it but I think it really
disrupts the issue and we have no idea what the peace process is.
And I think that there a real questions and as you interviewed Saeb Erekat from the Palestinian authority I think you saw how they are taking it and
also that it does provoke very difficult feelings within the region its self.
So I think it is not helpful in any shape or form but it would be interesting to know whether there is any peace process out there that is
out there in the heads of the Trump administration, again carried out by people who actually have some background on the issue.
AMANPOUR: Madeleine Albright thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ALBRIGHT: Great to be with you, Good luck.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can listen to our podcast at any time see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on
Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.