DATE June 23, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Colonel Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard discusses
US-North Korea relations
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
While most of the international (technical difficulties) in Iraq, talks are
under way this week in Beijing to deal with North Korea and its nuclear
weapons capacity. Twenty months ago when the Bush administration was
preparing to invade Iraq, North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Agreement, expelled weapons inspectors and appeared to be
restarting its nuclear weapons program. Today (technical difficulties) to
resolve the crisis. This is the third round of senior-level talks between the
two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and China. The two previous rounds ended
My guest, Jack Pritchard, worked in both the Clinton and Bush administrations
as an expert on North Korea, participating in negotiations with North Korea.
He resigned from the Bush administration last August and subsequently began to
make public his disagreements with the administration's policy toward North
Korea. Pritchard is now a visiting fellow at The Brookings Institution. I
asked him to explain the Bush administration's new proposal to North Korea.
Colonel CHARLES L. "JACK" PRITCHARD (Retired, US Army): Well, according to
what we've seen in the newspapers and what's being reported on the wires, is
that the United States has been authorized to show some degree of flexibility
and provide an offer that would perhaps be a provisional security guarantee
and then allowing others to provide energy assistance to North Korea. If--and
this is the conditionality--if North Korea commits to dismantling its
plutonium and highly enriched uranium nuclear weapons programs, that's the
gist of what the offer appears to be.
GROSS: The Bush administration in the past has said it didn't want to offer
incentives to North Korea for its bad behavior. It didn't want to offer
incentives for dismantling the nuclear program because the program shouldn't
have been there in the first place. Is this a change of policy, and what does
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, it is a slight change. You know, the mantra has
always been, `Oh, we will not reward bad behavior. They should never have
done this to begin with.' But what you're seeing now is a degree of
flexibility aimed not towards North Korea but towards China, South Korea and
to a limited extent Japan, allowing the talks to go beyond where we currently
are. Because up till now we're at an impasse with the United States,
consistently repeating CVID, complete and verifiable irreversible dismantling,
with no apparent success.
GROSS: Now before this latest development, the conventional wisdom was North
Korea was unlikely to agree to anything before the presidential election
because they want to see what the new administration will be. Do you think
that that still will be true?
Col. PRITCHARD: No, I do. I think key to this headline development, if you
will, is the conditionality here where the United States is calling upon North
Korea to commit to dismantle all of its nuclear weapons programs, specifically
their plutonium and highly enriched uranium. That's the key. In normal
negotiations, if you're able to agree that the North Koreans could simply say,
`We agree to get rid of all of our nuclear weapons,' without having to specify
the HEU, which they've denied up to this point, you might have some wiggle
room for negotiations. But I absolutely believe that the instructions that
the United States has is the North Koreans must commit specifically to getting
rid of the HEU. That's been the stumbling block up to now, and it's highly
unlikely, in my opinion, that the North Koreans at this round are going to
suddenly say, `Well, yes, we do have HEU, and we will commit to getting rid of
GROSS: So in other words, they can't commit to get rid of it until they admit
that they have it, and they're not ready to admit that.
Col. PRITCHARD: Right. So what you end up having here is what appears to be
a good deal of flexibility, and it is a movement in the right direction. But
nonetheless, the conditionality and the specificity of having to acknowledge
the HEU up front really is probably going to preclude the North Koreans at
this point from agreeing in this round of talks.
GROSS: So how would you sum up these developments in negotiations with North
Col. PRITCHARD: The headline here is: US has new proposal, shows
flexibility. That's great. It makes the process go another day. But at the
end of this session, it's unlikely, because of the split in the
administration, that they're going to be unwilling to accept a generic `We
will dismantle all of our nuclear program.' The elements in the Bush
administration are going to demand that the North Koreans specify the highly
enriched uranium program, and the North Koreans aren't going to do it this
GROSS: What do you know about North Korea's nuclear capabilities right now?
To our best knowledge, what are they?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, there's two parts to that, what we do know and what is
a probable conjecture. The conjecture part is they may have as many as eight
nuclear weapons. What we know, specifically is that there's an amount of
plutonium that is unaccounted for prior to the original 1994 agreed framework.
Most intelligence analysts believe that is about enough for one or two nuclear
weapons. So set that aside for just a second. And then the North Koreans
most recently, beginning in January 2003, began a process of reprocessing
their spent fuel that they had under essentially international lock and key
until the end of December 2002. Over a six-month period beginning in January
2003, they reprocessed this, extracted the plutonium and by most estimates
there's enough there for another six weapons. We don't know for sure if
they've actually made the weapons or what they've done with the plutonium.
But a prudent guess would be that they have at least the ability to have made
a total of eight nuclear weapons.
GROSS: What about biological and chemical weapons?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, you know, that doesn't come to the forefront, but
we've known for many years that they've got a stockpile certainly of chemical
weapons. The South Koreans each year estimate how much that is. We believe
they have a biological program as well. That's not what's in the news, but
they certainly do have that capability, and you have to take a look at it as
part of their overall WMD program.
GROSS: So the state of our relationship with North Korea now and the state of
North Korea's weapons program is that they're out of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, they pulled out of that, they're processing
plutonium again, and for all we know, they're building nuclear weapons now.
And we're not negotiating with them directly. We're only negotiating with
them in the six-party talks.
Col. PRITCHARD: That's correct. In January 2003, the North Koreans
announced their withdrawal from the NPT, the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Some
will argue that they didn't actually have that right to do it, but
nonetheless, they've done it. And they--the end result is, there are not any
inspectors present, nor are they, from a North Korean point of view, bound to
any of the obligations of the NPT. They have completed, according to them,
the reprocessing of these 8,017 spent fuel rods, so theoretically they have
the capability to add another six nuclear weapons to their potential arsenal
of one or two that they already have. And, yes, we are not talking to them
directly, as all of the other members of the six parties have urged the United
States to do, but this administration has relied exclusively on the
multilateral tract over the last, almost two years.
GROSS: Why does the Bush administration not want to have one-on-one talks
with North Korea?
Col. PRITCHARD: I think it is a basic problem that this situation, as it
began to unfold in October of 2002, when Assistant Secretary Jim Kelly and
myself and a few others went to Pyongyang to confront North Korea over what we
believed to be their highly enriched uranium program, a distinction from the
plutonium program that we were aware of, that as the North Koreans began to
say, `We'll only talk to you, the United States,' and they began to withdraw
from the NPT, kick out the IAEA inspectors.
It looked remarkably similar to the situation in 1993 and the results thereof,
which was the 1994 agreed framework that the Clinton administration negotiated
for which the current Bush administration and most those who are opposed to
the agreed framework, they were very concerned that it would end up very
similar to that. So they wanted to have a multilateral approach to resolving
the problem. And, quite frankly, that's the appropriate thing to do in terms
of bringing in all the regional players involved. But it is not the only
thing that should be done. It is not--it should not be exclusive and the
reason we've made no progress over almost two years is because we've had no
direct contacts in a serious manner with them.
GROSS: So you think there should be breakaway talks where the United States,
talks one on one with North Korea in addition to the six-party talks?
Col. PRITCHARD: Not--yes, complementary. You know, you have to take a look
at this--that all the other parties involved are having bilateral talks with
the North Koreans and among themselves. We are exclusively not doing that.
You know, you need really to have the synergistic effect of a direct dialogue
with the North Koreans, comparing that to the dialogue that they're having
with the Japanese and the South Koreans and then bringing the results into the
six-party process to make the most progress that you can. You know, I'll give
you, if I may, another example here.
Col. PRITCHARD: The North Koreans are extraordinarily unlikely to admit to
having violated the 1994 agreed framework by secretly starting up an HEU,
highly enriched uranium program. That's what the Bush administration wants
the North Koreans to do. They're not going to do that in front of others.
They've been denying it all along. But in a bilateral, serious discussion
with the United States, you may find a way to get that kind of information
into the dialogue, find out where it belongs and then, in an appropriate
point, bring it into the six-party dialogue. The North Koreans simply are not
going to stand up in a--what they see as an international court of law and
admit to their violations.
GROSS: What are the Bush administration criticisms of the agreement with
North Korea that was reached in 1994 during the Clinton administration?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, the primary one is that it postpones some of our most
serious non-proliferation concerns, and it allowed the North Koreans
technically to be in violation of their NPT obligations. Those are both true.
The first one is the more specific and more serious of that. The 1994 agreed
framework did not remove the spent fuel that that had been used in the nuclear
reactors. That's the material that you can then reprocess and extract
plutonium from and then build nuclear weapons. It postponed the removal out
of North Korea until the first light water reactor was built and turned over
to the North Koreans. And in that period of time, just before nuclear
technology should be transferred or key components transferred to the North
Koreans and the completion of the first LWR, that's when the spent fuel rods
should have been removed from North Korea.
Now what that did by this postponement was leave in place in North Korea these
spent fuel rods that if the North Koreans ever broke their pledge and decided
to reprocess them, they'd have in their hands the capability to create nuclear
weapons. That's precisely what has occurred. It's a legitimate criticism,
but it was, within the context of the negotiations in 1994, something that
could not have been avoided, according to those that were most intimately
involved in the negotiations.
GROSS: My guest is Jack Pritchard. He worked as an expert on North Korea in
the Clinton and Bush administrations. He resigned from the Bush
administration in August. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jack Pritchard, and he's now a
visiting fellow at The Brookings Institution. He worked in both the Clinton
and Bush administrations as an expert on North Korea and was involved in
negotiations with North Korea in both administrations.
When President Bush made his State of the Union address in which he described
North Korea as being part of the axis of evil, were you consulted on that?
Were you consulted about whether you thought, as a North Korea expert, that
that was a good idea?
Col. PRITCHARD: No one was consulted on that. My understanding is the
secretary of State may have seen that particular passage shortly before the
speech was given, but it was not circulated among any of the experts, and it
came as a surprise to us within government as well as to the rest of the
GROSS: Had you been consulted about it, what would you have said?
Col. PRITCHARD: One, you end up being in an awkward situation of not wanting
to defend North Korea. It is certainly a dictatorial regime. There are very
few good qualities about it. But the accuracy in the lumping of it as part of
the axis of evil with Iraq, for which the North Koreans and others very well
knew the position of the United States and watched it unfold in terms of the
military confrontation that was taking place, and the fact that there was no
linkage between the two and, in fact, the three, Iran being the third element
of the axis of evil--it really was disturbing to most the nations of the
world, a kind of gratuitous lumping of North Korea in this very catchy and
certainly often repeated phrase of axis of evil. It has not served our
purpose very well.
GROSS: What effect do you think it has had on the leadership of North Korea?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, it served a couple things. First and foremost,
though, it has scared them. As they watched the US actions towards Iraq, time
and again they would say, `We're concerned that we're next, that we're part of
your hit list, and that once you have accomplished what you wanted to do in
Iraq, you're going to turn in the same manner towards us.' So they began to
withdraw and, quite frankly, use that as a pretext to then reprocess the spent
fuel, first telling us that it was designed for peaceful means, that they
simply were trying to keep it safeguarded. But once they saw the outbreak of
hostilities in March of 2003, they came back to me and said, `We're changing
our rationale. If Iraq, that did not have weapons of mass destruction, is
attacked, then we'll be next. So our defense will be to develop nuclear
weapons of our own. So we're going to do that for a deterrent purpose.' Now
I don't buy any of that, but that's what they've said.
GROSS: After the axis of evil reference in the State of the Union address,
did you or any of the other North Korea experts talk to the president and tell
him that you thought that that was a mistake?
Col. PRITCHARD: I certainly did not. I don't know if Secretary Powell--it
was certainly too soon. What followed the following month, you may recall, is
the president's trip to South Korea, his first trip--first and only trip to
South Korea. The damage that it had done there--the South Koreans at that
point, primarily because of the `axis of evil' speech, among other things,
were very concerned, and the talk in the street was the possibility of war on
the Peninsula. So the president's trip--he did a lot of damage control to get
the alliance back into shape, based upon the concerns that the South Koreans
had over his use of the `axis of evil' terminology.
GROSS: Were there strong divisions within the Bush administration about how
to proceed with North Korea after that State of the Union address?
Col. PRITCHARD: There have always been, from day one, very strong differences
within the Bush administration. It wasn't just after the `axis of evil'
speech. At the beginning of the administration, when they undertook a policy
review, the split within the administration was as wide as I've seen it on any
issue, and it continues to this day.
GROSS: Who was on which side?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, you had a basic lineup of--almost the entire Pentagon
was advocating, `Don't deal with North Korea, hard-line towards North Korea.'
You had an element within the State Department headed by Undersecretary John
Bolton who also advocated that. You had a sizable element within the White
House, led by the senior director for counterproliferation, Bob Joseph, and
elements of the vice president's office as well. Counterbalanced against
that, you had part of the National Security Council, in the form of the Asian
Directorate, along with most of the State Department advocating a more
moderate approach to solving the problem.
GROSS: So is it fair to say that the people in the Bush administration who
were strongest in their insistence that we needed to invade Iraq, the same
people who were strongest in their insistence that we should not talk directly
with North Korea?
Col. PRITCHARD: One and the same.
GROSS: And how do those two positions connect?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, I don't know if they do connect, other than the
philosophy that has guided us in our actions in Iraq and has precluded any
meaningful resolution of the problem that we have in North Korea, a very
hard-line, ideological viewpoint. These are positions that are very firmly
believed in and held, and they vigorously fight any opposition to those.
GROSS: Some people did wonder, why are we invading Iraq when we don't really
know for sure if they have weapons of mass destruction? And it turns out none
have been found yet. When in North Korea, we can be pretty confident that
even if they don't have nuclear weapons, they're awful close to having them,
and they do have, according to what you said, chemical and biological weapons
Col. PRITCHARD: Yeah. The rationale doesn't hold up. You essentially had
an administration in October of 2002--when we confronted the North Koreans in
Pyongyang about their highly enriched uranium program, for which we believed
that they admitted to that program, you had a North Korea in violation of
their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, essentially
saying, `Yes, we have nuclear weapons. Yes, we have the technology.' And the
Bush administration is saying, `Put that on the back burner. Don't let that
become a crisis. I'm more concerned about what Iraq has, and we'll deal with
North Korea later.' And what we found out is that Iraq didn't have the
weapons of mass destruction, and the North Koreans not only did but, during
this time frame, increased their stockpile fourfold.
GROSS: Jack Pritchard worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations as an
expert on North Korea. He resigned from the Bush administration in August.
He's now a visiting fellow at The Brookings Institution. He'll be back in the
second half of the show.
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, Jack Pritchard talks about his visit to North Korea last
January as part of an unofficial delegation investigating the country's
nuclear capacity. And rock critic Ken Tucker reviews a new album from
songwriter Jules Shear.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Jack Pritchard. He
worked as an expert on North Korea in the Clinton and Bush administrations.
He resigned from the Bush administration last August. In late 2002, as the
Bush administration was preparing to invade Iraq, North Korea pulled out of
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, expelled weapons inspectors and appeared
to be restarting its nuclear weapons program. When we left off our
discussion, Pritchard was comparing the Bush administration's assessment of
the threats from Iraq and North Korea and discussing why the administration
focused on Iraq while putting North Korea on the back burner.
Do you think that part of the issue here is that it was very difficult to
handle two international crises at the same time?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, not only was it difficult, it was a very specific
decision made by President Bush that what was occurring in Asia would not
become a crisis. That was very clear; it was clearly communicated to the
secretary of State and, through him, to the rest of us that were working on
Korea, that nothing North Korea could do would cause the president to treat
this as a crisis. Now that was borne by the taboo of the language. Whenever
reporting described it as a crisis, the administration would say, `No, it's
not a crisis. It takes two to have a crisis, and this is not a crisis.'
GROSS: And what was your reaction to that approach?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, I began to question whether or not we had a policy in
place that was going to address this most serious concern that was developing
in North Korea. So I was beginning to have very much concern about how this
was playing out.
GROSS: And what you're referring to--this is the period when North Korea
pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and when weapons inspectors were
expelled from the country.
Col. PRITCHARD: That's correct. Now this all happened in very rapid fashion.
You may recall it was the beginning of October 2002 that we went to Pyongyang,
talked to the North Koreans, told them that we believed that they had a secret
nuclear program based on HEU. Thereafter, the North Koreans in December
kicked out the IAEA inspectors; they took off the locking mechanisms; they
turned off the cameras and then, in January, pulled out of the NPT and then
began to reprocess the spent fuel that heretofore had been frozen and under
GROSS: What do you think would have been an alternate way of addressing what
the North Koreans had done on the eve of the invasion of Iraq?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, you know, it is not as simple as saying, `Here are the
things that should have occurred at that point.' Actually we need to go back
more than a year in terms of how we were developing our relationship with our
allied partners, the Republic of Korea, South Korea. You may recall in March
of 2001, when former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung visited Washington,
he did not receive a very cordial welcome; in fact, he was extremely
embarrassed over his treatment. So our relationship with South Korea was very
strained early on.
Now what that translates into is any ability to use all our diplomatic tools,
which would have included the ability to take the problem to the United
Nations to seek sanctions of any kind, absolutely required the cooperation and
full support of South Korea. We eliminated early on that possibility by
alienating our South Korean ally. But assuming that we had that in place, we
could have, through a direct contact, once we had put in place the
multilateral process, the six-party process, begun to move much faster in
dealing with North Korea.
One of the things that should have been done early on was to declare a red
line to the North Koreans, let them know, as the Clinton administration did,
that reprocessing of the spent fuel, which would have resulted in the
extraction of plutonium and in the ability to create nuclear weapons, would
not be tolerated at any cost, to include a possible confrontation with the
United States and its allies. The Bush administration has not, in this
current crisis beginning in October of 2002, put a red line down to tell the
North Koreans any particular behavior is off limits.
So the North Koreans have been probing and testing to find out just how far
they can go, and as they did in January and through June of 2003, they
reprocessed something that, according to Dr. Bill Perry, the former secretary
of Defense in the '93-'94 time frame, would have led to war in the Clinton
GROSS: What would be your critique of how the Clinton administration
addressed North Korea?
Col. PRITCHARD: You know, that's a little tough because the most difficult
period of the Clinton administration in terms of dealing with North Korea was
in the '93-'94 period, a year or so prior to when I joined the administration.
I think the most difficult thing altogether was we had different timetables,
the Clinton administration and the North Koreans. The North Koreans finally
wised up towards the end and began to try to engage in a more serious manner
with the Clinton administration, and time simply ran out. You know, the
president couldn't do things that would commit a follow-on administration so
late in the game. So it's difficult to give you a critique of the Clinton
administration. It simply was a mismatch in time management between the
United States and North Korea.
GROSS: My guest is Jack Pritchard. He worked as an expert on North Korea in
the Clinton and Bush administrations. He resigned from the Bush
administration in August. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jack Pritchard, and he was in
the Clinton and Bush administrations as an expert on North Korea who
participated in talks with and negotiations with North Korea. He resigned
from the Bush administration last August, and he's now with The Brookings
Now you were in North Korea in January as part of a five-member unofficial
delegation. What was this delegation for? Like, who organized it and who did
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, we didn't represent anyone but ourselves. This was
organized by Professor John Lewis, Stanford. He had been going to North Korea
very quietly since 1987, had made a number of trips there to have quiet
conversations with the North Koreans. I don't know if they invited him or how
this particular trip evolved, but as I left government in August of 2003,
John, whom I had known, asked me to join so it would round out the number of
people they had and the expertise that we would take in there, solely as an
unofficial delegation. He added, which was extraordinarily smart on his part,
the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Sig Hecker.
And then two other participants who were really traveling separately, two
staffers for the Senate, Frank Jannuzi and Keith Luce. So it's, you
know, loosely referred to as a group of five, and a bit more technically it
may have been a group of three and a group of two that joined together to go
to North Korea in early January of this year.
GROSS: What was your purpose?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, one of the things that John Lewis wanted to do and that
I was anxious to do as well was to talk to the North Koreans about what they
had been doing at Yongbyon, the site of their nuclear facility, their
plutonium-based nuclear facility. So we asked to go there. We asked to see
what the status was. Up until that point, most of the intelligence reporting
and other analysis suggested that the North Koreans may have started the
reprocessing but probably had not finished it, or some problem had occurred
and that the spent fuel was still in the spent fuel storage area.
So we went. We asked to go; the North Koreans were actually very
accommodating, took us to Yongbyon about, oh, a couple-hour trip or so from
Pyongyang to where they have a five-megawatt nuclear reactor that also had
been frozen until January of a year ago. We talked to the nuclear scientists
there. We took a look at their facilities. We were not inspectors; we had
not gone in any official capacity; we had no scientific equipment other than
the brainpower of Dr. Hecker with us.
But we saw that their five-megawatt nuclear reactor was up and operational.
We talked with a scientist there. We went over to their spent fuel storage
facility where these 8,000-and-some-17 spent fuel rods had been encased in
canisters that had been built specially by the Department of Energy. The
spent fuel rods are put in these canisters; they're stored underwater in a
pond. We went there. We saw for the most part that the canisters were empty.
The North Koreans were anxious for us to then accept that they, in fact, now
possessed a nuclear deterrent. We told them, no, we can't say that. We can
only attest to what we have seen or what we have not seen. We told them that
we had looked into the pond; we could see some of the canisters were empty.
But other of the canisters still had lids on them, and we had no idea whether
they still possessed spent fuel or they were empty themselves. They then
said, `Well, do you want to look in those as well?' And we said, `Certainly.'
So the brave five of us sent Dr. Hecker back in rather than us, and he
randomly chose a canister to take a look at. They opened them up and they
were empty. He spent a little more time than we did collectively looking at
the pond and is convinced that there are no spent fuel rods remaining there;
they're gone. That in itself was a piece of information, intelligence that
the United States had not known before.
We took a look at their reprocessing facility, and we rely on Dr. Hecker as a
nuclear scientist, a plutonium specialist, to tell us really what we're
seeing. You know, they could have shown us, you know, a barn for all we knew
collectively, and we would have nodded. But Dr. Hecker, in his specialty, was
able to look at the facilities, make judgments, talk to the scientists there.
The North Koreans were very anxious after that to say, `Well, now do you
believe that we have a nuclear deterrent?' And we said, `No, we can't say
that. We haven't seen any of your reprocessed material.'
And I think as you have probably seen in Dr. Hecker's public testimony, what
occurred next was the North Koreans asked, `Well, would you like to see it?'
And of course we said yes. So we went into a very small side room, conference
room, and they brought out a lead box, opened it up, and there were two wooden
boxes inside. And when they opened those up, there was two jars, glass jars,
one containing a powder substance and the other containing a metal substance.
They told us that these were plutonium oxalate, a reprocessed form of
plutonium, and plutonium metal. And according to Dr. Hecker, there's only one
reason that you have plutonium metal, and that is to then form it into a
GROSS: So did this leave you convinced that North Korea actually has a
nuclear weapon now, that they've converted the spent plutonium rods and...
Col. PRITCHARD: Yeah, you know, to be honest and careful here...
Col. PRITCHARD: ...you know, we can only report specifically on what we saw.
Col. PRITCHARD: But the prudent person would not dismiss the probability that
the North Koreans have done precisely what they've said. We've seen enough to
suggest they have that capability. Whether or not they've actually done it or
they're in the process is another case. I myself believe they probably have,
but I don't know for certain.
GROSS: So there's a really interesting parallel going on here that I'd like
to ask you about. You know, in Iraq, the weapon inspectors weren't finding
anything, and before their inspections were finished, they had to pull out
because of the US plans to invade Iraq. So shortly after that, you go to
North Korea; the North Koreans want you to come so that they could do their
best to prove to you that they actually have nuclear weapons, that they are
moving on in their nuclear program, and nothing happens with that.
Col. PRITCHARD: Yeah, it is very interesting. Now for the North Koreans,
it's very simple. You know, beginning really in March of 2003, they were
extraordinarily concerned that they could be the target of the next military
operation of the United States. So they're anxious to have a nuclear
deterrent. But, you know, a nuclear deterrent or any kind of deterrent only
works if the person that you are trying to deter believes you, and the
reaction of the United States through 2003 was essentially, `Well, we really
don't believe you. You may have started, but you haven't finished, so you
probably don't have a nuclear deterrent.' That bothered the North Koreans.
So some would argue that we, this group of five, were being used by the North
Koreans, but we made it very clear to them that we would not speculate on what
they had; we would only report what we saw or didn't see. But you can
understand their desire to get somebody there. If it hadn't been us, it
probably would have been Congressman Curt Weldon that they had been trying to
get there prior to our visit, that couldn't go or canceled his trip. But they
wanted to show somebody something in which they then could declare as
authoritatively as they could that they do have a nuclear deterrent, so back
off, United States. So that was their motivation in showing us what they did
show, to the extent that they did show us things.
GROSS: Now the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, is not considered the
most, you know, reflective, rational, logical leader. I mean, some people
would say you can't negotiate with somebody like that.
Col. PRITCHARD: Yeah, it's very interesting in terms of people's perception
of Kim Jong Il. Prior to about April of 2000, what you just described was
held widely by the United States, by South Korea, by Japan, by almost
everyone, that Kim Jong Il was not a rational person, that he had presided
over a decision to blow planes out of the sky, to bomb the Cabinet of South
Korea on a visit to Burma.
But very strangely--and certainly in hindsight it's not so strange--but around
April of 2000, the South Koreans began to describe him as, well, maybe he is a
rational character. Maybe he is a worldly leader. And that puzzled people
until it became known that the South Koreans had begun to negotiate for their
president to travel to Pyongyang, to meet with Kim Jong Il. You know, and no
country's going to want to send their president off to see any irrational
dictator, so they had to rehabilitate his image in a kind of an open way.
And since then, we've had, oh, snapshots of Kim Jong Il that we've never had
before. We've had not only Kim Dae-jung, the president of South Korea's visit
in the middle of June of 2000 there and, you know, kind of the public images
of someone that you could talk to and deal with. We had shortly thereafter a
trip by former Secretary Albright in late October 2000, which I accompanied
her; we met with Kim Jong Il. Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan has now had two
meetings with him, and others have as well. So his image is being
rehabilitated one snapshot at a time.
GROSS: What were your impressions of Kim Jong Il?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, he wanted to portray himself in a more worldly way,
trying to convince us that he kept up with world news. But it was my
impression that he was far more informed on regional issues, and when he began
to stray beyond northeast Asia, it was clear that he really was not on top of
those issues. But he does, by his own admission--you know, he watches CNN; he
watches Japanese and South Korean television; he reads the news. So he's
probably the most informed person in North Korea, having access to outside
media that others in this country do not have.
GROSS: Did he strike you as a trustworthy, reliable negotiating partner, that
if he agreed to something, that he would follow through on that agreement?
Col. PRITCHARD: Very hard to predict. You know, they think the shorter
answer is you can probably make a deal with him; whether or not you trust him
is an entirely different situation. You go back to the Ronald Reagan axiom,
you know, `Trust but verify.'
GROSS: You're concerned that we have not engaged in bilateral talks with
North Korea, that we've kind of put North Korea on the back burner while
dealing with Iraq, and in the meantime, North Korea has been pursuing its
nuclear weapons program. What do you fear the consequences might be a little
further down the line?
Col. PRITCHARD: Well, my fear is that we will lose whatever window of
opportunity that we have to negotiate diplomatically a peaceful resolution to
this situation. There may come a time when the North Koreans simply withdraw
and then keep a permanent nuclear deterrent, in their words, and that may have
consequences in northeast Asia that we can't begin to imagine down the road,
not immediately but down the road, as the Chinese are concerned, how the
Japanese react, etc. And first and foremost is we do not have their nuclear
weapons material and technology under international control; we have no idea
where it's going to end up in the years to come.
GROSS: Jack Pritchard, thank you so much for talking with us.
Col. PRITCHARD: My pleasure. Thank you.
GROSS: Jack Pritchard worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations on North
Korea. He resigned from the Clinton administration last August. He's now a
visiting fellow at The Brookings Institution.
Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews a new CD by songwriter Jules Shear
featuring his cover versions of other songwriters' work. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Album "Sayin Hello to the Folks" by Jules Shear
TERRY GROSS, host:
Jules Shear has been writing and performing his music since the late '70s in a
succession of bands and as a solo performer. He wrote the Cyndi Lauper hit
"All Through the Night" and, for the Bangles, "If She Knew What She Wants."
His new album is a collection of covers of songs by artists ranging from Bob
Dylan to The Dave Clark Five. Rock critic Ken Tucker says the very things
that have limited Shear's commercial success helped make this album such a
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. JULES SHEAR: (Singing) I was in your presence for an hour or so, or was
it a day? I truly don't know. Where the sun never set, where the trees hung
low by that soft and shining sea. Did you respect me for what I did?
KEN TUCKER reporting:
Jules Shear is no one's idea of a first-rate pop singer, which doesn't mean he
isn't one, by which I mean at a time when millions of people watch "American
Idol" and buy into the absolutely ridiculous notion that a good voice is one
that hits all the right notes and never wavers off key, it bears saying that
great pop vocalizing, from Little Richard to Bob Dylan to--name your favorite
soul or singer-songwriter--is often effective because it isn't perfect. It
conveys enormous complexities of emotions, from the calculated unleashing of
passion in unruly ways.
When Jules Shear approaches the rippling New Orleans balladry of Chris
Kenner's "Something You Got," he sings the song as speech, as a declamation of
love and desire that will not be denied.
(Soundbite of "Something You Got")
Mr. SHEAR: (Singing) Something you got, baby, you make me work all day.
Something you got make me bring home all my pay. Something you got, baby, oh,
you ought to know, whoa, I said, my, my, oh-ho, I love you so. Something you
TUCKER: Of course, when Shear wants to make himself sound really good, he
multitracks his vocals to become his own one-man rock group, as on his
delightful cover of The Dave Clark Five's "I've Got to Have a Reason."
(Soundbite of "I've Got to Have a Reason")
Mr. SHEAR: (Singing) I've got to have a reason. I've got to have a reason.
I've got to have a reason why you're walking out on me. Something on your
mind, but you won't tell me. Tell me why you're crying and I will help you,
help you, help you. But I've got to have a reason. I've got to have a
reason. I've got to have a reason why you're walking out on me. If there was
TUCKER: That song is also an example of Shear's impeccable taste, a
semiobscure song by an unjustly neglected British Invasion band that's not
chosen just to be a showoff scholar. Shear's always had this sort of
sensitivity and sureness of opinion. His late '70s albums recording as Jules
And The Polar Bears sidestepped the punk rock of that era while nodding to
that form's freedom. In another era, a rumpled-looking guy with a croak of a
voice might have cut demos as a songwriter and had a decent career. But Shear
took full advantage of the do-it-yourself aspect of punk and placed himself
center stage. The albums didn't take off commercially, but they were
marvelous discs. They yielded hits for others and gave him a lot of industry
(Soundbite of "Guess I'm Dumb")
Mr. SHEAR: (Singing) The way I act don't seem like me. I'm not on top the
way I used to be. I give in when I know I should be strong. I still give in
even though I know it's wrong. I know it's wrong. I guess I'm dumb, but I
don't care. If breaking up...
TUCKER: That's Jules Shear, transplanted Los Angeleno, covering a native's
tune, a song written by Beach Boy Brian Wilson that Wilson never recorded
himself. He handed it to country singer Glen Campbell, who used to back The
Beach Boys on guitar in the studio.
Shear respects professionalism. He does a terrific version of one of Roger
Miller's non-novelty songs, "Husbands and Wives." And Shear is as much a
creature of the LA music industry as anyone has ever been. But he's one of
the rare singer-and-songwriters who hasn't come through decades of only
moderate success jaded or bitter. Listening to this lovingly assembled
collection of shrewd, often moving covers, Jules Shear sounds like a man still
in love with music for the sake of getting into a studio and making any song
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly.
I'm Terry Gross.
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