tv This Week With George Stephanopoulos ABC April 16, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT
starting right now on a special edition of "this week" with george stephanopoulos. high alert. overnight, north korea launching another missile. it failed. these new images have the world on edge. are they missiles that could some day reach the u.s.? all eyes on the country's unpredictable leader. and how will president trump handle this major foreign policy test? >> north korea is a problem. the problem will be taken care of. >> martha raddatz just miles from the north korean border. >> you're going to use this. i'll be checking here. >> on the ground with the first line of defense. the service members on high alert. how close are we to confrontation? >> you would say the threat is pretty real? >> it's very real. >> tough questions ahead. our exclusive interview with trump's national security
adviser, lieutenant general h.r. mcmaster. and expert analysis from across the globe. from abc news, a special edition of "this week." high alert, north korea. reporting from seoul, south korea, co-anchor martha raddatz. >> hello, from seoul, south korea. it's evening here in the city of 10 million people. on high alert on a weekend of escalating tensions. hours ago, yet another north korean missile launch. the fifth of 2017. this time, it blew up seconds after leaving the launch pad. u.s. officials believe it was likely a medium-range ballistic missile, the kind we have seen before. still, the latest launch rattled nerves, especially after the sudden appearance saturday of what could be new long-range weapons at north korea's big anniversary parade. canisters that appear large enough to house a missile capable of hitting the united states. you can see them there rolling past north korean leader kim
jong-un. green camo on huge transporters. if he, indeed, has a missile big enough to reach the united states, and if he can make a war head small enough to fit on it, will the u.s. be forced to respond? this hour, all the angles on the most important story in the world right now. and the urgent questions. how far along is north korea's nuclear program? are the new missiles we saw at saturday's parade real? does donald trump have a firm red line? is there room for negotiation or are trump and kim on a collision course? vice president mike pence arrived here in seoul today, the start of a ten-day asia tour. with china warning both sides to cool it, north korea is at the top of the administration's agenda. in a moment, we'll talk to trump national security adviser h.r. mcmaster. a powerful voice in the
president's inner circle. he's in afghanistan, where the united states just proved what it can do with a mother of all bomb strikes on isis, a dramatic show of american fire power. we begin with north korea's warning that it will annihilate military bases here in south korea. they said in minutes. if the u.s. tries to take out its nuclear program. we visited the most important of those front line bases, osan air base, just south of seoul. 48 miles from the border with north korea. we got exclusive and unprecedented access. ♪ if north korea pulls the trigger, this could be target number one. osan air base, just 48 miles from north korea, well within range of kim jong-un's existing arsenal of missiles carrying god knows what. so a hardened bunker. this is serious stuff. >> yes, ma'am. this is your third set of blast doors here.
>> reporter: the first line of defense is always on guard. 24/7. m-16s on constant patrol. anti-missile batteries primed and ready. behind these concrete walls and steel doors, the top secret and rarely seen operations center, on high alert, watching for any north korean missile activity. >> we live with it every day. so -- the nice thing is for my folks, the mission is staring them in the face. >> reporter: while the world worries that north korea will get a missile that can reach the united states, there's no doubt here at osan the threat is up close, dangerous, and continuous. the slogan here, fight tonight. and you hear it often and always with a sense of pride. there are not many places that i go into where it says fight tonight in giant letters. it's a little frightening.
>> absolutely. but, for us, it's our day-to-day training. we're always training at the level to be able to fight tonight because we don't know when that call is going to come. >> reporter: we visited another top-secret facility. the first time ever for a camera crew. if a missile is aimed at south korea, the job here, blow it out of the sky. north korea has conducted just five underground nuclear tests in the last ten years. but missile launches are far more common. several this year alone. every one closely monitored on these screens including last night's failed launch. what's it like in here when a ballistic missile is launched? >> you would think it would be hectic. due to the level of training of the soldiers here, it's a calm exercise. i would compare to it maybe an air traffic controller tower. >> reporter: right next door, rows and rows of bunk beds. if war comes to south korea, the
staff will sleep right here. >> it allows us to do continuous operations for an extended period of time. >> reporter: you have food, everything you need? >> we have food, showers, latrines. >> reporter: lieutenant general thomas bergeson is deputy commander of u.s. and all u.n. forces in south korea. what concerns you most? >> our biggest concern is he's going to miscalculate. that's always the number one concern. we want to make it crystal clear to the north korean leadership that this would be a completely futile endeavor. were he to challenge this strong, iron-clad, bilateral alliance. >> reporter: because we have a new president and he, no doubt, kim jong-un wants to test him in the same way that that dynamic works, is this, from your time here, from watching here, one of the more dangerous times? >> i would say that -- there's certainly, you can feel the tensions. very clearly, this is serious. they need to know that we're prepared.
and this defensive alliance is strong. and ready to fight tonight. >> reporter: part of that defense, patriot missile batteries. >> you'll notice here, in korea, we keep our launches loaded with live interceptors at all times. so that we're ready to fight tonight. >> reporter: tell me about the batteries just in terms of what they can stop, how they stop them, how that works. >> yes, ma'am. this weapons system is capable of defeating a wide range of enemy capabilities from unmaed aerial systems to short-range and long-range ballistic missiles. this battery is designed to search for, detect, and engage those inbound ballistic missiles. >> reporter: at osan, they're confident in the system, claiming the success rate of the patriot is nearly 100%.
>> and it's a bullet-on-bullet scenario. the patriot missile hits the threat missile. and destroys it. >> reporter: a few miles from the patriots, out on the flight line, are the growlers. >> they have jamming capabilities. electronic jamming capabilities. so they can deny the enemy the capability to launch surface to air missiles at our aircraft. >> reporter: major shawn walsh, an f-16 pilot. up in the skies at least three times a week. within miles of the north korean border. >> you see the stark contrast. because as the lights start to come on, you fly along the dmz. you look out one window, it's bright as day with the city of seoul. the other side of the cockpit, you look out, it's darkness. >> reporter: make no mistake, it's the darkness that causes concern. the lack of hard intelligence. the unpredictability. and the war of words right now have created a region on edge. kim jong-un is -- basically
saying, that he could strike and take out any of the american military bases. could that happen? >> no. no, they could try. but as you saw today out here. you have air defense artillery brigade. and they have the technology, the capability to intercept those kinds of missiles. they could try. it would be futile. >> reporter: we're back now live in seoul. i'm joined by abc news contributor colonel steve ganyard, a retired marine corps fighter pilot and former deputy assistant secretary of state. and steve, talk to us about the failed missile launch first. what do we know about that missile? >> it will take us awhile to figure out what kind of missile it was. because it blew up so quickly after launch, we're not going to have much radar telemetry data. it will take the intelligence analysts a little while to figure out what kind it was. we can't be complacent.
even though it failed, it shows they're determined to perfect the missiles and develop a long-range missile capability. >> a real concern from this weekend is the parade. and the missiles that we spotted in the parade. we don't know if they're real. they appeared to be long-range missiles. >> lots of concerning things out of the parade. the first is the size of the missiles. bigger size. means longer range. better chance of getting all the way to the united states. also the diversity of missiles that we saw. not just land-based. sea based. submarine launched missiles. some of them looked like a df-31. which is a sophisticated chinese missile. lots of questions coming out of that. lots of things to worry about. but the real takeaway, i think, is range. for decades, presidents, republican and democrats, have been able to kick the can down the road on north korea because there has never been an ability to reach the united states. what we saw there in that
parade, those missiles, theoretically, could reach the united states. that's why president trump feels the need to take this on here and now. >> they're still expecting to launch the underground nuclear test. is there anything to be done to stop that, to deter them from doing that? >> there are a couple of options. one kinetic. one nonkinetic. we saw in afghanistan, that mother of all bombs. there's a bigger bomb in the u.s. inventory by weight. 30,000 pounds. it's called a m.o.p. massive ordnance penetrator. it's designed to be able to go down deep, penetrate 200 feet of reinforced concrete and take out any kind of bunker. that would be the kinetic option. there's a new buck rogers kind of option. there's a high-powered microwave. it would send an intense burst of electromagnetic energy. over that test site, which would go down wires and fry anything underneath the ground. so nobody gets hurt.
but everything gets disabled. the president has a new arrow in his quiver. both kinetic and nonkinetic options here for any kind of an underground nuclear test. >> steve, what do you think the reaction would be from north korea if there was a preemptive strike? >> they've been quite clear. if there is any military action on north korean soil, they will retaliate in some way. but the problem is is that that retaliation is going to occur on south korean soil or at japan. which means we need to coordinate closely with our closest allies in the region before thinking about any kind of military action. >> steve, very quickly. the north korean -- our intelligence in north korea is pretty bad. why is that? >> we have very little human intelligence on the ground. it's a closed, stalinist society. so even the internet is controlled. so we get very little information. yesterday was very reminiscent of the the soviet days when we would wait for the may day
parades to try to determine what the soef yeet union was doing, thinking. this will continue to bedevil us if terms of intelligence. >> thank you, steve. president trump faces major decisions when it comes to dealing with north korea. the man who will help him make those tough calls is his top national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster. we'll talk to him in an exclusive interview. about how he'll advise the president on that and other national security challenges. coming up in just two minutes. ♪
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♪ mr. trump, do you have a red line with north korea? would you consider military action? and how far would you let them go? >> we have -- tremendous has been just sucked out of our country by china. china says they don't have that good of control over north korea. they have tremendous control. they have total absolute control practically of north korea. i would get on with china. let china solve that problem. they can do it quickly and surgically. that's what we should do with north korea. >> that was then-candidate donald trump during the new hampshire primary debate. saying that china should take care of north korea.
back then, it was a hypothetical. now it's a reality. what's president trump's position today? his national security adviser h.r. mcmaster joins me now from afghanistan. it's good to see you, general mcmaster. we'll get to your trip in afghanistan in a moment. but let's talk about north korea. we know the missile test failed. what can you tell us about that? how long will it take to determine exactly what happened there? >> thank you, martha. it's a privilege to be with you. the latest missile test fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the north korean regime. and i think there's an international consensus now, including the chinese. the chinese leadership that this is a situation that just can't continue. and the president has made clear that he'll not accept the united states and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons. we're working together with our allies and partners.
and with the chinese leadership to develop a range of options. and, the president has asked the national security council to integrate the efforts of the department of defense, state, intelligence agencies to provide options and have them ready for him if this pattern of destabilizing behavior continues and if the north korean regime refuses to denuclearize. which is the accepted objective of both the united states and chinese leadership, as well as our allies in the region. >> i want to go back to the missile if i could for a moment. apparently, it was a medium-range ballistic missile. but can you talk a little bit about what we saw in the parade in north korea and were the missiles real? was it an icbm? >> i don't know. i've not been in touch with our intelligence community on that. i would defer to our intelligence communities and the department of defense on that
particular question. of course, the purpose of that parade is to sort of demonstrate military prowess in a threatening way. and so whether those weapons are real or fake is -- is unclear. i think, to at least -- i saw it on television, like you did, martha. no. you saw it better than i did. i think you were close by. >> i was a little closer than you were. back to what you were saying before. today, a white house foreign policy adviser briefed reporters on vice president pence's flight to seoul. and sad had north korea tested a nuclear weapon, other actions would have been taken by the u.s. you hinted at some of that. what would have happened and what was he talking about? >> the president's made it very clear he's not in the business of announcing in advance what he's going to do in a particular situation. i think what you saw last week with the president's decisive response to the assad regime's mass murder of innocent people, including children, with
chemical weapons, that this national security team is capable of rapidly responding to those sorts of incidents and events and providing the president with options. our president is clearly comfortable making tough decisions and responding. >> the military option is on the table? >> all options are on the table. undergoing refinement and further development. >> how close do you think north korea is to having a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the united states? >> well, you know, estimates vary on these sorts of things widely. what is clear is that as long as their behavior continues, as long as they continue, missile development, even though this was a failed miss t, thilmissilt better. they learn lessons. so, what's critical for them is to stop this destabilizing behavior. stop the development of the weapons. denuclearize. that is in the best interests of the people of the region. and the north korean people, as well. >> north korea's foreign minister said the trump administration is more vicious and more aggressive. than obama administration,
saying that trump's aggressive tweets were making trouble. does the aggressive language increase the likelihood of conflict? >> i think it should make clear to the north korean regime that it is in their best interest to stop the development of these weapons. to stop the development of these missiles. and to denuclearize the peninsula. it's clear, and we don't want to telegraph in any way how we'll respond to certain incidents, it's clear that the president is determined not to allow this kind of capability to threaten the united states. and our president will take action that is in the best interests of the american people. >> you know, one of the big concerns here, general mcmaster, is how north korea would respond to aggressive action or some sort of preemptive strike. how do you think they would respond? >> that is particularly difficult in dealing with this regime. this regime is unpredictable. someone who has demonstrated his brutality by murdering his own brother, by murdering others in his family.
by imprisoning large numbers of people in horrible conditions for no reason. for political reasons. so this regime has given the world reason for concern. and that -- that includes the chinese people. the chinese leadership as well. what kim jong-un is doing is a threat to all people in the region. and globally as well. this is someone who has said not only does he want to develop a nuclear weapon, but he wants to use it to coerce others? he said he was willing to proliferate nuclear weapons once he develops them. and so this is a grave threat to all people. >> you heard what president trump said about china in that primary debate. but this week, he said after listening to president xi, he realized it's not so easy. are you truly confident you can get china to pressure north korea in a meaningful way?
>> well, we'll see what happens. what we do know is that in the midst of responding to the mass murder of the syrian regime, the president and the first lady hosted an extraordinarily successful conference, summit, with president xi and his team. and not only did they establish a very warm relationship. but since that time, they have worked together on other issues. on north korea they worked together. they worked together as well in the response to the mass murder on -- on the part of the assad regime. in connection with the u.n. vote. i think president xi was courageous in distancing himself from the russians and the bolivians. this all occurred on the same day that president trump hosted the secretary general of nate tow. representing our wonderful nato allies.
the world saw that. what club do you want to be in? the russian-bolivian club or the club with the united states, working together on mutual interests, peace, security, i think it was a great week for the united states. and thanks mostly to our president. >> you sound very confident. president trump sounds confident. one final question. every president since bill clinton has said the u.s. will not tolerate a nuclear-armed north korea. and north korea has only grown stronger in their capables. why do you think president trump will have a different outcome? >> well, as you mentioned, this is a problem that has been passed down from multiple administrations. but, our president, i think it's the consensus with the president, our key allies in the region, japan and south korea in particular, and the chinese leadership, that this is coming to a head. and so it's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to
try to resolve this peacefully. and so we're going to rely on our allies, like we always do. we'll rely on chinese leadership. north korea is very vulnerable to pressure from the chinese. 80% of trade for north korea comes from china. all energy requirements are fulfilled by china. in the coming weeks, months, i think there's a great opportunity for all of us, all of us under the threat of this very unpredictable regime, is to take action, short of armed conflict to avoid the worst. >> i want to turn to russia and syria. secretary of state rex tillerson visited this week and said relations were at a low point. but the president tweeted thursday, things will work out fine between the usa and russia. there will be lasting peace. what suddenly gives him that confidence? >> when relations are at the lowest point, there is nowhere to go but up, martha.
the secretary's visit to russia was perfectly timed. russia has given support to a murderous regime in syria that has perpetuated a civil war and a cycle of violence, that along with the brutal efforts and actions of isis have -- brought suffering to so many people. have created a crisis within syria that has bled over into iraq and neighboring countries and into europe and so forth. so russia's support for that kind of horrible regime that is a party to that kind of conflict is something that has to be drawn into question as well as russia's subversive actions in europe. and so, i think it's time, though, now, to have those tough discussions with russia. there's nobody better to do it than our secretary of state. and also to find areas of cooperation. where do our interests align? >> do you think we need more u.s. troops in syria? >> well, i mean, that remains to be seen. i don't think so.
i think what we're doing now is supporting partner forces in syria and in certain portions of the country. including the northeastern part of the country. along the euphrates river valley. it's a matter of time, only, until isis is defeated there. what will be critical is what forces can then establish enduring security in those regions that have legitimacy with the population. that are representative of the population. that can set conditions for reconstruction to begin. martha, the cities of the sunni-arab world in that region are in rubble. so in a very successful conference in washington two weeks ago, the united states state department organized a bunch of donors and like-minded allies to pledge money for reconstruction. but what we need now is we need a security situation that's conducive to that reconstruction. that can allow so many of the displaced people and refugees to return.
and for those long-suffering people to enjoy the security, stability they deserve. >> i want to finish on your trip to afghanistan. it's really remarkable to think about the fact that we have been fighting there since 2001. what haven't we done that we should have? and are more troops needed there? >> what's clear is the stakes are high. i mean this is -- this is really the modern day frontier between barbarism and civilization. and so, with those high stakes in mind, recognizing that the taliban groups we're fighting here, that the isis groups that we, alongside really the afghan forces, are really fighting. and we're just enabling them in the eastern part of the country, are a threat to all civilized peoples. the president has asked for a range of options. and we'll give him those options. we'll be prepared to execute whatever decision he makes. >> we have to leave it there. general mcmaster great talking
with you, thank you. >> thank you. up next, most americans know very little about life inside the secretive nation of north korea. one person who does is abc's bob woodruff. he'll bring us his insights next. and the former u.s. ambassador to south korea, chris hill, joins us. as the u.s. and korea have joint military exercises. we'll discuss what opgs america has to respond to this crisis. what's it like to be in good hands? like finding new ways to be taken care of. home, car, life insurance obviously, ohhh... but with added touches you can't get everywhere else, like claim free rewards... or safe driving bonus checks. oh yes.... even a claim satisfaction guaranteeeeeeeeeee! in means protection plus unique extras
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if you can't afford your medication, astrazeneca may be able to help. tthey are 100% made-to-order,hat which is 100% awesome. 100% beef burgers with fries from denny's. 100% seriously. north korea's capital, pyongyang, is about 120 miles away from here. but a place few americans have seen firsthand. my colleague, bob woodruff just returned from his eighth trip to
north korea since 2005. bringing us rare insights. into life inside the isolated country and its regime's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. >> reporter: pomp and circumstance taking over part of pyongyang this week. and in the midst of the military tension between north korea and the u.s., kim jong-un, cheered on by a dense crowd, showing off a more modern pyongyang. this scene, a stark contrast from when i first arrived in the nearly deserted capital city in 2005. we expect to show you a country that the world knows very little about. and we did. from our visit to the children's palace where your koreans are trained in sports and music. to their subway system. you can see the design is some old 30-year-old kind of design. and to my aerial tour of pyongyang in 2016. it was amazing. we saw a chance to see the cooperative farms as we came in
over the suburban area. but also into the town. we have never seen this entire city before. on my first trip here, we traveled two hours outside the capital to a collective farm, where i met with north koreans skeptical of the united states. what do you think about americans? back then, that 18-year-old told us he thought americans were the sworn enemy of the korean people. have you ever met an american before? no, he said, he hadn't. i'm an american. as for what might be behind some of that animosity, the north korean people, largely cut off from the rest of the world, and prevented by their government from having contact with our country. most americans have never traveled there. that exchange is still limited. recently, abc news caught up with a high-profile defector from north korea. the former deputy ambassador to the united kingdom. he said one of the biggest misconceptions is just how cruel the regime can be. >> they cannot understand that
the north korean system, it is itself a kind of slavery system, i think one day when north korean system, you know, the collapse. i think the whole world will be shocked. >> reporter: the country has provided limited firsthand knowledge of its nuclear progress. in the time i have been covering north korea, we have put in multiple requests to tour the facilities that have dominated u.s. headlines. so what do we have here? in 2008, we were the first members of the media inside the nuclear facility. what we're seeing is the cold water, covered by ice and underneath that is about 1500 uranium rods. our most recent request, like many others, denied. we put in all sorts of requests to visit out here, the launch locations where the missiles are being launched. instead, they took us deep into the country to showcase another proud achievement. their high-end ski resort. any other guests, you think?
an eerily empty expanse, where skiers take the slopes in time to patriotic music. carefully choreographed scenes have been a constant in my visits here. including those now iconic military parades, like this one in 2010, kim jong-un making his public debut. back when he was known as the young general. now that the music stopped, now it's completely silent. because right up there, kim jong-il and his son, kim jong-un will come out and watch. now, the eyes of the world watching and waiting to see kim jong-un's next move. for "this week," bob woodruff, abc news. >> and they certainly are here in south korea. our thanks to bob. up next, the man who sat face to face with the north koreans at the nuclear negotiating table. former u.s. ambassador to south korea christopher hill joins me. and later, our panel of
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latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day. our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of south korea has never been stronger. and with your help, and with god's help, freedom will ever prevail on this peninsula. [ applause ] >> vice president mike pence at a u.s. army base in seoul, earlier this evening. attending an easter meal. with u.s. and south korean troops. his trip coming as our allies in the region are wondering how the u.s. will respond to the north korean threat. veteran diplomat christopher hill joins me to discuss next. hill joins me to discuss next. . try new flonase sensimist instead of allergy pills. it's more complete allergy relief in a gentle mist you may not even notice. using unique mistpro technology, new flonase sensimist delivers a gentle mist to help block
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verifiable, and irreversible elimination of north korea's nuclear weapons program. >> we stand with our ally, south korea, and insist that north korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons. >> for decades, american presidents and their advisers have grappled with how to stop north korea's missile program. including our next guest, christopher hill, the former u.s. ambassador to south korea. under president george w. bush's administration, he headed up the delegation to the six-party talks to resolve the north korean nuclear crisis. ambassador hill, thank you for joins us. >> pleasure. >> when you were head of the delegation at the six-party talks, north korea lied, obfuscated, and then pursued more missile tests. why should president trump expect anything different?
>> well, first of all, the importance of negotiating with them in the six-party context was to force china to take a role and of course, they're in the chair of this whole process. but secondly, and i think this really brings us to the present day with vice president pence's trip. it was important to show the south koreans that we will do everything we can, including negotiating. the days where the u.s. would negotiate with north korea and leave the south koreans at the airport wondering what was going on, those days are over. we worked very closely with south korea. i think in the process brought the u.s. and south korea together. as for the north koreans, you bet it's a tough proposition. but i agree with all those presidents you just showed that we cannot allow them to develop a nuclear weapon. >> from what you have seen of the trump administration. and i know you listened to general mcmaster there, what are you hearing that is encouraging you? besides what you talked about with vice president pence? >> i think, first of all, it's very encouraging that they are
in close contact with the chinese. they seem to be trying to work things together with china. that seemed to be an elusive concept at a certain point in time. yet, that, i think, is very much happening. secondly, of course, is -- the vice president's visit because, south korea's some 20 million people within artillery range of north korea. they essentially worry about two things. they worry about a preemptive action by the u.s. where they were not included in it. they also worry about talking to the chinese. kind of over their heads. and they kind of take the view of, look, there shouldn't be anything about us without us. so i think the effort to kind of clue them in, to be close to them, to listen to them, to discuss the strategy, i think, is very crucial. i would like to see, at some point, a u.s. ambassador named to south korea. i guess that takes a long time for this administration. >> i guess it's taking a long time in several places. let's go to president trump.
you have mentioned others. you have mentioned the vice president. he's had some very aggressive language. does that help or make it more difficult? >> i think he's trying to outnorth korea the north koreans. so let's see if that works. certainly, it makes people nervous when they're not sure quite what he means about it. great powers can't really bluff. when you talk in those terms, you have to be prepared to back it up. i guess that's what worries people the most. i appreciate that he's understood this is a major issue. i mean, if i were president trump, i would not want to go before the american people in 2020 and say, well, we gave it the junior college try and decided there is nothing we can do about this. >> when you look at what's happening now and throughout the past presidents, it's very dangerous today. everybody i have talked to says the threat is very different now because they are close to getting a nuclear missile on an icbm.
when you look at it, how tense do you think everyone should be? >> i think it is -- we have come to a moment where this is kind of different from the past. first of all, they have had over 25 missile tests. they're working on a whole new generation of missiles. of course, one of them failed. in the last 24 hours. but that doesn't mean they'll try again. so it's a new generation of missiles. clearly, they're working on a war head design for nuclear devices. so this is i think, a very serious matter. and it's coming down the tracks. and people often take the view, well, somehow, this is all about their regime survival. this is how they'll survive being a nuclear weapons country. actually, i think they're more ambitious about it. they see this as a means to somehow decouple the u.s. from japan and the ally in south korea. and create a situation holding the u.s. at risk, the u.s. would be less willing to participate
in a conflict on the korean peninsula were it to come to that. they have ambitious plans. we need to be clear about the need to stop them. i'm discouraged when i hear people talking about, well, maybe we can freeze their tests in return for freezing our exercises with the south korea. that is not going to get us in the right direction at all. >> we hope we go in the right direction. thank you so much for joining us, ambassador hill. up next, what does the threat from north korea and how trump responds mean for his agenda back home? our expert panel of reporters weighs in. hill. what is the tlet to sou
♪ how are president trump's actions abroad playing on the world stage and affecting his domestic agenda? joining me in washington are abc news political director rick klein and jennifer jacobs, white house reporter for bloomberg politics. and here in south korea, jonathan cheng. the wall street journal's seoul bureau chief. welcome to all of you. i want to start with you, jonathan, because you're right here next to me. you called the missile launch a sign of their confidence in the face of president trump's warning.
what do you mean by that? >> i think it definitely shows that kim jong-un is not going to be cowed when president trump, probably the world's most powerful man has been saying, if you do anything that crosses the line, we're going to act. that hasn't stopped them from wheeling out what may be as many as three new icbms. it hasn't stopped him from trying to launch -- >> they're not believing trump's aggressive talk? >> i don't know that it's not believing. north korea is a small country angd it has -- been wedged between china, russia, the u.s., japan. all these powers. and the way it's been able to survive for so long, in part, has been charting its own course and doing things against the grain. we don't know what they're going to do. >> jennifer, back to you and the word from washington. a poll out friday from cbs news that 56% of americans are uneasy about trump's ability to deal with this. not a good sign, jennifer. >> yeah, you're exactly right.
there is substantial unease. and, it's -- it's almost like americans are on a little bit of overload with the bombs on syria last week. and the big bomb in afghanistan this week. so they're just not sure what trump is thinking on north korea. they're on overload. i can give you a bit of a window. i know his national security team put together various scenarios based on how they thought that north korea would behave this weekend and what their reactions s ts to that w be. i'm told when this missile fizzled right after launch, trump decided quickly to just downplay it. i can tell you a few other quick things. i'm told that trump is not into regime change, regime removal for north korea. he's not thinking about removing kim jong-un from power. he's not thinking about trying to unify the two koreas. that's not on his mind. i'm told, the word kinetic comes up a lot. he's willing to carry out kinetic military action. a sudden attack. the key thing here, you heard this with general mcmaster,
china, china, china. i was told by one adviser the president has said north korea is a chinese problem located in north korea. >> okay, rick klein. all the talk of national security. and it seems like all we have talked about for a couple of weeks here. let's go back to the domestic agenda of president trump. he's not making much progress there. health reform, tax reform, the travel ban stuck in the courts. so what's up? >> if there is a trump doctrine, the president is stumbling into that doctrine. the context is critical. we're coming up on the end of the critical first 100-day period. he's striking out. nothing going on health care, tax reform, infrastructure. none of these things is moving. the hope is that these things are connected. what i have heard from several members on capitol hill,
this trump as commander in chief, the actions on the world stage, they're bucking up the mood among republicans. at least for now. it's tentative. they have given up on trying to figure out what president trump really believes because of the recent shifts in policy and how fast-moving all of these actions on the world stage are. the hope is that they're connected. this viewing of president trump as commander in chief, tackling world problems, could have a spillover effect on the legislative agenda and they could start to put more points on the board domestically. >> and jennifer, i want to ask you about the flip-flops we have heard about. s is it a strategy or just the reality of governing? >> probably just a reality of governing. i mean, one striking thing here is that he's listening to his career staff. he's been almost establishment in his actions and his thinking with this. but, you know, his staff had been arguing that these were not shifts so much as concessions in his favor, for example, i was told in his meetings where the
nato secretary-general, he was very firm, very pushy about wanting more money for defense. more participation in fighting terrorism. he's getting his way on those things. on china, the currency manipulation. there was this new report out from the treasury department this week saying -- specifically said that none of our trading partners could meet the criteria right now to be labeled a currency manipulator. he's listening to his career staff right now, which is unusual. >> rick, is he listening to republicans on the hill? to his base? >> it's quite the time for on-the-job training. base and republicans on the hill are two very separate things. if you look at how he's been moving, despite the talk about broken campaign promises, he's moving closer to the mainstream of the republican party. maybe even the broader, bipartisan mainstream about america's role in the world. that heartens a whole bunch of capitol hill republicans. who the people who have heartburn over this are more of his core base. the freedom caucus,
libertarians, they say what is it with the foreign adventurism? same for the staff shakeup. the attention on steve bannon getting sidelined. there's an interesting twist for the potential for him to be set off to the side. the fact is, a lot of members of congress would privately cheer that on the republican side. steve bannon is not liked widely by members of republican leadership. many of them are getting close contacts now and good relationships with jared kushner. it could be that the internal staff shakeups help president trump. even though they're not good headlines. they help with his relationships on capitol hill. >> jonathan, i want to talk to you again about here on the korean peninsula. we started the program that way. we end the program this way. what do you expect here next? when i walk around the city, people are not frightened. they're pretty calm. they're pretty used to it. you heard us talk today. it is at a very, very serious stage.
>> you're right. that the south koreans are used to this. they have lived in the shadow of the north korean threat for years. they are not used to hearing it from the white house. if you're a south korean, you're looking at -- a neighbor that is -- perhaps on the verge of something big happening here. it may start there. it may start from washington. you feel a little bit caught in the crossfire. >> so they're more nervous when they hear this aggressive talk? >> i think so. again, usually, the white house, washington, has been a reassuring force. i think that's why mike pence is here in a certain sense to reassure the allies. you have trump, tweeting and -- sometimes going -- quite wild in his rhetoric from one side to the other. it's unclear what exactly he intends to do. >> does it seem to you, quickly, that he has a red line? >> well, i don't know what that red line is. i don't know that north korea has gotten the message either. i think south korea, here, too,
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