North Korea: Answering Children's Questions

ABC News experts talk with kids about their questions on the North Korean threat.
19:28 | 04/15/13

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Transcript for North Korea: Answering Children's Questions
Hello and welcome to an ABC news Yahoo! News special answering children's questions about North Korea. Who want to know from our youngest citizens what they think what they fear. And what they're curious about when they hear or read the news about North Korea the threats against America and the talk of war. Got a great group of students here from seventh graders to seniors in high school. They are Smart they are engaged they have been standing -- been talking about this in their classrooms and in their homes they've got a great panel of experts to answer their questions. As well ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz. Bob Woodruff who's in -- right now has also been in North Korea several times. Ross -- joined by general James Cartwright a retired four star general who served forty years in the Marines was also vice chairman. Of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and living here in the studio Donald Gregg for various ambassadors have create current chairman. Of the Korea society thanks to all of you. For joining us and -- I just wanna begin. We -- we've been in this standoff now for more than a week at least a week expecting some kind of a nuclear test from North Korea but it hasn't happened yet. And I -- wonder what's the latest thinking from US officials on whether the north is still going to test a missile and when it might happen. Well I I think we've been saying when it might happen for weeks now George and I think everybody expected that that was going to happen it would happen. Yesterday our time on the East Coast and that they. The anniversary of the birthday of the founder of North Korea. It didn't happen I think they really did think it was imminent yesterday. Now I think they are looking at what he's going to do next he loves that element of surprise he loves walking right up to a line. And walking right back so I think. Is the officials I speak to in the government are basically saying. We don't know we have no idea at this point. Whether he's going to do it there there's a large group of people in the administration who think he absolutely house to do something. Domestically to show that he's he's standing up to the United States and South Korea. But others there's our thinking it might be rethinking that position. It is such a mystery because he is a brand new leaders -- -- go to the kids now psychologically -- I apologize for that but I know even looking at this in the west the first question. That. -- -- So China's. North Korea's. Only real ally and trading partner. What do you think China can do this kind of -- a lower the tensions in the rain and for and to Pyongyang. Massacre -- his perfect question for you I think. We have more in common with the Chinese in Chinese right now than most people think. Neither -- you know the Chinese want North Korea to become a full fledged nuclear power for the influence that would have particularly in Japan. Neither of us want to see any kind of fighting on the Korean Peninsula. And neither of us want to see a regime change that could create an awful lot of instability in North Korea. I think secretary Kerry. Had a very interest in visit to China and I think he came back with a feeling that we in the Chinese. Perhaps have more in common and an ability to work more closely together than we have in the past. Process -- here. -- to continue what he said about Thad Allen to know why just China disciplined North Korea so much. Bob Woodruff you didn't need to China several times North -- several times as well you want to take a crack at that answer. Other multiple reasons of course one minutes it's an ally that went long ago to. War the Korean War from 51 -- 53 so they've been together ever since it's also the most important one maybe for China is that. North Korea has been a buffer state between south South Korea where the United States is is is positions with 28000. Troops right here. That also they just don't want the fall apart they don't want -- this to have a huge effect on its economy in its population in China that. They are afraid to some degree that if if North Korea does. Have a disaster and falls apart that the people poured over the border. End to China so given all that they want to stay the way it is. In most ways that makes them friends -- they close friends who don't who dollars and and certainly North Korea though is. Is really not obeying China as much. As it did. Before and -- -- more irritated by that is what we're also that he questions coming -- and Yahoo! answers a mother posted better fifth -- and his friends had a lengthy discussion. About North Korea early this week and -- lead to conversations. At home this is -- and -- to -- says because of my son and his friends have been asking can North Korea reached the US mainland and otherwise. Live missiles general cartwright perfect question for you. Well today they're testing. A new class of missiles. That they say has the potential to reach part or all of the United States but those missiles are in development still. The missiles that they do have fielded are generally short range so think about 300 miles. Or intermediate range think about 3000 miles which potentially could reach up to. Portions of -- -- or potentially out to the islands. Around Hawaii. The -- we had this fairly alarming and outlying report this week from the defense intelligence. Agency suggesting that there was some evidence that North Korea had come up with the ability to shrink a nuclear warhead to the size -- -- could actually go on one of those -- That this is -- -- the Defense Intelligence Agency and it's the Pentagon's intelligence -- their course lots of different intelligence agencies. Across the government. But this one and I think general cartwright could speak to this as well. That's the Pentagon's arm really does look at the missiles really does look at the capability. Of the missiles of the nuclear weapons probably more than the other intelligence agencies. I should also point out that the Defense Intelligence Agency was wrong about Saddam Hussein. So I I think you also heard it George as soon -- that happens a lot of push back from other agencies. The push back didn't really contradict what than what the DIA had said. But they're basically saying what general cartwright says -- a lot of this stuff is just in development. I don't think -- and one of the things I don't wanna do and I think we tried very hard at ABC not to do this is to scare people about the capabilities right now. Yes North Korea has come a long way and probably a lot faster than a lot of us thought. But -- it's not like North Korea wants to bomb -- or send a nuclear missile our way. I think another question from here in the room glanced out of Addison Allen do -- official left North Korea has nuclear weapons. Very good question general -- right. We do know that they have been testing. That they have been on a path to develop a nuclear weapon capability. That they have the material necessary to build at least a rudimentary. Nuclear weapon. How sophisticated they are and how well they will work we do not know. Investor Gregory another question from Yahoo! answers which is very simple but I think goes pretty -- -- well why are they -- That goes back. Almost a hundred years the Korean Peninsula was. Occupation -- occupied by the Japanese in 91910 because. Part of the treaty of Portsmouth which Teddy Roosevelt engineered. And we said -- the Japanese do anything you want in Korea but don't mess with us in the Philippines. How nobody in the United States remembers that but every Korean student. Recognizes that and really blames us for opening the door to the Japanese occupation. The Japanese got North Korea to apologize for abducting some of their citizens. And then turned on the Koreans after having they had admitted doing so I think we -- but -- where the other three. And they become sort of obsessed by the abduction -- Issue whereas they have never really apologized for. The comfort women problem where they abducted tens of thousands of young -- off the street -- serve as comfort women in the war. So the animosity between the North Korea and and Japan. Is it is even stronger than their resentment toward us for opening up. Korea -- the Japanese occupation. There has questioned. Secretary of state. Kerry consider that North Korea is aware of the consequences -- to fire from rocket. I however mourn the dark. How far do you believe the United States is going to go. And is another war on the horizon general -- won't put that question to you as well because there have been longstanding war plans in place at the Pentagon. There have put any type of activity that we might contemplate in response to a North Korean activity. Would depend on what that act action is. We call that when they sank the channel and and there were a loss of lives and when they shelled the islands. The South Korean islands -- artillery from North Korea. That we acted in a way that would be consider proportional. And would be appropriate. What will be different this time. Is that the South Korean people are highly anxious as has the rest of the world. To put an end to this kind of provocative behavior. And so what we're trying to understand here is what is it would be an appropriate response and would not lead to further escalation of forces. And just a follow up on the general -- right I think US officials have said. Then the United States itself would only try to shoot down that missile if they determined it was headed towards the United States territory. That's correct I mean we would participate in protecting any of our territory in any of our allies territory. But only in the case where the missile is heading directly for that territory Bob Woodruff let me pick up on and done something else the -- -- about the attitude of South Korea. Right now South Korea also has a new leader. In place a woman leave their first woman prime minister with a very interest in background. -- you know she Deanna is very conservative running in the race for for president. Messi came out very interestingly no one really was surprised by it that come to what we're surprised -- by at that she said that she would have a talk. With Kim Jong yen -- to try to come up with a solution like this and certainly in the past to have the conservative position like this was that you would not want to have any talk like that. Unless they completely generally give up up there in north in. And North Korea but she did and she took that position and very quickly out of North Korea we got the word that there were rejecting that. That that requests and so she took a step back on that and be very interest in what she does. You know from here. Any questions here about the North Korean leader. Do you think that the current situation North Korea has anything to do with Kim -- -- desire to build up his image. From south. Measurements taken is a brand new leader we don't really know holiest -- I think very much so I think. He's young. And ages. Revered in in that part of the world -- -- a lot to prove. In terms of establishing himself as somebody in the North Korean people can have. Respect for and I think that's why he's pushed ahead. -- some successful missile launches whereas his father failed. So I think that's a very good question I think he's really trying to establish his own for credibility within north. -- Martha you know I think I've met with the one of the few Americans to meet. We can -- and Dennis Rodman a few weeks back I'm not sure what kind of insight he gave us I'm can join them but what kind of intelligence to US officials really had. About this very mysterious leader. Well I -- -- -- chargers -- a -- in the demilitarized zone. A couple of weeks ago and talked to general James Thurman who heads the forces the US forces there. And he he basically said and so -- his staff that we have no real intelligence about Kim -- on. I think. I think we have a great quote for your show when you when you interviewed Dennis Rodman which is. He now knows more about Kim Jong-un and CIA. And that -- to critics Gary I'll I'll I'll spend -- dollar -- soaking up these vols fan. Could never have not yet that is close to that if -- -- so the question here. From the I would be curious to know more about how the cultural exchange. Between United States and and North Korea has impacted the political -- that -- Great even part of that brought the philharmonic -- yeah there has not been very much but -- philharmonic visit. Which I was part of in 2008 with a terrific success. The musicians the master musicians from the philharmonic. Conducted individual teaching lessons the next day. And were amazed at super proficiency of the -- north Koreans. The north Koreans have been wanting to have their state symphony orchestra -- -- the United States. -- sort of pay a return visit but it's very expensive to move. Symphony orchestra and nobody seems. Anxious to put up the money to bring the symphony orchestra from North Korea -- the United States but they would love to -- have it happened. And I think the potential for more cultural exchange event events is very high if we get through this crisis yet. The -- of the question post and Yahoo! answers it -- its only if Kim -- then tries to attack we should be worried and my right. Bob is that questioner right we'll have to worry there's an attack from Kim -- I think that that actually viewed as being down here in South Korea that most of them here are not really concerned about an attack I don't think many people in Japan are worried about -- second nor should the United States. Really the greater feel fear is the future as they develop more advanced technology and nuclear technology open and North Korea. That may be the danger is where that stuff -- it doesn't get sold out to groups like al-Qaeda and parts of the world where. We do have fears that's really the greater concern about this you don't want. Back to be in the hands of a country that is getting desperate. They're not getting the ability to feed their people. To survive and certainly not to support the regime that would make this decision ultimately so that really is the greater concern and the president does get them Martha -- -- to -- they -- Students something that we just -- -- a little there what could provoke a military response. In the United States that has been one of the red lines the United States if they -- on North Korea trying to transfer. Nuclear technology nuclear materials to one of our adversaries. That that's right -- and in fact general Thurman told me he thought there was quite a bit of cooperation between North Korea in Iran Iran of course. Wants nuclear weapons and North Korea wants money. So I think there's no good to be had between those two I also think -- and an important point here is -- -- general currents and a lot of a lot of work with. Proliferation issues. This let's get a nuclear weapon in North Korea. Boy everybody in the neighborhoods gonna want one and it also gives North Korea negotiating power so when I said earlier let there and they're not. Saying they want and the new the United States right now but what they want to do is have that power to do that. Investor grade -- uniting your head there was some talk out of South Korea last week that perhaps they would like to pursue -- nuclear program as well. That really rattled my cage because when I was ambassador to South -- the first thing I -- was that we get our nuclear weapons out of South Korea. Because we are trying to stop the north Koreans from building nuclear weapons and if we have them in the south we knew they would say well you can't ask us to do something that you won't do yourself. So I'm really disappointed that some of the right wing groups in South Korea are already starting to say -- we need our own nuclear weapons program. And even worse would be the echo effect in Japan. Because anything that would really drive the Chinese up the wall would be Japan moving toward nuclear weapons so the point. Of holding the line on proliferation in North Korea is to keep South Korea and Japan from following in its footsteps Goodman questioned a year ago -- -- -- about China wondering what can the US and other countries due to -- China to put greater pressure on March 5 -- I think that we have lean on them about as hard as we can I I think -- better. Approach would be to find. Areas where we have them. Interest in common with the north -- the Chinese about North Korea. Such as we don't want war we don't want North Korea to become way. A nuclear power we don't want to collapse and in North Korea and I have the feeling that Kerry has come back. With a better idea of of Chinese thinking on this issue and I hope that we can move forward. And moved closer to the Chinese in cooperation -- dealing with North Korea and general. Sorry I was thinking of -- gets tricky though because I take -- the Chinese don't love the idea of having all of our military as -- but there. In the last few weeks right in their -- I think that's right and they worry particularly when those assets get up in the Yellow Sea between. Korea and Japan and China. And so it's a very articulation delicate balance between demonstrating capability. And not threatening. Can we have time for one more question is what's going on. How -- the United -- response. And not -- can. Tehran nuclear technology to build up a nuclear weapon was -- of the United States respond to that Martha take a tragic element. I don't I don't think we know that is George -- I think that's a red line I mean I think they would try to do anything they could to stop it. And and that's something that if they got evidence. It really solid evidence that they were giving them something we didn't want to. Then they probably make a lot of threats we see what happened after that. Ambassador we are -- 101 final question me what's the way out of this standoff. Right now it appears the new -- want to test although -- -- -- now for several days is there any way to get the situation back to some. Some kind of stability. I am a broken record I've been saying for fifteen years we've got to talk to them we don't fight them. And I think that Kerry picked up some important thing from president -- -- In terms of her interest in talking. North Koreans have sort of -- that up to now they use it -- old Korean phrase the swish of a skirt. Which refers to women in the old days having too much influence over. Man in a very. -- jingoistic society. But I think if we follow puck -- his lead. I think we're gonna find a way to start a new type of dialogue with North Korea and I'm very hopeful that can lead us out of this -- -- we -- in the coming days and weeks thanks for -- terrific questions. I'm glad you all came in today thanks our panelists. And a terrific analysis as well informed. Analysis we want to thank everybody on Yahoo! answers as well for joining the conversation. Be sure to follow us for all the latest developments. I'm George Stephanopoulos thanks for watching.

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

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