Rice Says U.S. Standing Firm Against North Korea

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked with ABC News' Charles Gibson about what is going on in North Korea, which claims to have carried out a test of a nuclear weapon, and in Russia, where yet another crusading journalist has been murdered.

On North Korea's Purported Nuclear Weapons Test

GIBSON: Madame Secretary, what is the present belief? Was it a nuclear test the night before last, or wasn't it?

RICE: Well, I think we are still trying to confirm, Charlie, what did or did not happen there. But we have to take seriously the North Koreans' claims, and of course their claim is in and of itself a threat to international peace and security, is of course coming on the heels as it does of a missile test just a couple of months ago. And so we'll take the claim very seriously. We will eventually find out what exactly happened.

GIBSON: The president said a couple of years ago, "We will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea." That's a pretty declarative sentence, "we will not tolerate," and it seems a lot stronger than, '"Well, we're going to try to get some sanctions passed."

RICE: Well, we are going to get sanctions passed because we can't tolerate a nuclear North Korea, and we are not the only ones. The important thing here is that you're getting universal international condemnation, but most importantly, you are getting condemnation and urgency and action from states that have real leverage, states like China and South Korea that can put at risk a lot of what North Korea survives on. Now, I do think you'll have a strong security council resolution, but the North Koreans also know that we signed a joint statement in September of 2005 that gave them, were they willing to denuclearize verifiably, an entry point into the international system. That's still available, but for now, the international community is going to pursue the sanctions route in the Security Council.

GIBSON: But they had to know we would go to the United Nations if this happened and they have, in effect, by having this test, thumbed their nose .... at the international communities and at the U.N. Unless you get the Chinese -- if we have guarantees from the Chinese that they will cut off oil that the North Koreans need, can sanctions really do anything?

RICE: Well, we finally actually have as a part of this coalition the Chinese and the South Koreans. That's what this president has spent the last several years building. When we went at this problem before, we did it bilaterally with the North Koreans and when the North Koreans cheated on the so-called agreed frame work, they cheated with the united states. And we didn't have the full weight of others who had real leverage or real influence with North Korea. We'll see how long North Korea can really tolerate the isolation from even those that are closest to it. But I do believe we have the right configuration now, both to make an agreement stick, if we get one, and also to pressure the North Koreans to take a different course.

GIBSON: Have the Chinese said to us, we will cut off their oil and the other trade that is most critical to them?

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