CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Bill Richardson
Date: Dec. 20, 2010
Location: Unknown

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GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, potentially, I believe there's always a credibility problem with the North Koreans. But in my discussions with them, intensive discussions, after they did their propaganda and their points of view, there was more flexibility. Their tone was more positive, as if they realized they'd gone into the precipice with their very negative actions, like the shooting of the civilians and sinking of the ship, that maybe this was the time to stop that activity and reach out.

And I believe that was involved in the decision to not respond militarily. I pressed them not to. I said, here's a great opportunity for you. And then the discussions we had on allowing the IAEA monitors to come in on the purchase of the fuel rods.

So, maybe this is an opportunity, a chapter in which the six- party countries can reach out to North Korea and say, OK, you have got to stop this bad activity. Now you have shown a little statesmanlike activity. Now we're ready to talk. Let's talk. Let's get rid of your nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: Take us behind the scenes. You met with the vice president of North Korea, the vice minister for foreign affairs, the chief nuclear negotiator. You met with Major General Pak Rim Su, the chief of the North Korean army, at the DMZ. And you probably met with more North Korean officials than any other U.S. official. You're here as a private citizen.

Did they seem different in their attitude towards you now, as opposed to earlier occasions?

RICHARDSON: They seemed different.

Yes, they gave their speeches, why they are they are, and the -- Kim Il-Sung and the leadership here. But there was some flexibility. Their tone was different. They seemed to realize that they had maybe gone too far, and now was a time to reach out.

We got every meeting that we wanted. The proposals that I made were dealt with favorably on the IAEA, on the fuel rods, on the -- the military commission to monitor some of the activities on the West Sea. So I noticed a better tone, flexibility. I noticed them wanting to reach back.

BLITZER: What did they say about President Obama, the Obama administration?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, of course, they have got some concerns.

But there were several comments about how they like the president personally, that he -- he was somebody that was symbolically for the United States a great image. But they're somehow right now at a point where they feel that they have been isolated, not just by the United States, but by the six-party countries, rightly so, I believe, because of their activities, what they did.

But, somehow, I believe they have made a decision to open up, to reengage. Now, the devil's in the details. They have got to show deeds and not just words. But I think their action of not responding militarily, of reaching out on some of these issues that are so important to South Korea, to the United States, gives us an opportunity.

You know, the U.S. stood with South Korea. Their policy was firm. The six-party countries have been participating, I think constructively, at the U.N. Security Council, urging restraint. Maybe now is the time for the six-party countries to reach out to North Korea and say, OK, let's get down to business, be credible, be serious, no games anymore, and let's negotiate the end of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much.

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