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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Condi Rice Secretary of State: The Hearing

Condi Rice has now been approved as Secretary of State. (clapping) Apparently the testimony was 9 and a half hours long. That does not sound fun, but what does sound fun is reading the back and forth between Senator "Flip Waffler" Kerry and Condi as Kerry tried to figure which way was up. Apparently he didn't like Condi, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-2 to confirm Dr. Rice, I guess Kerry voted against Rice, then voted for her, then finally voted against her yet again. Anyway, the back and forth between Kerry and Rice is great, as the transcript reads it almost seems as if Condi was having fun. Read the whole thing here (make sure you have lots of time, there is over 79 pages).
An exerpt follows (note the last thing Rice says in the exerpt):

SEN. LUGAR: All right. Senator Voinovich passes, and we'll divert back to Senator Kerry.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

North Korea. There are a lot of observers, and I heard this throughout the campaign and we obviously went back and forth on the subject of six-party versus alternatives. Your predecessor, Secretary Powell, at one point announced that the administration was going to proceed forward with bilateral talks, following up on the Clinton administration, and even while Kim Dae Jung was here the president announced otherwise from the Oval Office. And since then we went through a period where there was no discussion at all, no dialogue at all, and then finally, under pressure, the six-party talks came together.

But generally speaking, observers have indicated to me that those six- party talks are really waiting for U.S. leadership and for a change in U.S. position that moves it forward.

Is there any -- do you have any feeling at this point that you might be prepared to recommend to the president or that the president will and you will engage in bilateral discussions that might try to resolve this question of non-aggression versus progress on the nuclear program?

MS. RICE: I think, Senator, that the North Koreans should be well aware that the United States has no intention to invade them or attack them -- we've said that -- and that there are multilateral security assurances that are available to them if they choose to take them. Now obviously, if there are multilateral security assurances, the United States would be one of the parties to those security assurances. We did put a new proposal on the table at the last round of the six-party talks. The North Koreans were unresponsive. Some say that they wanted to bide their time a bit and that they will get back to us now that they are trying to position themselves for the president's second term.

But I really do think that we have to step back and recognize that what happened in the '94 agreement -- and by the way, at the time it was probably the right thing to do, but we know now that the North Koreans within just a couple of years perhaps were violating that agreement by pursuing a separate route to a nuclear weapon -- highly enriched uranium route.

Jim Kelly, the assistant secretary for Asia was all set to go to North Korea and say here's a bold approach on how we can change the nature of North Korean-U.S. relations. And it had all the things that you might imagine in it about economic -- what role we might play in economic assistance, what we could do in humanitarian assistance, so forth and so on. On the way to that, we learned in a definitive way that was not available to the Clinton administration about this HEU program. And so when Jim got there, he told them we also know you have an HEU program. First they admitted it, then they shut down. And the bilateral route at that point was really closed to us. And it had not been effective.

And our strong view is that the six-party talks has the advantage of not letting the North Koreans play us off against the others. It has the advantage of having China at the table, and China has much greater leverage with North Korea than we will ever have. And it has the advantage of having the parties in the region work together on a serious security problem.

Now, I'm hopeful that the North Koreans, seeing no other option but to recognize that they are going to have to give up their nuclear weapons in a verifiable way, that they are going to be persuaded to come back to the talks. But as to the question of what they have to fear from the United States, the president has been very clear that we don't have any intention to invade them, any intention to attack them, and that there is another path that could be there for them, that the roadblock on the path is the North Korean problem -- the North Korean program. And so, sometimes there is a tendency to think that the problem is U.S. policy. The problem is a North Korean regime that has not yet made a fundamental choice, and we just have to press them to make a fundamental choice.

SEN. KERRY: That is different from what one hears from some of the other parties to the talks themselves, who believe that we haven't put something sufficient on the table. Now, we're not going to iron this out here and now, but I'd love to pursue that with you at some point in time, because we're -- I mean, if that's true, and they're now, let us say, up to the published publicly number of eight weapons, and it is again, as we have said about Iran, unacceptable that they do this, what do you view as the options that are on the table?

MS. RICE: Well, we still believe that this is something that we can resolve diplomatically. We are committed to that course. Of course, the president never takes any option off the table, but I think we all know that this is something that needs to be resolved diplomatically.

SEN. KERRY: Given the intransigence and the cheating, why does this lend itself more to being resolved diplomatically than Iraq?

MS. RICE: Because, Senator, despite the problems with North Korea, it's actually not sitting in the middle of the Middle East. We haven't gone to war with them two in recent years.