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Interview with Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; Interview with South Korea's first Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. Aired 2-2:30p ET.

Aired January 18, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, my conversation with the former U.S. Defense Secretary, Ash Carter. As confidence in the United

States hits record new lows, the global challenges it faces reaches new highs. Plus, a rare show of unity. North and South Korea agree to compete

together at the winter Olympics, but what game is the North really playing?

My exclusive interview with South Korea's first Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lim Sung-nam.

Good Evening everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. It was this weekend, one year ago that Donald Trump officially

took power following his surprise election as President of the United States. The year has been a bumpy one from healthcare to Charlottesville

to media fights in the ongoing Russia investigation.

And outside the United States, it is no comment. The President is facing serious threats and any miscalculation could lead to all out war. To

discuss it all, I spoke with the former U.S. Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, who joined me here in London.


AMANPOUR: Secretary Carter, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: On the eve of President Trump potentially going to Davos, the world economic forum, they put out to global surveys saying the risk of

military conflict is rising and it will sharply rise in 2018. What do you make of that? Does that sounds right to you?

CARTER: Well I think the principle place that that may be true is along the Korean Peninsula. Elsewhere, there's certainly a lot of danger, but

it's more of continuation of the past -- where we may see - I don't consider this highly probably but you can never rule it out -- is an

incident on the Korean Peninsula, which is a tightly coiled spring, particularly the North Korean military.

It's part of their doctrine to lash out if provoked, it has been that way as long as I have been working and then therefore, whether it starts with

an incident between the North and South, whether it starts between an incident between North Korea and the United States, there's always a

possibility there. And as you know, that is a war the likes of which hasn't been seen since the last Korean War or even World War II.

AMANPOUR: We're also seeing reports of live fire and paratrooper exercises happening to sort of maybe potentially prepare for a war. We're hearing

about a bloody nose strategy where by the United States might decide to take some kind of action.

On the other hand, we see that North and South Korea seem to be getting together over The Olympic Games and they're both going to put their

athletes under a common flag, et cetera. Where are we here? Are we on the brink of war? Or is tension deflating a little bit?

CARTER: I don't think tension's deflating, but I wouldn't say we're on the brink of war yet. I have definite views based on 25 years of dealing with

the North Koreans about what might work in the diplomatic area and I understand, although I cant speak for them, that Secretary Tillerson and

Secretary Mattis are working on a form of coercion diplomacy and that may work and I certainly am in favor of trying that, and I may come - I have

some experience for what has worked and not worked in the past in that regard.

But in the meantime, and because that may not work, deterrence and defense are the first duties that I would have if I were still Secretary of Defense

-- and so you do see these exercises in which our troops are preparing and planning. We train against a number of contingencies, but we certainly have

to train against the North Korean contingency and I'm not surprised to see that.

And I think if it's important if there is a real prospect of something going wrong there, we need to be ready. So deterrence and defense have to

come first. But there is a chance that negotiations could lead somewhere and I think that chance needs to be pursued.

AMANPOUR: China said at a recent meeting in Canada where the Secretaries of Defense were gathered, that in the North Korean realm and in the Pacific

realm, the United States is acting with a Cold War mentality. And you know, you've got all these countries saying these things about the United

States but the very countries that the U.S. kind of needs to help solve, certainly with North Korea, can China do more?

CARTER: Well, China likes to use that line, but with respect to North Korea, the reality is that Chin and again, I've been at this for a long

time and take note the Chinese about it -- has never really come through in curbing the North Korean behavior and there are reasons for that -- that I


However, I think to pin too much hope on that is unrealistic. I think that the North Koreans pay attention first and foremost to the United States.

[14:05:00] Particularly as regards to our military capabilities. Now, I'm very please to see the progress between the North and South, including the

Olympics decision to march in together, which they've done before.

And all of that is good because it reduces the probability that something extraneous like an incident on the DMZ, or the sinking of a ship like the

Cheonan of a few years ago, can -- will lead everybody inadvertently into war. But it's not going to do anything about changing North Korea's

behavior fundamentally, only the United States I think can do that.

AMANPOUR: Just a quick thing about the Olympics, apparently they have or intelligence have seen plans maybe afoot in Pyongyang or somewhere there

for a big military parade on the eve of the Olympics, which is sort of Pyongyang speaking out of both sides of its face. Would you be surprised?

CARTER: No, I wouldn't be surprised at all, they will use this as the best theater they can; on the one hand making nice to Seoul and on the other

hang, standing strong -- including to the United States. That is entirely predictable. That doesn't make it a bad thing that North and South are

dealing with each other.

But at the end of the day, the only thing that has worked historically, and this has only been for short times, but it has worked for short times over

history, has been when the United States, South Korea, Japan - which we can never leave out of the equation, that part of the world and China -- has

marshaled their carrots and sticks into one pile and used it intentionally with respect to North Korea.

We have sticks; we have very few carrots, because we're not prepared to do anything for North Korea. And the Chinese on the other hand have a wider

mixture as do the South Koreans and the Japanese. When we've put that all together and gotten all those instruments in a strategy of step by step

coercive diplomacy, that worked.

I saw it worked in the 1990's twice, I know that during the Bush administration, also around the 2005, 2006 period, it worked for a short

period of time and it may work now and I certainly hope that that's what my successors are doing.

AMANPOUR: As we talk, Turkey, a NATO ally of United States is threatening to take military action because the United States has decided to support a

defense force there which Turkey calls a terror force. Help us through this, who's right and who's wrong?

CARTER: Well, we needed to protect ourselves and we needed to defeat ISIS, we did that. Our way of doing that strategically was to enable local

forces to defeat ISIS because that is necessary to have a lasting defeat. If we just go in and do it ourselves, we can do that, but then somebody's

got to govern that place and our experience has been that that is a very difficult thing to pull off when you're right in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: And that ticked off Turkey.

CARTER: Well that lead us therefore to find, indentify and train and equip and help those who are willing to fight ISIS on our behalf. Some of them

are kurds who are associated with a group which has conducted terrorist operations in Turkey. So to that extend, Turkey does have a point. At the

same time, we have a point.

We had to protect ourselves and now we have to sustain the victory and that means letting the people who live there rule in a way that is better than

ISIS ruling. Now, these kurds actually live there, so the idea that they should govern is I think unassailable. I think we do owe it to Turkey, as

a NATO ally, to make sure that - to the extent we can - that those kurds that are part of that Syrian force that we'd help (ph) don't turn their

means against Turkey.

Which after all is a NATO friend and a NATO ally, although in recent years, Erdogan has been very different form other Turkish leaders in my

professional lifetime which goes back a long time, when Turkey was really a solid and stalwart ally.

AMANPOUR: Now I want to put your former cabinet secretary hat on and explain to the world and to Americans what do you think is going on in the

United States, there's a lot of rumbling right now. First and foremost, what if the government shut down and how do you account for what President

Trump is saying? You know, they're going to devastate the military and it's the democrats fault, and all the rest of it. Address that


[14:10:00] CARTER: We have had gridlock in Washington for eight years. For almost every year that I was in the Department of Defense over the last

decade, we didn't get a budget. Congress passes regulations for the Department of Defense, but they don't pass a budget for the Department -

and that's just the Department of Defense. And what does that mean? It induces such instability and uncertainty. Let me give you a few examples

and waste - let me give you an example of waste

If you don't know whether you're going to get a budget and you're a program manager responsible for getting some service provided, you may have to

enter into a six month contract rather than a year long contract for that service. We all know that you pay more for a short term - you know anybody

that has a phone plan knows that you pay more for a short term than for a long term.

So our program managers are driven to do things that are inefficient. I'm just talking about the Department of Defense. I believe Christiane, that

national strength and our future depends upon Defense spending. Don't get me wrong I - but I also believe it depends upon education, science and

engineering funding, funding for the rest of government.

The State Department, law enforcement, the FBI, Homeland Security, infrastructure -- all of these things are part of our future, and if we

don't have a budget the federal government can't act on any of that.

AMANPOUR: So you mentioned the State Department. I wonder what you tell your international counterparts when you're traveling now, when you've you

know going here, there, everywhere as you are right now. What do you say to them when we see reports that 60 percent of the State Department's top

ranking career diplomats have left?

CARTER: I don't say much about the U.S. State Department when I'm overseas. I don't represent the State Department or know -

AMANPOUR: Surely people must ask you what's going on.


CARTER: -- they tell me, because they observe themselves. They say that their colleagues are dispirited. There is no ambassador in this place or

that. They have not been able to get a meeting with anybody in the U.S. government in the State Department to discuss a matter of diplomatic

consequence. I know from my colleagues who've served in the State Department, including at the highest levels there, that they are worried

about the brain drain here.

Remember you accumulate, and of course in the State Department career, very deep knowledge of many parts of the world. You know people, you know how -

and you can work America's interests because you know a place and you know the people. We have interests that we need served and we need

professionals who can do it. You know my wife always says when somebody says, well we don't need Washington people. She always says Ash, if I'm

sick get me somebody with a medical degree. If I'm in jail, get me a lawyer. So if you're in - if you diplomacy, you need diplomats and I think

it's quite concerning. I do not understand. In human talent management -- it's so - building talent takes so much time and losing talent can happen overnight.

And so if your in talent management, any cabinet member is, in - I mean huge preoccupation of mine was were we going to have a quality all

volunteer force and - we have to work at that. It's a free country, people can do what ever they want. And if you want the best you need to work at

and can you can lose it so quickly. I am concerned about that.

AMANPOUR: There's basically a new survey, a poll from overseas, and it says the view of American leadership is at the lowest level. Gallop says

30 percent approve of American leadership, which is a drop of 20 points since Obama's final years. I mean that's not just a vanity poll or

popularity poll, that's something that surely affects the national security of the United States or the ability of the U.S. to operate.

CARTER: Well one of the ways we get what we want is by getting people to share our views. Power is important also and as a former Secretary of

Defense, that was extremely important to me, and that was my responsibility. But I also recognize that another way of getting what you

want is getting other people to want what you want. That requires a kind of attractive nature to it.

And so I think if we want to be able to understand against despotism in North Korea, repression of the internet and basically communist economic

practices and any competitive practices in China. Hacking of our election by Russia, invasion of Ukraine by Russia. All of these things, it's

important that we have those who are willing to stand with us and that we retain our attractive nature.

[14:15:00] CARTER: So, I hope we don't lose that in the future. It's been a - it's been not only something I've been extremely proud of but I think

it's a source of national strength.

I always, in closing, Christiane on that, I used to tell our troops that I always heard from foreign leaders how much they liked working with the U.S.

military. And I'd say that isn't only because of how awesomely capable you are, but it is also because they like what you stand for. They like the

way you behave, the way you conduct yourself, that you are decent and respectful to them. Those are sources of strength, as well, and I think we

need to be careful about shepherding them as much as we shepherd our military strength.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Carter, thanks so much for joining us.

CARTER: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And now my next guest is Lim Sung-nam. He's South Korea's first Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and he's joining me amid promising signs

of a diplomatic thaw on the Korean Peninsula. Peace talks between North and South Korea, the first in two years, produced an agreement for the two

countries to march together under one flag at the Winter Olympics next month.

The direct talks seem to mark a split with the White House. President Trump says, I'm not sure sitting down will solve the problem but as the

U.S. make contingency plans for war the South Korean government believes they have to make the most of the opportunity to talk.

Now, Lim Sung-nam joins me from New York. Mr. Vice Minister, welcome to the program. Can I -

LIM SUNG-NAM, SOUTH KOREA, VICE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thank you. Thank you for having me on again.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's good to talk to you again. And, of course, your issue is perhaps the most important issue. Let me ask you first whether

you agree with Secretary Carter that one of the - or the biggest concern in a year that may show a rising risk of conflict is on your peninsula. Do

you believe that?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I'm sure North Korea will be one of the biggest security concerns for the year 2018 but I believe we are in a better shape than

before because we are now taking advantage of the opening in the inter- Korean relationship by having the North Koreans come to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and at the same time engaging in North Korea for the inter-

Korean dialog.

AMANPOUR: So, when I describe as sort of a promising thaw is that correct? Am I going too far? Do you think there is an actual diplomatic, military,

political thaw beyond marching together and competing at the Olympics?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I'm sure the inter-Korean dialog we are having right now with the North Koreans will contribute to creating an environment conducive

to further progress in the inter-Korean relationship. But at the same time we believe we should not be too hasty in reaching any kind of a conclusion

regarding where we can go at the end of the day.

AMANPOUR: So, you also heard Ash Carter say that he supports the current administrations version of and plans for coercive diplomacy. Does that

meld with the South Korean position?

SUNG-NAM: Well, again, as Ash Carter has pointed out, I believe the defense and deterrence are the major pillar in playing the game -- vis-a-

vis North Korea right now. But the other game plan is the engagement and dialog in which we will be pursuing from now on.

AMANPOUR: So, we asked, also, what game is North Korea playing? Let's go back to the extraordinary moment on New Year's Day when the North Korean

leader, Kim Jong-un, gave this speech and offered that new - that - sorry, that olive branch to South Korea while also saying that he had a nuclear

button on his table.

And then, of course, you had President Trump's response about having a bigger nuclear button. Take us back to there, what was going on in the

Foreign Ministry when you heard Kim Jong-un speech?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I think Kim Jong-un's speech can be read from many different perspectives, but number one, he was putting a lot of emphasis

upon the importance of economic prosperity. And number two, after so many years of silence in the intra-Korean relationship he was offering the talks

between the South and the North.

And he was also making it clear the intention to come to Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. So all in all, we believe that the speech made by the young

leader in Pyongyang was a signal to Korea, as well as the international community, that they are interested in talks.

AMANPOUR: So, just give us your best assessments. Do you believe that the, you know, pretty hard line the United States has taken and even the

very colorful tweets that President Trump has used, including a number of insults to Kim Jong-un and they've been flying back and forth between both


[14:20:00] Do you think in a way, this kind of new dynamic forced this speech on New Year's day? Do you think that could have played any part in


SUNG-NAM: Well, when we had a discussion about this issue with our American counterparts, we have made it very clear that the strong alliance

between Seoul and Washington has been helping a lot, the situation to go in the right direction. I'm sure when Pyongyandg makes the kind of

announcement as made by the leader in the beginning of this year, they must have looked at all dimensions related with the current situation, including

the cost they are paying because of sanctions in place.

AMANPOUR: All right, so you think they're sort of taking it onboard, in a way. Can I ask you about the recently concluded summit in Vancouver? It

was South Korea, the United States, Canada, obviously, and many, many of your allies who supported you and fought alongside you during the Korean

War. But, of course, Russia and China were not invited. And yet, they're pretty instrumental to a solution. What did you achieve in Vancouver?

And do you think that those two countries should have been at the table?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I think the Vancouver meeting has sent a very balanced signal to Pyongyang. Number one, it has clearly indicated a willingness of

the international community to keep the sanctions in place, until the moment when Pyongyang makes the right decision about their nuclear and

missile programs.

But on the other hand, the Vancouver meeting also signaled to Pyongyang very clearly that the eventual purpose of exerting sanctions and pressure

upon Pyongyang is in bringing Pyongyang to the denuclearization talks. And everybody who was around the table in Vancouver was interested in the

diplomatic solution of the issue at hand. And I'm sure, while Moscow and Beijing were not around the table in Vancouver, they must have paid

attention to those balanced messages out of the meeting.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know President Trump in an interview this week has accused Moscow of actually helping North Korea skirt these sanctions. Is

that something you believe is happening? Is that what Moscow's doing?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I'm sure the implementation of the U.N. Security Council sanctions is not in 100 percent perfect shape. There might be some

loopholes; there might be areas we can do more. Perhaps the Russian cooperation might be needed from that kind of perspective.

AMANPOUR: So that's a diplomatic way of saying, Russia should stop undermining the global pressure?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I would rather say Russia should be more forthcoming in terms of implementing the sanctions.

AMANPOUR: Got it, all right. So everybody wants to know whether this sort of Olympic thaw, this sort of Olympic spring, if you would like, is going

to last beyond the Olympics. Do you think this momentum between your two countries has legs beyond the games?

SUNG-NAM: Well, I should tell you an English saying that goes; a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We just began to talk with

North Koreans, and it might be too early to reach any kind of conclusion like the one you just presented.

AMANPOUR: All right. So it's still -- that's still a work in progress because as you know, your Japanese counterparts say, beware the north, you

know, trying to sort of cozy up while just trying to buy time for their inevitable program.

SUNG-NAM: Well, there can be many ways of looking at the North Korean intentions, but if we look at this situation very objectively, as I

indicated at the beginning of the program, the security situation on the Korean peninsula might be in a slightly better shape, say, than about a

month ago, because we just have begun to engage the North Koreans in a dialogue.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's really important, and everybody clearly is very concerned about what happens, and what transpires. Particularly the people

of Hawaii, not so long ago, I mean, what did you think? What went through your mind when you saw this false alert and people in Hawaii, you know,

diving for cover just about. And former Defense Secretary William Perry wrote, it highlighted an emphatically genuine risk that human error or

technological failure or some fatal combination of both could result in a horrific nuclear catastrophe.

SUNG-NAM: Well, I think what happened in Hawaii clearly shows the danger posed by the North Korean nuclear programs. But at the same time, I'm

happy to know that through the inter-Korean dialogue, we have been able to revive the line of communication between the South and the North, which

has been severed for a long time.

[14:25:00] So once again, keeping the line of communication open and having them engage in dialogue will be essential in restoring the peace and

stability on the Korean Peninsula at the end of the day.

AMANPOUR: And I guess finally, what do you expect the mood to be at the Olympics, the mood amongst South Koreans and others when the North Koreans

come in, when they march under the unified flag? And I ask, because there's a big uproar, as you know, in your country already by uniting the

hockey team. Some of the South Korean hockey professionals say that's just going to dilute your country's ability to be the best.

SUNG-NAM: Well, there can be once again many voices free and open society like Korea, but I would like to remind you what happened in the early 1970s

between Thailand and the United States. It was through the ping pong games through which the Chinese and Americans could have laid the foundation for

the normalization of the relationship; so sporting event could be a very useful opportunity for the two Koreas to engage in a process of

reconciliation down the road.

AMANPOUR: Well that was the last word, and that was a very, very good last word. Minister Lim Sung-nam, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

SUN-NAM: Thank you for having me on again. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you and good luck to you. That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always listen our podcast and see us online at, and of course, follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.