Transcript: Newt Gingrich and Howard Dean

The bigger story, George, this is irrelevant. Nothing changes in terms of North Korea. This is still the most opaque country in the world. It's got a dozen nuclear weapons. It's a threat to the region. Bill Clinton can't change that; Barack Obama can't change that.

There's only one place that can change it, which is China. Until the Chinese use their leverage over North Korea, we are going to be living with a North Korean threat, a country that has nuclear weapons. So what Bill Clinton did, however nice it is and good it is the other day -- and this is not a criticism -- it doesn't change any of the fundamentals.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So there's no sign that by Kim Jong-il inviting him that he actually wants some kind of a broader conversation?

HAASS: Oh, he'd love a broader conversation. He'd love to get all sorts of reduction in economic sanctions, have North Korea somewhat less isolated, but he's not going to do anything significant on the nuclear side.

And, again, more important, China, which has most of the leverage -- three-quarters of North Korea's trade goes across China, in and out. China won't use its leverage against North Korea, because China is scared to bring down this country, because what would happen, you would then have Korea united under Seoul within the American orbit. That for the Chinese would be a big strategic setback. It'd be almost like another unified Vietnam. So China will not...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So we've seen as many sanctions as we're going to see?

HAASS: Anything more would be at the margins. We're not going to -- look, let me put it this way. We're not going to see enough that's different in the sanction area that will affect one way or another the trajectory of North Korea.

ROBERTS: But, you know, what Richard's saying there about China relates back to what we were talking about earlier, because we can't put the kind of pressure on China that we would like to put on China to cooperate with us in terms of North Korea or in terms of Darfur or all kinds of other places, because they own so much of our debt and we are not in a position to really pressure them, because they -- because there it is. We are beholden to them as long as we're driving up these kinds of debt.

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: I -- I don't understand -- I don't understand the angry people who say this was a terrible thing for Bill Clinton to do. I mean, we got the two young ladies back. They got the picture of Bill Clinton. For my money, let's send Bill Clinton to Tehran where we have three hikers, give them a picture, get the three hikers back. Send him to Robert Mugabe, if we've got somebody there. To say that there was something wrong with this negotiated behind-the-scenes deal to get the two women back...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, unless they had no choice. The concern, though, is that it's going to create a precedent that will encourage others to take...

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: Well, what precedent? In 1994, Jimmy Carter went to this man's father. It's the young son, Un, that we've got...

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: ... with, and we don't know what he's going to do.

HAASS: But the advantage of using outsiders is it's easier to compartmentalize this. You don't want to encourage countries to kidnap Americans, and that's the reason you don't want to send U.S. government officials, because then it's more tightly integrated. Bill Clinton is a bit of a gray area, because...

(CROSSTALK)

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