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North Korean leader visits China ahead of Trump meeting; Russia warns of retaliations after expulsions. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, mystery solved as China confirmed that North Korea's leader did make a surprise trip to Beijing

this week to discuss denuclearization. Stephen Hadley, national security advisor to President George W. Bush, on what signal that sends ahead of

President Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un.

Also ahead, Russia caught up in a diplomatic crisis as yet more countries kick out its officials and caught up in a terrible national tragedy at the

same time, the mall fire that killed scores in Siberia. Was corruption to blame? Former Russian member of parliament Sergey Markov joins me from

Moscow tonight.

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

Now, the winds of war have been blowing after months of brinkmanship between North Korea's Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. But

diplomacy now seems to have a bit more of a chance, with Kim leading the charge.

He popped up in China this week, his first venture out of his country since taking power in 2011. China, of course, is his main ally. And leaders

there say Kim committed to denuclearization and to summit meetings with the United States as well as South Korea.

So, does this all seem too good to be true and how will the appointment of a hardline new Trump foreign policy team, including the notoriously hawkish

John Bolton, impact the negotiations?

This was the new national security advisor's view just last month. "It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to North Korea's

nuclear weapons by striking first."

So, what next? The world literally is waiting with baited breath. Stephen Hadley knows all about the challenges of serving as president's most senior

foreign policy advisor because, for four years, he was the national security advisor to President George W. Bush. And he's joining me now

from Washington.

Mr. Hadley, welcome to the program.

STEPHEN HADLEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Nice to be here. So, let's sort of start at the beginning.

First and foremost, what do you make of this sort of last-minute surprise visit by Kim Jong-un to China? What's the strategic picture around that


HADLEY: Well, for China, it's very important because, in some sense, President Trump's willingness to meet with Kim Jong-un had the effect of

sidelining China a little bit. This puts China centrally back into the picture because they, of course, have real interest in how this dispute

gets resolved.

Kim Jong-un, it does another thing, it shows that even though China joined with the United States and other countries in adopting UN Security Council

resolutions that China is still Kim Jong-un's ally.

And finally, both meeting with President Xi and the forthcoming meeting with President Trump does something for Kim Jong-un. It puts him on the

same level of two of the world's great - leaders of two great countries.

So, it serves a lot of purposes all around.

AMANPOUR: Would you agree, as I sort of intimated in the lead in to you, that actually Kim has been leading this diplomatic charge, Kim Jong-un?

HADLEY: In some sense, I think that's right. When he met with the South Koreans and the South Koreans came to say to President Trump that he had an

offer from Kim Jong-un to meet, that was a real initiative.

And President Trump flexibly and quickly responded and said he was willing to meet. That has really transformed the landscape in terms of how - what

are the options for resolving this issue short of war.

AMANPOUR: So, it looks like these meetings, first with the South Korean president and then with President Trump, are going to happen. And I spoke

to a previous - actually, he worked during the Bush administration, nuclear negotiator, North Korean negotiator, Ambassador Chris Hill.

And he said the following about what would be the optimum and the most negative aspects of any such meeting between the US and North Korean

leaders. Just take a listen for a moment.


CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: I think success has to deal with denuclearization. And I think if Kim Jong-un repeats that he's

prepared to give up his nuclear weapons, but he needs to have some assurances and he's prepared to sit down with the Americans on those

assurances, that's probably something that we can sell.

Success would not be Kim Jong-un saying you've got to get those troops out of South Korea and the president saying, good idea, we'll do that. That

would be a disaster.


[14:05:01] AMANPOUR: So, do you agree with that and do you worry that that disaster scenario or the even the success scenario might be somewhat in


I mean, look, the president doesn't have a confirmed secretary of state or those officials that normally would do the leg work are not there in the

State Department and he's got a new national security advisor coming in. Where do you see pitfalls, if any?

HADLEY: Well, I think Kim Jong-un is not going to go to the meeting with President Trump unless he's prepared to talk about denuclearization

because, if he shows up at the meeting with President Trump and says, look, denuclearization is off the table, that's an invitation, if you will, for

some military action. I don't think Kim Jong-un wants that.

But just because he's willing to talk about denuclearization is only the start of the issue. He needs to talk about it. He needs to agree to it.

And then, he needs to carry through on any agreement that is made.

And remember, we've been down this road twice before. The Clinton administration had an agreement for denuclearization with North Korea in

1994. They got out. The North Koreans did not stay in that agreement. Same with the agreements that the Bush administration reached in 2005 and


So, this is - we're early on in this play, really in the opening act.

AMANPOUR: So, what do you think Kim's version of denuclearization looks like? Is it precisely what the United States and the Western allies want,

which is as a matter of settlement to get nuclear weapons off the Korean Peninsula?

And, particularly what Chris Hill said, if he's willing to talk about denuclearization, should the United States be willing to offer some kind of

security guarantee?

HADLEY: That's been on the table really for a long time. If you look at the agreement that was reached September 19, 2005, that was really the

package. Complete denuclearization of the peninsula, North Korea gives up any prospect for nuclear weapons in return - willingness to negotiate a

peace treaty to replace the armistice, so there would be a permanent peace arrangement on the peninsula, recognition by the US government and some

kind of economic assistance. That's always been the elements of the package because security assurances to North Korea is the cover that North

Korea needs in order to give up its nuclear capability.

And then, would the United States agree to give up its exercises, its presence and isn't that actually what China wants?

HADLEY: Well, China, of course, is not happy that the confrontation on the Korean Peninsula is bringing the United States more actively militarily

into the region. That is not something that China wants.

But the focus needs to be on denuclearization. The United States in the early 1990s took its nuclear weapons off the peninsula. South Korea has

pledged that it will not develop nuclear weapons.

So, the southern part of the peninsula is already denuclearized. The northern part of the peninsula needs to be denuclearized. That's the


AMANPOUR: Look, you mentioned two previous agreements. One, the agreed framework under President Clinton, and then the others you mentioned during

President Bush's administration and you were there.

"The New York Times" has written that no one worked harder to scuffle the agreed framework than John Bolton, the incoming national security advisor.

He doesn't like these agreements. He thinks that they're for sissies. And he said, as I told you, as I read to you, "The Wall Street Journal", saying

that it's perfectly legitimate for the US to strike first if there is nuclear weapons in North Korea.

I guess, how does he walk that stuff back, if he does? Or is there now going to be some real friction within the administration?

HADLEY: He walks it back the same way President Trump has walked it back. A lot of bellicose rhetoric. Remember, President Trump at one point said

to Secretary Tillerson, don't talk to the North Koreans, save your breath, it's not going anywhere, negotiations won't work. And yet, he turns on a

dime and is willing now to meet with Kim Jong-un.

In some sense, the bellicose statements that John Bolton has made enhances the strategy of the Trump administration which is to make it clear that

President Trump is willing to act to prevent North Korea to be able to threaten the United States with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic


That threat is what got China's attention to pressure North Korea, is what got North Korea's attention in order to suspend its program and be willing

to have a conversation with President Trump.

[14:10:07] So, in some sense, John Bolton's statements strengthen the leverage that the Trump administration has been seeking in order to set the

table for seeking some resolution to this crisis.

AMANPOUR: So, let me challenge you a little bit on that last part because I spoke to the South Korean president's national security advisor or his

key advisor in that regard who said that, actually, he didn't think it was President Trump's bellicose record, but it was President Trump's backing of

South Korea's desire for diplomacy with North Korea and allowing South Korea to see whether this might produce something.

Remember, famously, President Trump called the South Korean president an appeaser in this regard and I just want to ask you because it's a bit

concerning. Chris Wylie, who, as you know, is the whistleblower on Cambridge Analytica, to the fact that John Bolton had this super PAC, was

one of the first to work with Cambridge Analytica.

He said that Bolton wanted to do this, and let me play it to you and then we'll talk about it.


CHRIS WYLIE, WHISTLEBLOWER: The thesis of the PAC was that America and Americans have become too limp-wristed as it were and that, in order for

America to maintain its place in the world, John Bolton and his PAC wanted Americans to feel more militaristic in their world view.


AMANPOUR: I mean, that's really fascinating. I've never heard of that kind of data being used for that. We hear about elections and how to

micro-target, but to actually affect people's views on national security? Again, you're not worried about that?

HADLEY: Look, John is a very smart, very experienced, a skilled bureaucratic player. He's very hawkish in his views. He pushed during the

negotiations we had in the Bush administration, for our negotiators to take a stronger line, to get a tougher agreement.

I'm sure John will be pushing that here as well. And I think John understands that in order to give North Korea and China some incentives to

cooperate, we need to show there is credible military options.

Remember, General McMaster, who John is replacing, also was out very publicly about saying, yes, we have credible military options that we could

use if we cannot solve this diplomatically.

I think this was a way by the Trump administration to set the table for the president to try to get to this moment. There are risks involved in that.

We will have to see how it plays out. But for the moment, they have opened the door on a diplomatic option and we'll have to see where that goes.

AMANPOUR: Well, the reason I'm pressing is because it's, obviously, so crucial. But, remember, you just said that John Bolton affected the Bush

administration's negotiations with North Korea, you think in a positive way. Others will say, the Bush ministration thought it was tough that it

could throw out the agreed framework, which led North Korea to throw out the NPT, the IAEA and basically get to where it is now with nuclear devices

and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

And now, we have John Bolton and President Bush and Mike Pompeo not liking the Iran deal. So, in your view, at this time, what if the Iran deal is -

or the US pulls out in May as President Trump is on his way to meet with Kim Jong-un?

HADLEY: Remember, Christiane, the thing that derailed the agreed framework was that we learned in 2001 and 2002 that North Korea was cheating on that

agreement and actually had a covert enrichment program that gave it another path to a nuclear weapon. That was really the problem.

The Iran deal, look, there are a lot of - you can have a lot of criticism of the Iran deal, but the issue really now is, is it in America's interest

to pull out of that deal at this point. And the question really would be what would be the consequence for something that John Bolton and President

Trump have said they want to do, which is to get our allies to pressure Iran to maybe extend the duration of the Iran nuclear agreement to rein in

its nuclear - its ballistic missile program and to rein in its disruptive activities in the region.

We need our allies if we're going to achieve that objective. The question is if the administration pulls out of the nuclear agreement, can you really

rally the allies to that outcome or will they, in fact, abandon us and stay with the Iranians and maintain that agreement.

AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. And it's very crucial at the moment to know which that outcome will be.

Finally, if I could just ask you to turn to Russia, with this crisis and with president trump having expelled more than 60 diplomats and all these

other countries doing the same, does this signal a change in President Trump's view of Russia right now and of some of the negative aspects of its

international behavior or is it just a one-off in regards to this poisoning attempt that the Russians deny?

[14:15:15] HADLEY: We will have to see. My bet is probably it's more of a one-off. What the Russians did in the United Kingdom was so brazen in

terms of poisoning a man and his daughter and the need to show solidarity with the United Kingdom was so strong that I think the Trump administration

had to take this action.

And, remember, this kind of tit for tat expulsions of diplomats who are really spies masquerading as diplomats is a kind of a well-crafted art. We

expel, they expel. Generally, people then call it quits and call it even. I think that's what we're seeing play out.

AMANPOUR: Well, we're going to ask our next guest, but in the meantime, Stephen Hadley, thank you so much for joining us from Washington.

So, of course, the diplomatic expulsions come at a time also of national tragedy in Russia. The country is holding a day of mourning after a lethal

fire swept through a shopping mall 2,000 miles away from Moscow in Siberia. That happened on Sunday.

And authorities say 64 people have died; 41 of them are children. The details are shocking. Officials say fire exits were blocked and an alarm

system was turned off.

Citing incompetence and corruption, thousands of angry mourners and protesters are demanding a full investigation.

And President Putin has called it criminal negligence and he promises to punish those responsible, although some of the anger over the blaze has

been directed at the Kremlin itself.

So, what next in Moscow? Sergei Markov is a former Russian member of parliament and he joins me from there live this evening. Mr. Markov,

welcome to the program.

First, if I might, just talk about these expulsion before I get to the tragedy that you're all undergoing. You heard what Stephen Hadley said,

the former national security adviser, that this tit for tat may have now put a full stop on it, but is Moscow going to retaliate for these

expulsions? It's been threatening to do so and yet we've heard nothing yet.

SERGEI MARKOV, FORMER MP, UNITED RUSSIA: I think most countries will respond by expelling same number of diplomat from western countries. It's

absolutely clear.

But I think this month's deal (ph) not about diplomats. It's, first of all, Western coalition try to acclaim Russian authorities responsible for

using chemical weaponry on the streets of big London, which Salisbury is.

I think it's a very dangerous development because, on one hand, we could see that Theresa May has no effect. Secondly, British government clear

violated convention about chemical weaponry because according to those condition there are some specific procedure which British government should

follow too.

And British government denied to do it and sharply violated such convention. What for? Just for blaming Russian government without any


And we're seeing that Theresa May probably manipulated by British intelligence service community by same way as Collin Powell, as we

remember, had been manipulated by American intelligence service community during the provocation in the Security Council of United Nation before the

Iraq war.

So, those cases had been used for starting Iraq war, but what now? Do we really believe that Russia has something like Iraq? You really want to do

what, to attack Russia? So, it's a very dangerous development. But also, what we'll see is that (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, I don't think anybody is talking about attacking Russia, but certainly Theresa May has called this basically an attack on a

sovereign state. So, they're very concerned about how they're pursuing the investigation.

But I just want to know where you think it's going to end. I mean, is it just going to be an endless tit for tat or how is one going to get out of

this diplomatically? Or do you think relations are forever harmed?

MARKOV: I think the pressure on Vladimir Putin and Russia will continue next six years. And main demands will be that Vladimir Putin, when he will

leave his position of Russian president, should allow to somebody more friendly to the West to take this position next.

[14:20:16] So, six years of the ice war as people called it right now. It's very dangerous. Also, during these three months (INAUDIBLE) because

this will be before the football world champion and we're afraid that a Kiev repressive ultra-nationalistic regime will start the war on Donbass in

Ukraine again and then a probably Western coalition would set out the ultimatum for Russia.

If Russia support Russians on Donbass and threaten boycott to the football world champion or if Russia want to conduct such, they should give up

Russians on Donbass (INAUDIBLE) repressive regime to terrorize those who are uprising on Donbass. So, it's dangerous.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Markov, you do raise some pretty fiery and scary sort of pictures there. By Donbass, you mean, a part of Eastern Ukraine and you're

talking about the upcoming World Cup in Russia.

But can I just change because, obviously, your state television and your government continues to deny what happened in Britain and they've been

really all day every day whipping up sort of western phobia if you like, but they haven't really been able to over the last 24 hours or so because

of a big tragedy in your country.

It's always a tragedy this kind of thing. But, right now, it comes right after President Putin's election. There are lots of protests. People are

citing and complaining about gross negligence, including the president himself. What do you have to say as to what's the likely cause of this

fire in Siberia?

MARKOV: I think now Russian society is shocked by such a mess and irresponsibility of the officials. And we have to accept that the level of

corruption, especially on the middle level, is very high.

And now, all malls, shopping malls, now controlling by (INAUDIBLE) and also by a group of activists. We believe that Russia should change itself

dramatically and very clearly - we need to have more law and more order in our country to save ourselves.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Markov, let me just press you on that because Russia apparently does have some of the most stringent regulations for fire safety

and it has an army of enforcers, people who are meant to be enforcing these fire regulations.

And yet, it has one of the world's worst fire records. So, you've got laws. What do you think you really need if it's not working out? I mean,

you seem to have the laws and the personnel, and yet we hear, at least these are the reports, that the fire exits were illegally blocked and

locked and that there was a faulty, not working fire alarm?

MARKOV: Yes, exactly. I think the system, that's a wrong system which we have, something like this. Regulation agencies come to the business with

so strong regulator demands that such business cannot (INAUDIBLE).

And as a result, they organize corruption deals between the (INAUDIBLE). And because of corruption deal, regulation agency already don't control the

things which they must control.

And this system should be broken. This system should be changed. A lot of regulation agency doesn't follow the law. They have specifically making

very strong regulation demands for the agonizing corruption situation.

AMANPOUR: And how do you propose this to change? I mean, it's one of the main complaints about Russia today and people point to the president

himself not taking a strong enough hand to stamp this out?

[14:25:00] MARKOV: I think people don't point to Vladimir Putin on the very small and unpopular group, but people are very angry and now we will

have big discussion in society of how it should be changed.

One of the position which is now discussed is that maybe we should ask ourselves, maybe we should change ourselves because we use small bribes on

every day basis. We have small bribe with car police, we have small bribe with some in the education system and other things.

The corruption became too accepted by society. We should change our moral attitude toward corruption. Maybe it's main result, main conclusion which

should be made from such tragedy.

We should change this regulation agencies. Maybe they should have more salaries. And as a result, less motivation for the corruption.

AMANPOUR: All right. On that note, Sergei Markov, former MP there in Moscow, thank you so much for joining us.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at and follow me on Facebook and


Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.