hello. i'm wolf blitzer. 1:00 p.m. in washington. wherever you're watching from around the world, thank very much for joining us. following breaking news. the stakes in the north korea nuclear crisis just got higher. the "washington post" now reporting, quoting u.s. intelligence officials as having concluded that pyongyang is already making missile-ready
nuclear weapons. immediately going to our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. barbara, this would be a major, major breakthrough in north korea's nuclear capability if they had miniaturized these nuclear bombs so they could fit on these intercontinental ballistic missiles? >> reporter: that is absolutely right, wolf. the "washington post" reporting a short time ago, and let me quote from them -- north korea "has successfully produce add miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles." so why is this so important? because this is one of the key steps that north korea's been trying to achieve and the u.s. has been trying to determine if they've made it. miniaturizing a warhead, putting it inside a missile, means that you do have a functioning warhead that can be delivered, fired, a great distance on a missile. so now we're beginning to see the whole package coming together.
intercontinental ballistic missiles that can fire at targets some 5,000 miles away. potentially attack the u.s. guidance systems, targeting. still have a lot of work to do on that, and the warhead on the front end. that miniaturized warhead that would have to be small and light enough to be inside a missile. there are technical challenges ahead for the north koreans. they need to work by all accounts on their targeting, and in specifically on what's calmed re-entry. when you fire one of these ballistic missiles you fire it high into the atmosphere. it comes back down. it reenters. its under tremendous heat and pressure. you have to have a missile, a front stage and a warhead that can survive all of that heat, and that can be directed to a specific target. so there's -- a lot to be considered here that the north
koreas may still have to accomplish. but make no mistake. no one is entirely sure the north koreans are too fussed about worries about any of that. they have a rigorous, aggressive test program for their weapons. the question now, perhaps, is kim jong-un's motivation in the coming weeks and months. is he on the path that he claims he's on to try and attack the west? is he looking basically to have all of this as a card to hold over the head of the west and get some sanctions relief? get some type of incentives that he wants? the problem for the president of the united states is, there's no way around it. this is now a nuclear threat. the threat that president trump and presidents before him have said they would not allow to happen. wolf? >> and if this were not enough and clearly, this is a major development. if this were not enough, barbara, the "washington post" also reporting now, citing this
new defense intelligence agency assessment. beyond the miniaturized nuclear warheads, they're now suggesting that north korea may already have, according to the "washington post," up to 60 nuclear weapons now controlled by the north korean leader kim jong-un. 60 nuclear bombs is a lot more than many of the earlier estimates had put forward. >> reporter: it is. it is a number that is higher than we had generally been told about. obviously, quite classified. i think that the most important thing to say right now is, one can only assume the u.s. intelligence community does not have absolute centrtainty about any of this. all of this is an assessment and has been for years. north korea, of course, extremely closed. it doesn't let outsiders in. they are said to be getting help from the russians and the
chinese. they may not what's going on, but the u.s. relies on satellite intelligence, overhead imagery, radar emissions, electronic emissions in the air, that it might be able to pick up from radars or other test equipment. the infrared signals coming, infrared images coming from areas that may be very warm compared to the atmosphere, because there's testing or activity going on there. the u.s. for years has been in a position of putting the bits and pieces of the puzzle together. and making assumptions. and the u.s. military, you know, we always talked about these options on the table. one of the reasons the u.s. military has the options on the stable for this very reason. to be able to give any president of the united states options on the day he calls for them. because you cannot be sure. u.s. intelligence watch aring the peninsula around the clock, constantly making assessments.
it has been the case for many years now. there has been an assumption, a planning assumption, that north korea could do all of this, because commanders like to say, you know, plan for the worst. hope for the best. but they have definitely planned against the worst-case scenario. now the question today -- where is the program? what is its actual real status? what is the assumption that is being briefed to the president of the united states? what advice is he getting from his military commanders? and his intelligence professionals? we know president trump takes this matter very seriously. he may well now be "the" president in office that will have to deal with north korea, wolf. >> yes. clearly emerging as the major national security threat facing the united states right now. that's what president obama told the incoming president, president trump, would be that major national security threat.
clearly emerging with this "washington post" report suggesting that north korea has the capability now of miniaturizing nuclear warheads and may already have 60 nuclear bombs follows the successful launch of their intercontinental ballistic missiles, that potentially could hit the continental united states. barbara, stand by. i want to go to cnn's will ripley who visited north korea a dozen times over the past few years joining us from beijing right now. a lot of experts thought if the north koreans, a., developed an intercontinental missile ballistic capability, clearly they developed that, the next step, miniaturized nuclear warheads. the "washington post" suggesting they have done that, and now this report suggesting they may already have 60 nuclear bombs. it seems to be moving very quickly, will? >> reporter: and it's remarkable when you think about. i first traveled into the country in late 2014, and back
then north korean officials is speaking confidently about their country's nuclear program. remember, kim jong-un, a national priority to become a full-fledged nuclear power. for a long time outside observers thought north korea was many, many years away from achieving that and yet now here we are with the likelihood according to u.s. analysts that north korea's claims have now come to light. they are in possession of a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile according to these who studied the capabilities of the two launched in july could strike anywhere along the u.s. west coast. denver, chicago and perhaps in a matter of months, have an icbm that could also strike new york and washington. remember, it was last year in march that north korea released images of their leader standing in front of that metallic orb they claimed was a miniaturized nuclear warhead and there was a
lot of skepticism at that time that wa accurate. things changed dramatically showing the rapid pace. remarkable to be inside the country. i was there back in june speaking with officials about this. this is a real sense of urgency there to develop these weapons, because they look at the united states and south korea and now japan as well, participating in military exercises on the korean peninsula a few miles from their borders and feel those exercises are a dress rehearsal to some kind of invasion. they don't believe the united states or secretary of state rex tillerson when he says the u.s. doesn't want to invade. north korean citizens have been told their whole lives, one, america started the korean war, going against what every other outside historian said, and, two, america could attack again and why their country must invest a considerable amount of scant resources developing these weapons. and now new sanctions just passed. china is promising to enforce, could cut north korean exports by a billion dollars, roughly a
third. yet those sanctions will take a long time to even start to take effect. north korea, now months away from having this kind of a weapon, wolf. a weapon they never had before. this is truly unprecedented. always a lot of conventional weapons, can do damage on the korean peninsula. believe to have chemical weapons as well but never until now and icbm take a miniaturized nuclear warhead and potentially threaten the mainland of the united states. >> a huge, huge development. if, in fact, this report in the "washington post" is accurate citing the defense intelligence agency's last assessment over at the pentagon. will, i want you to stand by as well. i want to bring in our military analyst's retired colonel cedric leighton and rick francona and james "spider" marks. talk a little about this. spider, let me start with you. if this "washington post" report
is true, it seems like the north korean military kim jong-un's regime moved very, very quickly to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile with a miniaturized nuclear warhead and may already have according to the "washington post" as many as 60 nuclear bombs? >> yes, wolf. let's make a couple of assumptions here. number one, that the report is accurate. that the number of weapons that they have is accurate as well. but also bear in mind that # these estimates are essentially that. that they are estimates, but you have as barbara indicated, you have to plan for the very, very worst in this. however, this is not an estimate that is suddenly -- we didn't turn on a switch and suddenly realize that this capability exists. this has been a linear progression off the part of the north koreans for quite some time and the united states intelligence community in concert with a number of allies have been able to track this very, very clearly. what this does is it makes the
imminence of an attack by north korea that much higher, because it now has a capability. not just an intention to use something that might be in development, but we have to assume that it's accurate. that the report is accurate. that they have a capability and that now the united states has a full array of options it has to be able to use, and it raises the spectrum of a potential conflict. everybody on the peninsula has been preparing for this kind of engagement for quite some time and so there are measured heads that are in charge there, and clearly our national command authority understands the severity. so the key thing is to ensure that our communications are open with beijing. the pathway to pyongyang, is through beijing. we have to be able to share this intelligence, make sure that the chinese concur that our assessment is correct, and now we have to have direct end treaties with the regime in pyongyang saying, look guys.
this is as serious as it gets. you've got away with it a long time because we've had strategic patience. window is closing. you're now a potential big bow boy at the tabled and need to act like a big boy with restraints, et cetera. >> all military analysts expecting this to happen in the years to come. i think what is a big surprise, it's moving as quickly as it has. rick francona, let me read you the "washington post" saying that north korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, and then cites this defense intelligence agency report, and i'll read to you from the report. according to the "washington post." the ic intelligence community assesses north korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery to include delivery by icbm-class missiles. what's your reaction when you hear this report? >> well, this compresses the
u.s. decision cycle down to almost nothing. everybody was hoping that these two technologies of the north koreans worked on, the missile technology, we could observe closely. we gather information on the capability. more difficult, assess the capability to develop this miniaturized nuclear warhead, which is the second piece of it. when you marry those two technologies, then you have a real capability. it appears that if this is true, the north koreans have achieved that capability. whereas, we thought in the past we had some time to let diplomacy work and the economic sanctions work. that decision cycle has almost collapsed, and now we're farrised with a north korea that could potentially launch a missile in a very short period of time. and as barbara was telling us earlier, the military options that are presented to the president really are not that good, because if you assume that all of the other north korean technologies have matured, and i'm speaking particularly about
this mobile launch capability. they could roll one of these things out and launch it far before we could treect react to. it's a major development, and this is going to set off alarm bells throughout not only the pentagon but the entire u.s. government. >> and it certainly will, and already is.cedric leighton, you lot of experience, assessed nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, how reliable or accurate of these dia estimates based on your experience? >> well, wolf, the accuracy varies, and it really depends on the target and the kinds of things that we're looking at and what kind of sources we have in the intelligence world, and as far as korea itself is concerned, the assessments have been pretty accurate with the one big exception of knowing whether or not they've been able to miniaturize a nuclear
warhead, andif this vort true, and like we're all assuming it is, then we have a significant game-changer here. the intelligence community often is guilty of mirror imaging what it sees in its own society, and in things that it expects to happen, and sometimes we don't look very well at things that are surprises, frankly. so that's the big danger here. i think in this particular case, this dia assessment is probably pretty close to being accurate. >> yeah. pretty shocking, too, when you think of the timeline. how quickly all of this has unfoldaled. i want all of you, all of our cnn military analysts to stand by. a special guest right now for more perspective, bringing in the former united states ambassador to china. the former democratic senator from montana max baucus. mr. ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. first, let me get your reaction to the breaking news we're following here. the "washington post" reporting
that the u.s. intelligence community now assesses that north korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery to include delivery of these icbm-class missiles. are you surprised? how dangerous is this situation right now? >> i'm not terribly surprised. i think we americans tend to underestimate the capability and intelligence of people in other countries. we're a bit arrogant, at least on the margin. second, i think it's noteworthy that china is stepping up its role as a potential leader in trying to resolve this. joining russia at the u.n. that's noteworthy. these are very great additional sanctions as noteworthy. the foreign minister of china made it very clear, how upset they are with north korea. next, it's important secretary tillerson is signaling we're not
intent on regime change. kim jong-un, in my judgment, is not in that case, not crazy. very rational. very smart. he's doing all of this to build up his, his power to negotiate later on with, with the world, and i think the goal here is for the united states to keep the pressure up at all levels, and other countries. not just countries in the region, because if those have a cataclysmic result it will affect the world. getting european countries involved and the same time back door, work with third countries to find some ways to start to talk with the kim regime. all the ways that are possible here. once we start opening some, even indirect line of communications that's going to help along with additional pressure including additional pressure from china. >> we know china voted for the u.n. security council resolution that was unanimously approved, including russia. 15-0. but there's a lot of concern, as you know, mr. ambassador that china might not deliver.
do you think the chinese now, the chinese government, will deliver? will squeeze the north korean regime into slowey down at minimum, freezing its nuclear capabilities? >> well, when i as serving in beijing, china was not living to up its words. coal exports were still coming into china, and not living up to the resolution. however, i do think now that china's beginning to ratchet up its pressure on north korea, china does not want a bad result. china does not want a unified peninsula under the control of basically south korea and the u.s. they'll want to resolve in some way to take the heat off this nuclearization of the missile development, in a way that allows kim to stay in power, or a successor to stay in power and
diffuse it that way. china is, frankly, getting more upset and china sees this as an opportunity to be a little more of a leader in the world. and when we backed away from the paris accords, china stepped in. we at davos, the president jinping said if china wants to be a itch major player in the w. this is an opportunity for china now to step in where they have not in the past. >> ambassador max baucus, former u.s. ambassador to china. thanks for joining us. >> you bet. and republican congressman zeldin from new york right now a member of the house foreign affairs committee served in the u.s. army in iraq. startling news we're getting from the "washington post," congressman. what's your reaction that north korea now successfully has, according to the "washington post," produced this miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside it's
intercontinental ballistic missiles? >> assuming everything is true, including that intelligence assessment both existing and everything being accurate, there are still important unknowns. it's been discussed so far on your program recently about the ability for that nuclear warhead to survive the re-entry from the upper atmosphere. that is, it would be great to know that as well. for those listening, i mean, this development, this news, is something that you can be concerned about. it increases the urgency of the time sensitivity for all the efforts going on. to add additional context to what the international community and the united states is involved with, one is a few days ago the united nations implementing what were a massive sanctions regime. it was significant not just for the size of the sanctions package, but also the unanimous vote that included russia and china. the north koreans have about $3
billion a year with exports. this is estimated to be over one-third of that. so that's significant. the vote is as well as the size. additionally, the united states military has been refining our capabilities to be able to strike down intercontinental ballistic missiles including a recent successful test just a few months ago. so the united states and the international community la behan on top of it. the timeline condenses quite a bit as additional news what north korea is developing comes along. >> as you know, the north korean regime of kim jong-un in the past day or so promised major retaliation for the latest u.n. security council sanctions against the united states. that they would hit the u.s. do you believe that? >> well, i don't -- you know, i don't know yet whether or not they actually have the ability to do so. obviously today's news is an indication that they are at
least if true a lot closer to having that ability. i think that the, the words to have come from kim jong-un and the regime over the course of the last few days is really an indication of how significant the actions at the united states were a few days back. we in the united states operate under the principle of diplomacy information, military economics and want multilateral diplomacy. we want to ramp up economic pressure on the north koreans, and also the information campaign of letting the north korean know their leader is putting them in a very dangerous position and the north korean people are still very much in awe of kim jong-un being larger than life. not realizing just how much he's responsible for the bad conditions they live under. all our options including china taking a leadership role. hard to put economic pressure on the north koreans without china and ultimately at the last
possible option, and one we don't want to have to use, is having a full range of options known of conventional to unconventional of the m of dime for military. a last possible option and hopefully what we saw at the united nations are an indication how effective we can be with the potential that we've known of, but haven't been able to really fulfill because of china's -- >> but do you believe -- >> unfortunate role. >> congressman, do you believe china is really going to live up to this commitment? because in the past, they haven't. >> the past track record hasn't been good. the united states is in a position as it relates to multilateral diplomacy and economic pressure to rely on china. it's just a few days old since china, they did vote for what happens at the security council. so we want to -- we need to -- give them that opportunity. although as we see from today's news, that opportunity for china to do right is one that needs to
be tested imminently, because we don't really have time. this is becoming more urgent and more time sensitive as the days go on. >> congressman lee zeldin of new york. thanks for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. i want to get a different perspective. maybe a similar perspective. democratic congressman john garamendi joining us. so what's your reaction to this story in the "washington post" and for viewers here in the united states and around the world, congressman, who are just tuning in? the "washington post" now reporting that north korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missile. it cites a dia, a defense intelligence committee assessment that north korea produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery to include delivery by icbm class missiles. congressman, your reaction. >> obviously, very serious, but
not unexpected. we've known for some time this is where north korea wanted to go. we didn't anticipate that they would be there quite this fast. obviously, this dovetails with their intercontinental ballistic missile program. it is serious. at the same time, this is an opportunity, and really a necessity for us to take a deep breath and figure out what a long-term comprehensive strategy has to be put in place. the elements are all there. the u.n. resolution. extremely important, because it brings china and russia and the other members of the security council in lockstep to put pressure on north korea. we have to let that mature. also, secretary of state tillerson opened the door to negotiations. starting with no preconditions, and then seems as though a precondition has been added, and that had to do with the continuation of the ballistic missile technology. >> let me stop you on that.
on that front. >> sure. >> you know, rex tillerson, secretary of state, was just isn't manila for a summit of asian countries. pacific leaders. the north korean foreign minister was there as well. the north korean foreign minister met with the foreign minister of south korea. met with the foreign minister of russia. did not meet with rex tillerson, the secretary of state. was that a missed opportunity, in your opinion? >> no. not at all. previously the foreign minister of north korea didn't talk to anybody. now those discussions are under way. circling around the united states not yet involved. but the opportunity to get serious discussions underway appears to be in the offing. that's what we have to pursue. we also need to understand and try to figure out exactly what it is that north korea wants. it appears in all cases that north korea wants to assure their, the continuation of the
kim jong-un regime. >> but they also say, congressman, the north korean statements that have come out over the past few days, they will never give up their nuclear weapons program, they're not walking away from this at all. basically telling all the countries of the region including the united states, live with it. >> well, we're not about to live with it. nor is china, russia, japan and the neighboring communities. let's be clear here -- that nuclear threat is as much a threat to -- in fact more of a threat to the surrounding neighbors than it is to the united states. we do have a missile defense system that would be effective against north korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles. the neighborhood does not. so everybody in that region has the same interests. that is, to prevent north korea from having and then utilizing their nuclear weapons. we're all in this game together, and that's extremely important, because that, then, leads to the
kind of negotiations that we have to engage north korea on. will they give up their nuclear weapons? that's why you negotiate. to find if there is a way to achieve that. there are many ways, and mr. tillerson -- secretary tillerson said it well. we're not into regime change and any negotiations. one of the things on the table for discussion. >> congressman, when administration officials say the president has all options available, all options are on the table right now. you're an expert in this area. you've been to the region several times. >> sure. >> do you really believe that the military option, a pre-emptive mill striitary stri against north korea is realistic? >> it's certainly the very last thing you ever want to do, because it will set off a huge, deserve stayses war in that reer region that might very well involve nuclear weapons.
certainly a major, major problem, a disaster, really, if we ever have to go that way. that's why these sanctions are extremely important in that they put pressure on north korea. obviously caused kim jong-un to come out with wild extreme statements about wiping out the united states. well, first of all, there's no way he can wipe out the united states. he can cause a lot of problems, more to the neighborhood than to the united states, and therein lies the reason i think that china, russia and others are saying, okay, enough. we have to get this under control and must do so. in a major war on the -- korean peninsula is the very last thing anybody wants, and certainly it would be the end of the kim jong-un family regime. they would be overdone, finished, and don't exist anymore. of course, there would be extraordinary casualties and problems for south korea and quite probably for the neighborhood. that's why we want to get to the negotiating table, and why the
u.n. sanctions are extremely important. that's why the sanctions that the congress of the united states put before the president and the president signed it, reluctantly, none the less did sign those sanctions, all of that is part of the process of getting to the negotiating tables, backing north korea away from its nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. of course, we should expect, before the negotiations ever began, for north korea to say, no way. no how will we give them up. but that's why you sit down at the table, why you negotiate it from strength. >> quickly, final question, congressman. the "washington post" reporting that north korea already may have as many as 60 nuclear bombs in its arsenal. 60 nuclear bombs. have you heard that before? >> we've heard numbers varying from that number downward. the actual number we don't know. the number of miniaturized weapons, we don't know that number either.
the fact that a miniaturized nuclear weapon may be, is in existence or may be in existence is important. let's keep in mind that this is not an imminent threat to the united states in that # there are other steps they will have to have. we talked already on your program about the re-entry issue. but keep in mind that for the neighborhood, you don't need a re-entry entry. you can use the ballistic missiles, shorter range, and put china, russia, japan and the neighborhood at threat, and i think that's why we're seeing the neighborhood getting engaged in a way they were not previously engaged. and certainly they would be at the negotiating table also. so let's -- let's not -- let's understand the seriousness of this. let's make they're sha we are having a comprehensive, rational policy out there available. not only available but in place, and included in that, as you
said a moment ago, are all options. the last option, we don't want to ever have to get there, would be to take out those nuclear facilities which would be extremely difficult. extremely difficult to do, and would almost certainly end or lead to a major conventional and possibly nuclear conflict on the korean peninsula and in the neighborhood. >> let's not forget the capital of seoul is 20, 30 mimes south of the demilitarized zone. north korea, north of the dmz, a million trips with thousands of pieces of artillery and mortars, conventional weapons, they're called, clearly could level that south korean capital. still 28,000 u.s. troops south of the dmz as well. congressman, thanks very much for joining us. this is a major story we're following. i want to bring in our global affairs correspondent elise labott joining us from the state department. what reaction, elise, will you getting over there?
>> reporter: wolf, a think it's no surprise that north korea has been moving in that direction. u.s. officials have been talking about some time they're working on mastering that miniaturization to fit a nuclear warhead on a long-range intercontinental ballistic mi l missile. that's the scariest part of this. it emphasizes a need for a solution as everybody has been saying, a military solution is really the last option, and that's why secretary of state rex tillerson is in asia right now. he just wrapped up meetings with china, with russia, with north korea, south korea and japan. about trying to find some kind of diplomatic solution. i on putting pressure on north korea. trying to use momentum of those sanctions. today he was in malaysia, in thailand, all in an effort to try and put pressure on north korea, and i do agree with the congressman. this increasing threat, and we
have to note, wolf, that this deep, supposed dia assessment, we don't know if that's the assessment of the entire intelligence committee. if they have a near certainty of the assessment that north korea has been able to miniaturize, but certainly the concern is in a they're not there. they're almost there, and that's why i think you do see this galvanization of the international community. you saw those sanctions over the weekend. look, there's a lot of tension in the relationship between china and the u.s. between russia and the u.s. yet they signed on to this resolution with very stiff penalties against north korea anyway. that does signal a growing concern, agreeing urgency of the international community. >> yes. the president, president trump tweeted earlier this morning, and 7:00 a.m. eastern time, after many years of failure, countries are coming to together finally address the dangers posed by north korea. we must be tough and decisive. elise, stand by. back to our military analysts
for right now. colonel cedric leighton, and rick francona and retired major general james "spider" marks. spider, when we talk about the military option, for all practical purposes that would result in potentially hundreds of thousands of civilians maybe millions of civilians in south korea and in japan for that matter, killed. >> absolutely, wolf. the estimates are out there. i wouldn't hazard to guess at the size of those estimates. what you described is probably unfortunately a pretty good estimate. but the one thing to keep in mind is the message right now is very, very clear to the democratic nation of south korea. the republic of korea understand and lived underneath this umbrella, if you will, of the protection of the united states. we are inexorably tied to the
government of seoul, have a very strong relationship there. we have, you indicated, 28,000-plus troops south of the dmz. assigned to south korea. we have family members that are there. so this suffering that will take place is real, and it's potentially imminent, and it has been for years and years. you realize, of course, that deployment of forces on to korea has always lived under that, that requirement to fight tonight. this now has been ratcheted up, the he level of concern because this capability. elise pointed out i think very, very well. this is a defense intelligence agency estimate. which is great. all the intelligence independently take similar intelligence and one competitive analysis against each other. so the dia is saying this is what we've got. however, it's a distinction without a difference when you put it all together what we realize is, north korea's got an
icbm capability. they have short-range missiles, plenty of those. they have been miniaturizing their nukes. whether they have 20, some estimates, whether they have 60, they have miniaturized nukes. north korea is a nuclear power. they are now getting closer and closer, if not have already embraced and realized a capability of launching a nuke from sites in north korea that could potentially hit the united states and certainly have always been able to hit the southern portion of the peninsula. that's what ties us all together and, really, starts to limit the number of options, but increases the requirement all of those elements of power, diplomatic element, information's mial mil and economic have to gal vvaniz or we are closer to a military-only resolution. kim jong-un is rational. very rational.
homicidal but not suicidal. if he were to launch or completely ignore any external end fretreaties in terms how th might try to embrace having a nuclear north korea, but wracked in protocols being a part of that. it he's not a place in to that he becomes suicidal. >> rick francona, we've seen at least two intercontinental ballistic missile tests launched by north korea with capability to hit los angeles, maybe chicago, elsewhere in the continental united states. but there are some anti-missile systems, the t.h.a.d. system, for example, going up in south korea. how effective would those sys m systems beknocking out the intercontinental ballistic missiles? >> the problem. t.h.a.d. was made for this but
the intercontinental ballistic missiles are the a.b.a. system. we're not there yet. the technology isn't there. calculations so fast. it's like a bullet hitting a bullet. we feel confident in our ability to defend south korea and japan using the t.h.a.d. system. once you get beyond that, then the numbers don't look very good at all. if you look at the missile tests, the antiballistic missile tests it's about i think half of the tests are successful and they aren't. half is not good enough. talking launching nuclear weapons you need to be 100% sure you can do this. this is what's going towards this collapsing decision-making cycle that as we see that the north koreans developed a real capability, if they demonstrate that capability and we're very concerned about it, what do we do? i think general marks point is very key here. he is, kim jong-un, is he suicidal or homicidal? or rational? that's an assessment i don't think we really have a good
handle on. i think he realizes, of course, he cannot launch a strike on the united states without inviting the destruction of his regime. he doesn't really want to launch a strike on the united states. he's coming close to what he wants. a nuclear deterrent. the mere fact everybody is so exercised about his capability shows how successful he's being in that regard. he's developing the capability he wants and that's to keep the united states from attacking him. >> yeah. i was going to say, that's a really important point. i want cedric leighton to weigh in as well. the regime of kim jong-un warrant respect and make sure they are protected, that regime, that nuclear capability, seen by the north koreans, the regime, as the basis of that protection. so what makes anyone think, cedric, that the north koreans will give up that nuclear capability? without it they worry their days are numbered? >> absolutely, wolf. they will not give up voluntarily.
we have to make a choice. either we are concerned enough about their capability that we want to eliminate it, requiring, in my opinion, military action, direct military action against their nuclear capability. or we agree to live with it and have an international inspection regime as general marks mentioned. that could then be one way to do that, but if the north koreans are unwilling to accept an international inspection regime, we may finds ourselves in one of those quandaries where we really end up in a place we don't want to be, and that would be a war that would require a lot of sacrifice on the part not only of south korean people and japanese people but also u.s. people and the folks that would be in the path of any intercontinental ballistic missile threat the north koreans could send. one other point i'd like to make, woman, one other connection that needs to be looked at here is the connection between north korea and iran. that is one that is going to be
extremely important to look at, because there is some evidence that the iranians have supported the north korean missile program, and if that is, in fact, the case, then there is another source, not only russia and china, but also iran that could be serving the north korean interests at this particular point in supplying them with weapons and technology that they can use to leverage their position and to gain, in essence, the status they want from a diplomatic perspective. >> yes. we fwhknow north korea probably getting help from others. the north koreas provided this kind of technology, for example, to syria years ago in developing a nuclear reactor that the israelis destroyed. north korea was very much involved in helping the syrians. didn't work out so well for the syrians. stand by, guys. i want to bring in elise labott. our state department correspondent, our global affairs correspondent. elise, talk a little about diplomacy right now. you're getting word, i take it,
that maybe some back channel, indirect contacts with north korea are developing between the u.s. and north korea? >> reporter: look, they've been all year, wolf. you remember that the release of otto warmwarmbier, ended up uppitying-o uppitying-o uppitying-ouppitying -- ended up dying once back in the united states. and joseph yune, they'd been meeting with north korea officials and the hope was that they could get all of the prisoners released. they could kind of use that as a springboard to some further talks. the u.s. has been sending a lot of signals to north korea that it does want to talk and even as you hear kind of tough rhetoric coming from ambassador nikki haley, from cia director mike pomp pompeo, who talked about a possible regime change saying,
separating the regime from its weapons, you hear secretary of state rex tillerson clearly saying he is ready to talk. originally tete no conditions. now talking about some kind of suspension of missile tests, but i think you could be looking at an effort to try and get north korea to the table. certainly the military option is the last resort, and secretary tillerson making quite clear, officials tell me he would like to talk to the north korean foreign minister. how close that is to happening, i don't know. certainly there are efforts being made to reach out to north korea to say, send us a signal. let us know that you're ready to talk, and we can find a formula that we can both feel comfortable with. >> he had a chance to talk to the north korean foreign minister over the weekend. they were both together with a lot of other foreign ministers in manila at this summit meeting. the north korean foreign minister met with the south korean foreign minister, with the russian foreign minister. a whole bunch of other foreign
ministers, but tillerson did not meet with him and a lot of folks suggesting maybe that was a missed opportunity? >> reporter: it could be a missed opportunity, wolf, but you know from covering diplomacy so many years these type of talks have to be carefully managed and carefully prepared. you have to have an agenda, have the things you want to get across, and you have to have a strategy. right now the trump administration is still feeling its way on what it wants from north korea. and so i think this was an initial signal by secretary tillerson that we could have talks, but right now with north korea launching missiles, making threats is not the time. but clearly, if you listen to what he's saying, he wants to get there. i think that officials didn't feel that the time was ready right now. would have been a little premature, but they are hoping to set the groundwork for further talks. >> we'll see what president trump decides. i know he has spent a lot of time since taking office on this
north korean threat right now. elise, stand by. will ripley joining us from beijing. been to north korea a dozen times over the past few years. will, you're getting more regional reaction, reaction coming in from other countries over there where you are? >> reporter: and we know that the chinese government, wolf, continues to reiterate their stance, that the united states shares some of the blame here for the escalating tension on the korean peninsula. what china, we expect, in the coming hours will call for, all sides remain calm despite the news in the "washington post" that north korea, according to the "post p" had a miniaturized nuclear warhead. they need to suspend exercises with south korea and believe if the united states suspended those military exercises, perhaps north korea would be willing to suspend the tetie t stop launching missiles, stop
testing more nuclear devices. already conducted five nuclear tests and not ruled out the det devices. the problem, the united states said they absolutely won't discontinue their military drills saying they have to practice with the south koreans in the event of a conflict and north krn koreans say if they d, they won't stop with their missile programs. conditions that get them to the bargaining table, complicating measure, a new round of sanctions, china never approved sanctions after a missile launch. normally only after a nuclear test. it goes to show there is increasing concern in this region certainly on china's part about the progress north korea is making. also the japanese government reportedly has also, they also believe that north korea miniaturized these nuclear warheads. a shared intelligence assessment
from the united states also in japan, although clearly the u.s., japan and south korea are all sharing intelligence information. we don't know what information has been shared. hopefully we'll get more clarity from all of the stakeholders in this region as well as in the united states in the coming hours, wolf. >> i think we have a clip from nikki haley, will. nikki haley, the u.s. ambassador. u.s. ambassador to the united nations. she was on tv here in the united states earlier today speaking about china and its potential role as you correctly point out, china did join the united states and -- and russia and all members, all 15 members of the united states security council in voting for that u.n. security council resolution over the weekend, increasing sanctions against north korea. china very, very significant. about 8a perce 85% to 90% expor imports>> china stepped up and y
said they were going to vote for this. they announced that they were going to enforce, and they encouraged every other country to enforce, so this was serious. you have to remember that for china, the last missile launch took place right next to their border. their ground actually shook. the chinese people felt it. they know this is serious. >> you're there in beijing. so give us the reaction from -- of the chinese government, the chinese leadership to this most recent north korean ballistic missile. >> reporter: well, what china is indicating, wolf, is that they are prepared to seriously enforce this now-seventh round of u.n. security council sanctions and what that means is that china stops companies in this country from buying north korean coal, iron, seafood, which are major revenue generators, that china agrees to crack down on banks that are doing business with north korea to further restrict north korean access to the financial institutions that have allowed
them to evade these sanctions, by setting up fake companies, doing black market deals that allow billions of dollars to continue to flow into the country, despite round after round of sanctions, so china is promising, at least for now, that they will enforce the sanctions. but wolf, you know sanctions take a very long time to take effect. it is not an overnight -- it is not an overnight solution, and analysts believe that north korea is just a matter of months away from having this icbm that could hit almost anywhere on the mainland u.s. i can also tell you from talking to north koreans, as recently as june, when i was in the country for just about a month and a half ago, this does not come as a surprise, and they say that no matter what economic action is taken on the part of china or anyone in the global community, they will cut from other programs before they cut from their missile programs, and this is a regime that's stayed in power during some very, very difficult times, economically, include the north korean famine
in the late 1990s, when there were natural disasters, the collapse of the soviet union, and very severe economic mismanagement inside north korea that led to even the most privileged citizens eating grass and bark, and even then, when people were starving and dying of starvation in north korea, the regime stayed in power. so everyone that i've spoken with, from the official level down to the on the street level in pyongyang, has told me they are ready for very difficult economic times if need be, that they would continue to support kim jong un's development of these nuclear weapons, which are, let's be honest here, they are designed to keep him and his regime in power. they are an insurance policy to keep the current government in power and to prevent outside attack. they feel the threat of an outside attack from the united states. >> very significant, and the north korean regime, as you know, and you've been there, so many times, very, very isolated. earlier in the year, the chinese government, at least for a time, suspended flights on what air
china from beijing to pyongyang, but they have been reinstated. is that basically the only way now to get into pyongyang, to fly either air china or the north korean airline from beijing into pyongyang? >> reporter: so, there's usually about one flight a day from here in beijing to pyongyang on air koreo. air china will sometimes suspend flights. they say it's because of lack of passengers, although we have no way of knowing if the political and military situation plays into china's decision to suspend their flights. there's also the ability to go into north korea by train or there is also a bridge, a border crossing, that allows cargo to move back and forth. but for the majority of people visiting the country, you fly in from here in beijing. you have to go to the north korean embassy, which is just a few blocks from where i'm standing right now. you get your visa and then that's how you get into north korea. obviously, if china were to shut down air space and stop air koreo from flying, that would be
significant because i can tell you, i've taken many, many flights and you see televisions and large cargo boxes and even plants and a lot of different electronics that are brought into the country on those planes. you see people in north korea wearing nike sneakers and asics track suits. those are brought in. that's fashion that is brought in from china. a lot of it bright in on those trains and also on those trucks and trains. so if china does crack down on trade the way they're saying they might do, it could have a significant dent in the quality of life for north korea's consumer class, the privileged citizens in pyongyang, who kim jong un really relies on for support. would sanctions be enough to stop that support? again, we've seen north korea go through some very hard times in the past and the regime has managed to stay firmly in control. it is an authoritarian country, political dissent is not tolerated and yet people over the decades have proven remarkably loyal even during some very difficult
circumstances. i also just want to point out, north korea has had for decades weapons that could be very destructive. the conventional arsenal that's pointed across the demilitarized zone at seoul, all of that artillery could annihilate a good portion of that city and kill so many people. north korea's also believed to have possessed chemical weapons that they could launch on attack on cities in the united states and around the world. they haven't done that. even at times over the course of recent decades when tensions have escalated to a very close point of war, the sense i get, north korea doesn't want to use these weapons. however, they say they wouldn't be afraid to use them if they feel they were provoked or -- and this is what a lot of people are worried about -- if there was some sort of misstep, some sort of action that caused a chain reaction, and then they wouldn't be able to stop it. that's the real fear on all sides of this conflict right now. >> and some analysts have suggested that north koreans learned a lesson from the late ruler of libya. he gave up his nuclear weapons
program. we all know how in the end that wound up for him. his regime is gone. and the north koreans don't want to follow in his footsteps. so, will, stand by. i want to bring back cedric and colonel frank lancona, our am i right analysts. s cedric, let's start with you. this whole notion of north korea, at least at a minimum, freezing its nuclear program and that could result in a direct dialogue, for example, with the united states, maybe easing some sanctions. do you think that's at all realistic? >> i don't, wolf. i think it's highly unlikely that the north koreans would voluntarily freeze their nuclear weapons program, because they see that as their main force of leverage. they're going to see this as going to be in essence the one piece that they have that's the supreme bargaining chip that will keep them, in essence, focused on regime preservation
and the ability to keep everything that they hold dear in hatheir system. so that is going to be, i think, a critical issue for them. so as far as that goes, i think that, in their view, is a nonnegotiable issue. >> rick francona, let me put up a chart on our screen of the north korean missile test that at least so far this year, nearly a dozen tests, some more successful, clearly, than others. the two most successful, apparently, the last two. show they did have a range, potentially, of hitting the continental united states. how good is this capability that they have? >> well, it's getting better all the time. every time they have a test, even if it's a failure, they learn something, and each test is geared to test one component or one facet of the program. so, these -- the number of missile tests that they're doing and the rapidity with which they're doing them shows they're getting closer to the capability they want. and now they're putting the finishing touches on that capability, and the next step -- i think everybody believes, will be the development of shroud
that's required to protect that nuclear warhead and when it reenters. you know, and the north koreans are good engineers. they'll figure this out. so i think we would be foolish to underestimate them. and i think we've all been taken a little by surprise been how fast and how effective this program has been, and i do agree with cedric, that no matter what we promise the north koreans, they're not going to give up this program. this is their ace in the hole. this is their deterrent capability. this makes them not just a third world country. >> yeah, it gives them the protection, the insurance that they want to survive, and so basically, rick francona, do you think that there's any chance they would at least at a minimum freeze the program? >> yeah, you know, that's an interesting concept. i don't know that they would. they may want to go a little bit further until they have the capability and then set up some international program, as general marks was alluding to earlier. i don't see that happening. i don't see them bargaining this away. but you know, we often said that
about the iranians, that they weren't going to give it up and we see how that turned out. so there's precedent with other nuclear programs but i think north korea is a special case. i do not see them giving in on this particular issue. >> and very quickly, cedric, the sanctions, over all of these years, they've been very intense. now they're going to pick up a bit thanks to this u.n. security council but do you think they'll make much of a difference. >> i don't think they will make enough of a difference to prevent the north koreans from actually deploying their nuclear capability, their miniaturization piece, if this is accurate, is going to be the big thing that they have and nothing will deter them from that. >> that's a very, very dangerous situation. let me just recap for our viewers once again. we're following all the breaking news, major developments, "the washington post" reporting that north korea, in the words of the "washington post," has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead
that can fit inside its missiles. "the post" quoting the u.s. intelligence community as saesisae assessing that north korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery. we're going to have continuing coverage of all of these late-breaking developments out of north korea. for our international viewers, "amanpour" is next. for our viewers in north korea, "newsroom" with brooke baldwin "newsroom" with brooke baldwin starts right now. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com we're going to continue that breaking news coverage here out of north korea, this potential game-changer in the world standoff over north korea's nuclear weapons. "the washington post" is now reporting that north korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. essentially, a nuke small enough to be strapped to an