Bob Woodruff discusses 'An Inconvenient Border: Where China Meets North Korea'

ABC News' Bob Woodruff discusses exploring North Korea's 880-mile border with China for a documentary.
22:22 | 09/22/17

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Transcript for Bob Woodruff discusses 'An Inconvenient Border: Where China Meets North Korea'
Hi everyone I'm in the pot here live in New York we have for you right now and incredible behind the scenes look at a brand new ABC news documentary. That is out today you can get it on all ABC news digital platform it's called. And inconvenient border where China needs North Korea we have here with us in studio. The one and only spot what Bob Woodruff takes you three I think it. The one who could really report this kind of story in this way pop think you some experts it's an incredible documentary it is a look at North Korea. Unlike any we've seen before I want to start forming it into it and with a little bit of breaking it because we've just heard today the president has the new executive order. Authorizing new sanctions essentially targeting individuals and companies. That finance or facilitate trade with North Korea you've reported on this country for so long what do you make of. I think you is do as good at them. We expected there was going to be more because there's no no been any reaction to the previous sanctions against can you can condone it. So there's more to come think this is the beginning of diplomacy. Her extended diplomacy and they aren't the air of this possibility it's. Some kind of military reaction to all of us so it's good it's it's it's interesting to see that something. Happening but. The fact is all these years sanctions have not use and not worked at all schools do. Want your timing could not be better when it comes to this documentary because that's exactly what you guys explore. In such great DT LY side to report on the story that way from the border. Because a couple things one is that the and the board think it's mostly attention certainly worth. By reporters and really just in the news is the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea. But the one of most people don't talk about is this 880 miles of border between China and North Korea and you couldn't get a different borders in this one. You know the DMZ divide about two miles of a buffer between south and North Korea has filled with all sorts both military and both sides. Venue of the Chinese border and there's not many not many soldiers along that long border and fact is just separated by two by Two Rivers. Double and two months and these two and then a big mountain in the middle of the mount pat two and so this is the division between north and shot and and North Korea and China. And it's sometimes that did the river is about. About forty yards wide. And shallow so people could walk out of that country North Korean swim across. To take to China but not that there's -- there are a lot of you but not all as many think that would be. And there's plenty reasons why that's not the case. Talk about and in the second one of the things you end up focusing on economic relationship. Between China and North Korea which we don't hear a lot about it want to play one clip in particular because it made my heart's top its EU. Sort of showing how this relationship works in this steady stream of trucks. That goes back and forth and you do little exploring your own let's take a look at this clip come back on the back and. It's like gave the back result Melissa with the and that. The same way it may have already been on loaded. This is clearly something they. Loaded up took it over to North Korea. Earlier today and then they just came back spike in a re load for. All of these trucks have. North Korean license plates. This was loaded up. Now it's empty. I'm what do we know about what's on those trucks what that trade me for those two countries. Well that that there are a lot of you look at that's that's stumble on the sea island that's the the city that's really the furthest from the south along the border and that's about 70% of the trading goes back and forth between China and North Korea is a by bus or I mean by a truck or by train. So that is the biggest connection to North Korea for China. And that is one that you know China has come across what's what's with several sanctions. Involving a lot of trade and who. But we still to this day continue to see plenty of this coming across as about 90% all of that trading between nine John and and the Chinese trade with north was about 90% of it happens on that bridge. So it's Musharraf to point out which you do in the documentary that's economic alliance is really just economic there's still. Tens of thousands of Chinese troops stationed along that border and some place that's right. Yet that the troops today Hennessey see the north Koreans watching across the river China needs to China where their own towers looking with cameras. The other sent to North Korea. But there is military in UC training on the river between North Korean South Korea. So whether that's got more than their than there was before I don't even know the tension is certainly growing urgency in this case. And you are standing as he mentioned in some cases near you just heard this away from that North Korean border standing on Chinese tourists. Where you can see people just living their everyday lives doing their everyday things but it's really a world the way what fat light to stand there and see that right there. And as it's very different seeking to watch over and you see what is as. Much poor. No less populated country of north Koreans EC is this developed cities of China tall buildings and had evidence of wealth. And then you look across and at night it's dark. Much laying it on and you see an old plot policy used to see in the 1930s. The United States okay forceful in this big flop. This doesn't exist really in China for the most part so they're very different countries. It's really just North Korea's Lee. Real. Allies at Russia's an ally to the they're not doing anything like this in terms of trade. And and Russia under the one is to the Soviet pulled out in the mid 1990s. Away from North Korea which then launch starvation in North Korea so. If China pulls out it would return to the same thing and it would be a disaster China does not want this regime. The flaw sometimes when you're standing there watching these incredible scenes the documentary when you're seeing life unfold. It strikes me so often be seen North Korea through the lens of killing act. And being able to see. Other Koreans just living their lives you describe that using a phrase it's mundane but had not what did you mean by. Since it is a second different year. News that looking back in the 1930s. And some of the world's the world that that's there on a basis this kind of powers in the country's out of China to. But it doesn't look quite like the poor parts of our country we have McDonald's everywhere we have advanced machinery. And we've got it. You pretty damn that you. Companies in. The countryside of our countries not even compare it to the US at all some that some places like China but it's a different world. Northwest's most isolated country in the world. I think as people know the least about. North Korean people. But as you go further north you see this of the documents if you go further north along that border. It where there's more and more. In North Korean. People have defected all of these years into northern part of China and all of the signs. Are not only in Chinese but they're also in Korean as well. So this is completely Korean. Culture in northern China eagle. Close to that borders. Speaking at defectors to the question I think a lot of people have when they watch because he aren't so close there is nothing but a bridge or shallow body of water. Why don't more people like you would be shocked you know why why don't they get out of that country one it's one it's countries so it's not like there's a big city voted against that border. So it's mostly countryside and farming agriculture. But you also look to a couple things there have been defections over some that people are even even by military even North Korean military in a coma. Across a part of it is there underpaid that. So they come over to eat and get some that different kind of life and some of them go back. To play a defectors have come across that northern part of North Korea into the Korean area because they can and find a way out. Israel and Christian groups that actually try to take some of these defectors and find them waiting out largely through China to south and allows for example. That ending up in South Korea. But the main thing to remember is that if somebody defects that want to get across even if they're not caught. They have family members back in North Korea and they would they would almost for sure and open camp. For re education or even executed. There is another moment in this documentary that was striking to me really for the new ones it provides. Which is when you're talking to a gentleman there in China about. Kim Jung who here in America assertive. That the classic bad guy right he's crazy he's on hinged. That's how that would talk about it here that you asked that man and he he had a very nuanced answer as when a play that right now. I'm gazing ball that's a prison Renta. Please hold long can come up with him. Important that we possible. Can come and build this bridge. But the bloody can jump and want to build this bridge to. Four war. Get ready if. To bubble with that moment like in the context that confrontation well you know that did you know China's. View of what's happening in North Korea in this in this increasing tension and sometimes they blame it the US South Korea stepping up. The in joint operations by the military. All of the peninsula area. So they think that there. Angering North Korea and that's why Kim Jong-un is doing cutting down relations with China has not opened some of these bridges. There's been no. Very. Unpredictable relationship between Kim Jung then and China is different than his father Kim Jong-Il wars certainly immigrant grandfather came in this song. So China sees that love this tension is one yes they don't know a lot of us can jump in. But they also blame the United States on a lot of this because we maintain our influence within South Korea. And China doesn't want the United States to be so close to them. And they certainly don't want to get that ball for of North Korea. Of that regime to fall because base to China believes for sure that the if that falls apart South Korea North Korea as the South Korea and the United States would push up maybe even against that border with Jon Gruden and they would. It was like that a lot less than having disastrous country of North Korea as it exists now. I have a lot of questions for you I talk to say for those of you out there on FaceBook joining us if you have questions. You can send them in it right here we're in conversation with a 900 other than Bob Woodruff who is the man behind a new ABC news documentary. And inconvenient border where China needs North Korea I have to say again your timing is just incredible though. I want to ask you because we talk so often about US and North Korea relations with this freeze rising tension especially. But this new administration. You've been reporting there for years and years and years it's fabulous video in the documentary about younger Bob Woodruff in the field in Pyongyang. How it you've been viewing that relationship between the US and North Korea. Well I think of his who's the who's the great leader at the time in if you looked at all those years you'll Kim Jong-Il. Was in power China had a huge power of influence over North Korea. They knew that Kim Jong-Il didn't have economist writes that his father can this all have the ones who established North Korea. You know shortly after World War II slid into the Korean War with the United States they knew that he was powerful. They knew they Kim Jong-Il was one they continue to enforce the China could influence of their relationship there was was pretty strong because again they were able to. Have a country whose standing between. China and us. Since keep don't win came in. This is changed there's. Much different relationship said before it because he's he is unpredictable. Is not come China is not really interacted with was she you'd paying even notice his predecessors you know as well as there have been there many times John. Because the only real well. So China's it's changing completely twelve years ago within North Korea. The food was worse. The freedom of the people seem to be worse advancement. Not as modern is now and you know the theory that technology within North Korea was nothing compared to what is now. We only could scenes you women on and the man with western clothes woman high heels on night never saw before you so. People have cellphones that they can talk to within purely on. But it doesn't extend outside that city much they can't talk on cell phones of people outside the country has maintained his isolated. There's a lot changed wealth with and killing him but that's the elitist sensor. And that's largely the only place they allow us to go to cannot caught for the country's can't see the cancer cancer there is poverty so we can't see we have we can see a lot of North Korean. One where there although the ones that. We concentrated I mean I was at one of these. The nuclear facilities in 2008. Was very where that's when it released from negotiating. Try to end there in if you looked at all those years you'll Kim Jong-Il. Was in power China had a huge power of influence over North Korea. They knew they Kim Jong-Il didn't have economist writes that his father came this all have the ones who established North Korea. You know shortly after World War II split into the Korean War with the United States they knew that he was powerful. They knew that Kim Jong-Il was wanna continue to enforce the China could inform us of their relationship there was was pretty strong because again they were able to. Have a country whose standing between. China and the U us. Since keep don't win came in. This is changed there's. Much different relationship said before it because he's he is unpredictable. Is not come to China is not really interacted with was she you'd paying even realize his predecessors you know as well as there have been there many times John. Because the only real well. So China's is changing completely twelve years ago within North Korea. The food was worse. The freedom of the people seem to be worse advancement of the not as modern is now and you know that technology with a North Korea was nothing compared to what is now. We only could scenes you women on and the man with western calls woman. High heels on and I never saw before you so people have cellphones that they can talk to within purely on. But it doesn't extend outside that city much they can't talk on cell phones of people outside the country and has maintained his isolated. And there's a lot changed wealth with and killing him but that's the elitist center. And that's largely the only place they allow us to go to cannot caught for the country's as a cancer cancer cancer there is poverty so we can't see we have we can't see a lot of North Korea. One where there although the ones that. We concentrated amid I was at one of the the nuclear facilities in 2008. Was very where that's when they released me negotiating. Try to end there. Nuclear power that's fall apart they're never say never but it's very difficult to get them Nationalists what you're doing there. And nuclear tests whether launches missiles. Well there is no one else you could tell this story like you do and I encourage folks out there to watch this as soon as they canned before the ago. A couple of faced a questions coming in for people out there were tuning in back has written. To ask have you ever felt threatened during any of your visits there. I don't think ever felt threatened I know there's a couple moments where you will. Would say disobeyed with reminders of the miners Ireland there are guys that we cannot leave their side your sign in if you come and were always we can't only. Walk freely without them. There's been moments where I want the places where they can tutor at least holes we should not go. But I would never stand up as they don't come you'll that we can't go in this bill that I did that it would have been different and sent me notes that the case. About warm beer Americans taken captive for. Do something that seem that they believe was offensive to their greatly you know. If so if we did something like that that would be completely different world but I think we've been there's so many times. We know how to dig for every piece of information we can and try to shoot anything that had not been shot before and Lauren everything we can about that country but. We generally know. What the rules are so I'd never felt threatened that way and how to aren't having that we had been we have been. It taken aside and had to sit and the question until you've been detained in the past have been content and they took our phones that look through everything they probably and they raced a lot of things in them lot of times photographs. That we took where I was I was not able to take. Photographs would myself wrong soldiers in particular. Checkpoints and I did that in no specific that was one of the places. As some thought that taken some things want. But there's yes we we are questions many times that taking things problems. You mentioned oh warm beer we have another question from Michelle. Who asks why didn't the US government help the American who detained and later died. From his injury what did the invited the US government issue asking why wasn't warned on why wasn't able to the easterly you know what's really shocking cases that you know about it for a year. The US was never told they're two different. Groups within North Korea there is the that the military. And the security. Units within North Korea and then there's the foreign affairs for Foreign Ministry. Which is all the US relationship. As with them including possibly one we've put our request North Korea we go through the Foreign Ministry and the ones based states. And in New York. There's no and and and disease center in the United States rhetoric that connections all through the human operations. That's the only ones that. We can act and they had and our sources said this is really true even the Foreign Ministry didn't know about what. Otto more embryos. They had no idea. And so that's why the US didn't even know about it until. He was already. For a long for months and months aria call. So when he finally found out then they reached the point with a foreign minister get together it would work I think it would get him back in the states. So it was it was shocking. Everybody including withdraw our own US government. That this information was withheld to the last question I asked if you formula to go I promised leaf that asking a question on everyone's mind these days I think particularly given. Some of the comments over the last week or so. She's asking if you think that North Korea is in danger of starting a war. You know I think we all I wish we all knew this. One simple thing is to remember though. It's for the building of a nuclear powers and North Korea. Is not too. It's this is all speculation right uses our thoughts and experts that we've all spoken to. Is it for is not. Wanting to invade and gained land does not want to get a new country right I mean they did that and after World War II with the north wanted to take over the south which was then forced back and states thirtieth pork barrel. Read those who make lessons but they also is a major threat the regime of Kim Jung and family here. And the building of this gets two things for them one it tries to. Resist anything. From happening with the us when invading get it condone them or even underground whose operations. The other one if they can create North Korea as it as a new nuclear state that changed all negotiations. And that's the other thing that there almost certainly trying to create themselves and of course. That's fully done and there are named as one they changed. Their position. I think the fear of them starting an invasion. Most people believe that it wouldn't happen unless there's some traders home major threat. Ending the regime. And that certainly can be done through. Diplomacy but could be done through any massive operations outside military operations country. But leaders don't know this is different countries you united a lot of experience in. And in the in the Middle East and those wars but those were it those were. Wars and countries are at war eight not it's not our great ally. I mean and know Al that we're not really major analysts around those countries like Afghanistan. And and in Iraq. But misses all around music halls close allies Japan South Korea. So anything that happens within Prius can affect them. Significant that's why that yet. There is no country like it in the world and that possibly. No journalist who could tell this story the way you have Bob Woodruff congratulations it's an incredible documentary. It's called an inconvenient border where China meets North Korea it is available right now. On all ABC news platforms or you can just download the ABC news that right now. And watch it right on your phone or mobile device Bob Woodruff thank you so much for being here so we appreciate it. Thanks to all of you for watching as well have covered abcnews.com anytime for more on this story or download the ABC news after the latest frontier found for now I'm on an Abbas. Penalty back here soon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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