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Nuclear Test Preparations?; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Obama's Asia Pivot; Imagine a World

Aired April 22, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


PAULA NEWTON, CNN GUEST HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Paula Newton, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Now amidst all the news from Asia, the sunken ferry in South Korea, the lost Malaysia Airliner and the grieving families, Kim Jong-un and North Korea have slipped from the headlines until now.

The North is prepping for a surprise nuclear test, South Korea's defense ministry warned today, after reporting stepped-up nuclear activity at its nuclear test site.


NEWTON (voice-over): Now Punggye-ri, North Korea, it's right there at that positioning there on the map, is known to have conducted -- North Korea is known to have conducted three previous nuclear tests, most recently last February. And of course North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, has launched missiles to all moves condemned by its neighbors and the West.

The latest activity at the nuclear site may be proof Kim Jong-un is following through on a threat from last month when North Korea pledged a, quote, "new form" of nuclear test.

What that exactly means, nobody knows, but the world is on high alert. All this is happening just ahead of President Barack Obama's trip to the region, a visit designed to reaffirm his commitment to America's so-called "Pivot to Asia," the strategic foreign policy shift that has been largely sidelined by crises both at home and abroad.

Stephen Bosworth is a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea. For three years he served as U.S. special representative for North Korean policy, an expert on Asia. He has also served as ambassador to the Philippines.

Ambassador Bosworth, thanks so much for joining us. You are with Harvard University, where you are a senior fellow and we're glad to have your insights on all of this today.

And first up, how concerned should we be about this news of a nuclear test possibly and what could that mean in terms of escalation there?

STEPHEN BOSWORTH, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REP FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: Well, I think it's quite likely that there will be at some point in the not-too- distant future another nuclear test by the North Koreans.

I'm not sure exactly when that will occur. And I don't know if it's going to happen quickly or not.

But in any case, they're well along on this path of theirs to the development of nuclear weapons. And testing is an important feature of that program. So I expect there will be another test at some point in the relatively near future.

NEWTON: You know, we're really used to this cycle that we hear all the time, so they have the test; there is the very predictable condemnation. Then we go into a period of hibernation; no one hears about it.

What is the game-changer in all of this? I mean, do you see a tipping point coming with North Korea?

BOSWORTH: Well, not in the foreseeable future. At some point as their missile program continues to develop and their nuclear weapons program continues, they will reach a point where I think we will all conclude they are a very grave threat to regional stability and, indeed, to nuclear non- proliferation.

I think that we've seen over the last several years that the one way that we have of at least slowing them down or gaining some additional time is to engage with them.

Now engagement is very painful to do this with the North Koreans, because their record is not very good. And it's very aggravating to have to deal with these guys.

But unfortunately, we really don't have an alternative.

NEWTON: And engagement kind of assumes that there might be a rational actor on the other side. I know that you've long advocated this engagement.

Materially, though, what does that mean at the table, a table that we've been at before and nothing's come of it?

BOSWORTH: Well, you know, if you look back over the last 25 years, we did through engagement and the conclusion back in the '90s of the Geneva agreed framework, we gained eight years in which we know that they were not producing any fissile material.

Now since then, we've been sporadically engaged with them, sometimes through the so-called six-party process. And when that was going on, actually we knew pretty well that they were not producing any plutonium then.

We had less insight into their enriched uranium program. But I think the record is that when they are not engaged or when they are not bound by any international agreement that they're observing, which is the case now, then they proceed ahead with their nuclear development.

NEWTON: And it's interesting, just that you underscore the point that as a stalling tactic, it's at least valuable even in that.

You know, Ambassador Bosworth, all of this comes as President Obama will be in Japan shortly, a first stop on his Asia tour. You know, if he's indeed to execute this Asia pivot, you were part of his Asia team at one time.

What's taking so long?

BOSWORTH: Well, I think there have been some distractions. And I'm not sure at the same time how well articulated the Asian pivot or rebalancing or whatever we're calling it these days really was at the outset.

It seemed to most people to imply one of two things or both: one, that we're going to somehow refocus on Asia away from the greater Middle East and the two wars that we'd been fighting there for some time. Or, two, that somehow it was an effort to deal with, if not contain China's rise in East Asia.

And I don't think really that it's either one of those two things. But I think it's incumbent upon the president in particularly in this trip to the region to articulate more clearly than has been done in the -- in the past what exactly we mean.

What is -- what, first of all, what are American interests in the region? Why should we be paying more attention to East Asia? And then to explain to the American people and importantly to the people and governments of the region exactly what it is what we have in mind?

How are they going to be able to know in the future that we have rebalanced or we have pivoted to Asia? We can't -- we can't ignore the rest of the world. Obviously what's been happening in the Ukraine, for example, or in Syria or in our negotiations with Iran, those are all vivid demonstrations of the fact that we have to remain engaged with and deeply involved in those regions as well.

So the question really is what do we mean by a pivot or rebalancing? How do we articulate that? And then how do we put some substance beyond the rhetoric?

NEWTON: You know, it's stunning to me, though, that you say that perhaps this pivot is a bit shaky. And you had the presidency or the administration's ear for a few years.

In terms of them trying to really lay the groundwork for something like this, was it not executed properly? Were they just not -- they didn't get to it in time? Were they too distracted, as we've said, by events elsewhere?

I mean, what's gone on there?

BOSWORTH: Well, I think being distracted by events elsewhere is not really -- I mean, it may be an explanation, but it's not an excuse. If we still consider ourselves a global power, we've got to be able to deal with more than one important issue at a time. And we should be able to deal with events in the greater Middle East and Ukraine at the same time that we fulfill or carry through our policy in East Asia. I think it wasn't perhaps as clearly thought out as it might have been. On the other hand, I don't dispute the point that we have deep and abiding interests in East Asia, and we have to have a set of policies in place that enable us to act in pursuit of those interests.

I mean, one problem that we have at the moment is a serious one, and that is that the so-called transpacific or the trade framework that we're trying to put in place with several of the East Asian countries seems to be stalled now, the negotiations of that, although Ambassador Froman and others are working away hard to move forward.

But it's -- the negotiations are hung up over issues that are essentially domestic in nature and very political. And the president's own party, particularly in the Congress, has not been very full-throated in their expression of support for what he's been trying to do in terms of trade with East Asia.

So that's just one example of how it's relatively easy to articulate a policy or to set it forth; it's much more difficult, particularly in our system of government, to implement it, to carry through on it.

NEWTON: It's disconcerting to hear that perhaps the White House can't multitask. And I'm sure Asian allies are more concerned about that than I am.

I mean, when you do look at the situation in the Middle East or Ukraine, not stellar successes there by any stretch. Certainly there was no jumpstart to the relationship with Russia.

Gosh, you turn all of that to our attention in Asia, Ambassador Bosworth, and you think even if the White House can articulate it, properly, do they have any chance of pulling it off?

BOSWORTH: Well, I mean, I'm not here to defend the White House. I haven't worked in the Obama administration in a couple of years. But I would note that we live in a very complicated world. And what's happening in the Ukraine, what's happening in the greater Middle East are themselves very complex and difficult situations.

So there's -- I think it's fair to say that we should be able to deal with more than one important issue at a time. And indeed, I would argue that our record in doing that has not been bad. But the situation in East Asia has really been transformed over the last generation, specifically by the rise of power of Japan or what many -- I'm sorry; the rise -- the rise of China and what many would assert is China's return to the kind of historic role that they have always exercised in East Asia.

Now our problem is that in the period that we've been in existence as a country, we've become accustomed to dealing until recently with a relatively weak China. China was in a period of historic decline.

But China is back and we now have to figure out how to deal with a strong and rising China in the context of all of our new interests and old interests in East Asia.

NEWTON: Yes, it will be fascinating to see how that whole China issue shadows him in these countries. He's not going there.

But Ambassador Bosworth, perhaps the first lady on her trip to China did a good job of doing some diplomacy for him and laid the groundwork there.

Ambassador Bosworth, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

BOSWORTH: My pleasure. Good to be with you. Thank you.

NEWTON: Now and while Kim Jong-un continues to rattle his nuclear saber, he's extending his other hand in a diplomatic efforts that rife with irony.

Now can you say fromage? According to reports, the Supreme Leader is sending a team of experts to France to learn how to make cheese, specifically Emmental, which he said is his favorite snack of choice, or at least it's said to be his favorite snack, since his school days in Switzerland.

Now meantime a U.N. report says two-thirds of the country's 24 million people face chronic food shortages and a third of children under the age of 5 show signs of stunting from malnutrition.

Now after a break, we'll do a pivot of our own to Africa, where an idyllic park meant to preserve vanishing wildlife is becoming endangered itself and so are the people who try to protect it. A new film tells the story when we come back.





NEWTON (voice-over): Breathtaking, isn't it? It's one of the most beautiful areas on Earth, hidden deep in the heart of Africa. You may not have heard of Virunga National Park, but it's a UNESCO World Heritage site in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It's now the subject of a new documentary film that's just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival here in New York. But as these scenes from the film show, for all the peaceful serenity, life for people here in the past 20 years has been very different.

"Virunga" tells the story of a group of park workers who are fighting to save this ancient and protected land from the effects of modern-day conflict. In the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, which created 1 million refugees, to the so-called M23 rebels who wrought havoc in 2012 and forced some 800,000 people from their homes.

You know, all the while, poachers roam the region still, threatening the lives of Virunga's critically endangered mountain gorillas and the people trying to save them.

Someone who features heavily in the film is Chief Warden Emmanuel DeMerode (ph).

EMMANUEL DEMERODE (PH), CHIEF WARDEN, VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK (voice-over): My work is being managed apart and children is protected.

NEWTON: Emmanuel is a Belgian, who's been working in Virunga for some 13 years, but last week just as the film was about to make its debut in New York, Emanuel was shot and almost killed by unknown gunmen in Virunga.

The film's director is Orlando Von Einsiedel and he joins me now from here in New York.

Emmanuel (sic), I have to ask you right up front -- sorry; Orlando, I have to ask you right up front, have you spoken to Emanuel and how is he doing?

ORLANDO VON EINSIEDEL, FILM DIRECTOR: Yes, I've been -- we've in tidy (ph) contact with Emmanuel. He's doing OK. He's recovering at the moment in hospital. Obviously it was incredibly worrying for us. But I think what happened to Emmanuel, it highlights, is the risks that the rangers of the Virunga National Park put themselves through daily; over 140 of them have been killed in the last 15 years, trying to defend the park and the reason they do this is because they know the potential this park has to transform the region.

NEWTON: And when you say transform the region, that's both a double-edged sword for those people in there. It has incredible natural resources and now the controversy, the conflict is over oil. And your documentary deals with that issue.

VON EINSIEDEL: Yes, it does. So there's -- the problem in Virunga in regards to oil is there's a British oil company called SOCO International and they are illegally exploring for oil in the Virunga National Park. But there's other problems with their work.

They -- there's also a problem of a serious lack of oversight with what they're doing. And over two years, we did an investigation into what they're doing. And we've got concerns about the behavior of their employees, their subcontractors, their supporters with regards to bribery and corruption, links to armed groups and human rights abuse.

NEWTON: Now in terms of the allegations in your documentary, the deal with the oil company is just one of the problems. There are so many others. And we discussed the M23 rebels who have so far, just late last year, signed a peace deal.

What has changed on the ground there since you shot this documentary?

VON EINSIEDEL: Yes, the security situation has improved dramatically. And what that allows is it gives the park a chance to really do the things that it's been trying to do for the last couple of years. Next door in Rwanda, for instance, tourism brings in over half a billion dollars. And Virunga could quite easily bring in that much money. So there's tourism.

There's also the park has a really ambitious hydropower scheme which could provide electricity and jobs for thousands and thousands of people. The park's also investing heavily in agriculture efficiency and fisheries.

So the park, Virunga really is a very stabilizing force in the region. And it's a really -- it's an example of a strong functioning government institution.

NEWTON: And yet there is a lot of danger there. I mean, I was really riveted by watching this documentary because it's shot like a feature film, which that many times the viewer has to kind of remind themselves this is not a film. This is not fiction. You are watching this happening and when we say we've got evacuations, we've got an armed conflict; a lot of the subjects in your piece are caught in the middle of it. And I really want to point out that the villagers, the townspeople are caught in the middle of all this in your documentary.

VON EINSIEDEL: Yes, it -- I mean, I actually set out to make a positive film. I wanted there to bring peace for a number of years before I arrived and I saw the work that the rangers were doing, protecting mountain gorillas and the development projects that are happening. I saw that as a -- as a metaphor for the wider rebirth that was happening in Eastern Congo.

And tragically just being on the ground a few weeks, this new conflict started. And it was terrifying to witness just how quickly the green shoots of the previous years disappeared.

NEWTON: Yes. And for people there, their lives are constantly turning on a dime, depending on what's going on with the conflict there.

I have to say that unfortunately a lot of what you illustrate has gone on, it's gone on in that region of the world for some time, goes on in other parts of Africa.

What do you think your documentary brings to our understanding of what those natural resources in Africa can bring to the people there so they can finally have both peace and prosperity?

VON EINSIEDEL: Well, I think the point here really is that what's happening in Virunga is urgent, precedent-setting case. There's a situation right now where this park can do -- it can provide jobs. It can provide development for the region. But it's threatened with illegal oil exploration. And the issue really is about -- it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, only 0.05 percent of the world's surface are protected areas. And if we can't defend -- I'm talking like globally here -- if we can't defend that tiny percentage of the world's surface, what chance do we have to defend the Great Barrier Reef or Yellowstone National Park or Yosemite?

NEWTON: And yet the stakeholders in this -- and they're not just the people that you talk to in your film, the park rangers certainly have an extraordinary challenge in front of them. We certainly saw the ravages of poachers.

But the stakeholders are also the people in the country, the government itself, who wants to try and certainly get out of the national park what it can in terms of helping its people and also in terms of those stakeholders, how do you think the development of the park can affect them for the better going forward, instead of it just being a very age-old conflict between corporations and government and everybody just trying to get a slice of the pie?

VON EINSIEDEL: Well, I think it's quite simple. I think this is a park with incredible biodiversity and it's also home to some of the world's last mountain gorillas. So it's important to preserve it for those factors. But it's also, as I was saying, this is a park which has incredible natural resources that can drive a sustainable development. You know, the hydropower, for instance, I mean, the park's resources can last forever if they're managed effectively.

And that will go on to benefit, you know, the tens of thousands of people that live around the park.

NEWTON: It's just tough, sometimes a tough sell in these regions, to convince people that we explore for minerals and oil and energy all over the world. Why should our country be any different than -- to participate in that?

VON EINSIEDEL: Sure. Well, I believe that this is a very, very special place and it's a precedent setting place. And that's why it's so important to protect it.

NEWTON: Well, it was a stunning documentary to watch. Some of the video is just incredible, like I've never seen. And you cannot help but take a moment and pause at the beauty of that national park and the gorillas and the other animals in it.

Thanks. Thank you so much, Orlando, for bringing it to us. Appreciate it.

VON EINSIEDEL: Thank you so much for having me.

NEWTON: Now SOCO, the British oil exploration company, criticized by Orlando there and in the film, have responded to the allegations made against them. Now in a statement they say, "SOCO understands the film contains allegations against SOCO that are unfounded and inaccurate."

They go on to say, "It is important to note that the film has been produced by one of the company's detractors and is therefore not an objective portrayal of the facts surrounding SOCO's operations. SOCO understands the film misrepresents the scope and location of the company's activities."

Now after a break, we'll take you to another beautiful part of the globe where the highest mountain on Earth is the tragic scene of nature's fury and increasingly the victim of man's encroachment.

Is it time for change at the top of the world? That's when we come back.




NEWTON: And a final thought tonight, imagine a world five miles above the sea where tragedy and tourism are taking a terrible toll.

Last Friday, Mt. Everest, the highest peak on Earth, was hit by a devastating avalanche. It killed 13 climbers and left three more missing and presumed dead. It was the deadliest climbing accident in Everest's history. Ten of the dead and the three missing were Sherpas, the legendary local guides who have been leading climbers up the icy slopes for more than half a century.

Now ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and his guide, Tensing Norgay, first reached the summit in 1953. Now they stayed there for only 15 minutes, but their achievement put Everest on that bucket list for generations of adventurers.

Now it also changed the lives of the Sherpa people forever, a remote agrarian society suddenly became dependent on tourism. Not only lugging supplies but also providing essential knowledge that all so often meant the difference between life and death on the top of that mountain.

But it also changed the mountain itself. You know, today climbers pay upwards of $100,000, money that Sherpas will never see for the chance to take the ultimate Instagram.

Meantime, the Sherpas are left to clean up the empty oxygen tanks and other abandoned garbage that's been left behind. Now they're also left to do the mourning. While demanding compensation for the families of the victims and better pay and conditions for the guides. Sir Edmund Hillary gave Tensing Norgay and his other guides wrist watches so they could tell the time in the modern way.

Perhaps he knew even then that time would one day catch up with the Sherpas and with Everest.

It's amazing watching those black-and-white photographs.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always contact us at our website, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.