tv Washington Week PBS August 12, 2017 1:30am-2:01am PDT
and then locked and loaded. president trump ramps up his rhetorical brinksman ship with kim jong-un. i'm robert costa. we take a closer look at the standoff between the united states and north korea tonight on "washington week." president trump: north korea better bet their act together or they're going to be in trouble. robert: the threat of fire and fury was not enough for president trump. he now says the military is locked and loaded to counter any threat from north korea. president trump: he's disrespected our country greatly and with me he's not getting away with it. robert: north korea dismissed trump's remarks as nonsense and announced it is working on a plan to attack the american
territory of guam, home to two military bases. president trump: he does something in guam, it will be the likes no one has seen before. it's not a dare 6. it's a statement. robert: what should the u.s. response be? secretary of defense james mattis insists diplomatic efforts to contain the threat are working -- for now. >> you can see the american effort is diplomatically led, it is gaining ditch lomatic results. the tragedy of war is well enough known, it would be catastrophic. robert: is china the key to de-escalating the threat? we explore it awful with yeganeh torbati of reuters, nancy youssef of buzzfeed, michael duffy of time magazine, and alexis simendinger of real clear politics.
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we call them part of our team. >> additional funding is provided by newman's own foundation, donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity and nourishing the common good. the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation. koo and patricia yuen through the ue -- yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator robert costa. robert: good evening. what a week. we learned that north korea is now capable of miniaturizing nuclear warheads that could hit the united states. we also witnessed a very public war of words between president
trump and leader kim jong-un over the communist country's nuclear ambitions and as tensions escalated, the president didn't pump the brakes. instead he intensified his ominous warning to north korea, saying the united states was locked and loaded to take military action. president trump: if north korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our alleys or us, they can be very, very nervous. robert: north korea issued it own warning to the united states saying trump is driving the situation on the korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war. making such outcries as the u.s. will not rule out a war with the north creanl regime. nancy, the question tonight is a central one. as we hear all this hot rhetoric, everyone wonders and you've been at the pentagon all week talking to military officials. are we actually on the brink of
war and does all of this rhetoric correspond to military action? nancy: some of the best measures of military action is not rhetoric but logistics what assets are they moving and where? to attack north korea's capability in a way to mitigate the threat andlessen threats to alleys would take an enormous undertaking by the military and we haven't seen it. let's talk -- start with equipment. there's only one u.s. carrier in the region and it's at port. you haven't seen troops moving in this any sustained way. you haven't seen troops called in on emergency leave. you haven't seen evacuations of military families, even on guam, which was the island that was threatened. we haven't seen the state department issue a warning to
americans in south korea we want haven't seen any of the pieces that need to happen logistically to maintain a steanted campaign. that said, there's a very heavy military presence in the reefpblgt right now, there's nothing to indicate that there's a military action happening and the thing to watch for or those logistics. robert: the president says locked and loaded but the military sbess on pauts and if the military is on pause, i have to wonder, you've been at the state department all week. are there any glimmers of diplomatic progress at this point? you've been following not only secretary of state rex tillerson and nikki haley but also the u.s. diplomat trying to do back channel talks. yeganeh: right. we learned today through the associated press that joseph
yoon has been speaking to the third highest north korean official at the u.s. ambassador in new york. those talks were centered around the return of the american student who was imprisoned in north korea and sadly died after his return to the united states. we learned that those contacts have continued. that's the only channel right now as far as we know between talks between the u.s. and north korea. the ditch lomatic thing the u.s. is focused on and rex tillerson and nikki haley is u.s. trading partners around u.s. alleys in the region to try to get them to up the pressure with north korea, to try and cut off any trade, especially illicit trailed banned by u.s. resolution. the focus hasn't been on opening talks with north korea yet. it's really trying to increase that pressure first.
robert: and china came to the table and worked with the united states last week on having a new round of sanctions. the president said there may be new sanctions on friday in the works. anything you can share about that? yeganeh: right. this was a really important ditch lomatic win by the trump administration. they got a 15-0 vote on the sanctions on north korea. the key is going to be in the limp plesm station and that is very much down to china, which is north korea's primary trading partner. if the chinese entities and banks and companies don't enforce those sanctions then it's up to the chinese government to shut that down and if that doesn't happen, the next step are so-called secondary sanctions. so the united states sanking chinese entities. robert: so the military is on pause but ready. the state department is engaged in talks but the world is on edge and on friday german
chancellor angela merkel criticized the president's provocative warning, his talk touch -- touch talk, to north korea, saying i believe that anesque lace of rhetoric will not contribute to a solution of this conflict. she said i do not see a military solution to this conflict. as expected, the president remained defivente when asked about his critics. president trump: my critics are only saying that because it's me. if somebody else uttered the same words they did they'd save what a great statement. we have tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with that i'm saying. they're saying finally we have a president that's stick up for our nation and stick up for our friends and allies. robert: michael, i'm reading your "time" magazine cover story on general john kelly, the new chief of staff. the world and so many republicans and democrats are
wondering can this new chief of staff who's with the president in new jersey be a force of stability inside the room? michael: judging by the last 48 hours, you might quickly conclude no but it's important to remember that kelly, who has done about everything you can do in the united states marine corps and is very close with the secretary of state and defense and the national squrt advisor and was judged -- nudged by nose men to take the job after he turned it down twice. partly did it because as they said to him, we need to do for the good of the country. we need a white house that is ready to deal with an international criticize because it's pretty obvious that it hasn't been and isn't. the question you might ask is what really is someone like kelly capable of? you can't fix trump the way you fix a car or you focus -- fix a tire but what youing do, maybe,
you can maybe earn his trust enough so that you can get the rest of the operations -- and it's an operation at the white house -- ready should a crisis develop. i think he kind of gave away the puzzle there, the cue to the whole week when he said a lot of people really like what i'm saying. i think if you look at trump's comments this week about north korea, which were kind of unprovoked, you could argue that this is to some extent an effort by him not just to worry about the korean peninsula but very much to mine his own political standing back home. he's had a tough couple of weeks in the polls. he teefpbleds to -- tends to worry about his base when it slips and it had slimmed until wednesday when he cranked this stuff up. you have to remember that he's always mindful of what that bails is thinking and doing. robert: alexis, that speculation from michael raises the question
about all these mixed messages we've seen from the white house this week. we've heard the touch talk from the president but also seen the diplomatic side of the administration have an entirely different tack. alexis: by the end of the week it even seemed more muddled. so if we wanted to pay attention to those who are expert in this and we listen to them carefully, and that would be the secretary of state or the pentagon chief, you can hear the emphasis on diplomacy, diplomacy and let's talk about the sanctions and the with the is going to call the president of china on friday night and this discussion of talks. that is almost like an asterisk, though, in what the president is ascribing. and as michael points out, for him, a lot of this is the personal power of the commander in chief in trying to display the power and might of the
united states to the rest of the world 6. in the same breath he's also going back to the capable. i'm doing something that these three previous presidents didn't do. i'm going to clean up this mess. he's not saying, though, that the military option is a solution. he's not arguing that. he didn't argue that by the end of the week but he is mixing up what the united states would use as a trigger to have to rely on the military option and you can see him talking about either the threat or the overt threat or the, you know, the actual action. so i think it's a mix of something very personal for him about power and also this idea that this is a threat in the world that he wants to clean up. >> as you and michael talk, how many of these comments were directed at china and trying to get china to intervene and how many was directed at a domestic u.s. all of a sudden? from a national security perspective, one assumes that one of the reasons these things
are being said is to say to china, if you don't do something, we'll threaten the one thing you value the most, stability. but to hear you guys talk -- >> i'm wondering about that question. if this is about signaling to china to get involved. what the rhythm right now between pyongyang and bay zing when it comes to china stepping up? >> i think pyongyang is a pain in the neck for the chinese. i don't think they snourlt a nuclear program or want the north koreans to have a nuclear program but for them the real strategic threat is the united states. they don't view the north koreans as a strategic threat. the goal for the administration was to get the chinese to view the north creanl threat as more serious. what the u.s. officials would say is that the chinese
tolerance for north korean business behavior is quite a lot more than the u.s. tolerance. that's the gap the u.s. has been trying to close for a while. >> we should add, to, that the president has been almost unbelievably public about his thinking with china. he said in public, let's talk about trade. we'll make a better deal and china has turned a department of ear to this as a negotiating point. but one thing that emerged at the end of the week, china has said they want to be neutral. >> and stay tined on to these sanctions. that's a big win and an indication that china is willing to do more. again, we have to see what the enforcement is going to be. >> one thing about sanctions, they take a long time. and you could live through this week of statements and tweets and think we're going to be at war by sunday. the plain fact is that we all know we're not and probably not
ever and the sanctions deal takes months in iran it took years. so if you believe the sanctions piece, that's a much longer squeeze game. it's not certainly about weekend. >> also this whole idea is based on the supposition that chinese intervention will reduce the crisis. there's no guarantee of that because part of the sanctions would involve them taking an economic hit themselves. >> one of the things that's hard for everyone in the country and even as journalists and diplomats and people at the pentagon, we don't hear this kind of rhetoric from presidents. because in the game of diplomacy you don't talk this way. you whisper to them. i don't know how you speak to the north koreans, you can't. so people are unaccustomed and shocked and scared to hear this kind of language from a president. it may be how he negotiates or talks in all his, however he does stuff.
it's still shocking and scary to people but that didn't mean that we're headed down a road to no return. robert: you have to wonder if it's part of the typical trump. it's hard to read trump. he's shown flashes of the -- of noninterventionism in the past. the president did a lot of saber rattling in 1999. donald trump, new york businessman and future tv reality show told tim russ early on nbc's meet the press when asked how would you deal with a nuclear north korea? >> negotiate. i would negotiate like crazy and i'd make sure that we tried to get the best deal possible. the biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation and we have a country out there in north korea which is sort of whacko. they're not a bunch of dummies and they are going out and developing nuclear weapons. they're doing it for a within.
-- reason. robert: nancy, from 1999 to right now in 2017 ha has changed with the nuclear threat from north korea? we have reports of a miniaturized we have and also what is the u.s. nuclear arsenal is the president has claimed, many say incorrectly, that he's rev lutionized the nuclear arsenal. the nuclear state of play may have changed. >> that's right because now-year talking about a miniaturized weapon. arguably that's an opportunity to negotiate because before all the talks were focused on not getting to this point. now that they're here, arguably in a rude meantry nuclear program, one could argue this is an opportunity to start talks look how to mitigate that threat. there's a review going on right now, it began in april, the president claimed that he'd revolutionize it would u.s. nuclear arsenal that. hasn't happened because that
review had to be completed first and it's expected maybe at the end of this year and only then can you start to re-examine the u.s. nuclear program. some of the changes we're seeing now are base tonight 2010 nuclear posture review. robert: why can't the united states and its allies just accept a nuclear-armed north korea? is that part of options on the table? >> it's not something anybody is seriously considered. if you're a sill ver mined analystout outside of the united states, you realize the north koreans are far too along in their quest to give up their nuclear programs at this point. they view it as a continue equation of their survival and regime but it's not something that the u.s. government under the obama administration or this administration is prepared to accept. simply because of the verbal fellows that the north koreans
have threatened to the united states. >> this is not a group of people that is regarded as stable. robert: they may have some strategy. >> they always act in their own interests. in the self-times they have walked this situation up to the brink in 1994 when they did pull americans out of south korea and they did move lots more anti-aircraft batteries into south -- and the shelves of stores in south korea in 1984 when bill clinton sent jimmy carter were klined -- cleaned out. that was much more of a brinksman shim moment. robert: there's a big difference to say you're going to target guam if you're north korea vs. los angeles or chicago. michael: i'm not going to say it's not an important targets but there are higher value targets. that's one indication there is a little shadow boxing going on.
>> they also level themselves wiggle room. in that statement even though they gave the date and time, they said we had to check with our army and kim jong-un before something would be launched. michael: and the big difference between today and the time of the meet the burress interview is this man now as a base and the republican party that likes to hear him talk this way. robert: i was looking at edwin morris's long history of the united states. korea has long had hostility of the united states and japan in has been going on for more than a century. the crisis now for president trump? >> it certainly was a feature of the presidential election discussion. it was in the memories of those who remember the korean war of the 1950's and for a 71-year-old president it's part of what he remembers about american history too. robert: we'll have to leave it there. the north korean crisis or programs, michael, the crisis
that's being overblown from your perspective. thanks so much. great to have you. alexis, yeganeh, nancy, michael. we have to leave awe few minutes early to give you an opportunity to support your local pbs station. stay tuned and our conversation will continue online on the "washington week" extra where we'll tell you about a mysterious situation in cuba ha that is caused hearing loss for some diplomats. i'm robert costa, enjoy your weekend. >> funding for "washington week"
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steves: the galata bridge spans the easy-to-defend inlet called the golden horn in the very heart of istanbul. a stroll across the bridge offers panoramic views of istanbul's old town, a chance to see how the fishermen are doing... and plenty of options for a drink or meal with a view. for fast food, istanbul-style, we're grabbing a fishwich, fresh from the guys who caught it, at one of the venerable and very tipsy fish-and-bread boats. oh, man. [ speaking turkish ] [ speaking turkish ] this is istanbul fast food, huh? now, this is what kind of fish? fresh mackerel. steves: from near the galata bridge, it's easy to hop a tour boat for a relaxing sail up the bosphorus and a chance to see the city from the water, with europe on one side and asia on the other. you'll pass massive cruise ships which pour thousands of tourists into the city for a frantic day of sightseeing and shopping.
the boat passes homes of wealthy locals who can afford some of the priciest real estate in turkey -- bosphorus waterfront. the dramatic bosphorus bridge was the first bridge ever to span two continents. and the rumeli fortress was built by the ottomans the year before they conquered the city of constantinople. tour boats share the bosphorus with plenty of commercial traffic. the narrow and strategic strait is a bottle neck busy with freighters, including lots of ukrainian and russian ships, since this is the only route from ports on the black sea out to the mediterranean. for more crowds and urban energy, you can join the million commuters who ferry over and back every day from the asian side of istanbul. ferries shuttle in and out from all directions as seas of locals make their daily half-hour intercontinental commute.
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