Kim has 'two paths in front of him ... we'll see which one they choose': O'Brien

National security adviser Robert O’Brien is interviewed on "This Week" on the North Korea threat.
10:58 | 12/29/19

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Transcript for Kim has 'two paths in front of him ... we'll see which one they choose': O'Brien
Joining me is the president's national security adviser Robert o'brien. Welcome to "This week." Good to be with you, Jon. Let me start with north Korea. Christmas has obviously come and gone. Are you still expecting some kind of Christmas gift from Kim Jong-un? We always monitor the situation and chairman un said there would be something over Christmas. I think the president has engaged in diplomacy with him. They have a good relationship personally. Perhaps he's reconsidered. We'll have to wait and see. We'll monitor closely. It's a situation that concerns us of course. What will be the consequences if North Korea resumes either long-range missile tests or nuclear tests? I don't want to speculate. We have a lot of tools in our tool kit and additional pressure can be brought to bear on the north Koreans. What I want to focus on is this was the most difficult challenge in the world when president trump took office. President Obama warned him there could be a war on the Korean peninsula. Multiple administrations, Republican and Democrat, have dealt with this situation without success. President trump took a different tact with personal diplomacy and so far we've had some success. Kim Jong-un promised to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. We want to hold him to that commitment. We hope he follows through with the commitment he made in Singapore. If he doesn't, we have other tools in the tool kit. There will be consequences? The president has given him a pass for all those short-range missile tests. If we see long-range missile tests, there will be consequences? We'll reserve judgment. The United States will take action as we feel necessary. If Kim Jong-un takes that approach, we'll be extraordinarily disappointed and will demonstrate the disappointment. Your predecessor, John Bolton, who you once called the most experienced Republican foreign policy man of our generation, said the president's plan of engaging Kim Jong-un has been a failure and he said Kim Jong-un is never going to give up his nuclear weapons. This is what he told NPR. I don't think North Korea will ever voluntarily give up nuclear weapons. The inescapable conclusion is they're happy to sell that same bridge over and over. There's no serious chance they'll ever voluntarily give it up. That's John Bolton, right? John is a good man. He's a good friend. I worked for ambassador Bolton earlier in my career and have a high agree of respect for him. The president has a high degree of respect for ambassador they didn't always see eye to eye on diplomacy. This is one of those cases where ambassador Bolton pointed out there has been no success whether in the Clinton administration, bush administration or Obama administration. There's been no success. With respect to North Korea. The president took a different tact. We've gone through a period of time without a nuclear test. We diffused a high-tension situation. We're going to have to see if the president's approach works. Like ambassador Bolton, the president has no illusions that this is a very dangerous concerning matter. It was dangerous when he got there. He's tried to de-escalate tensions and get to the point where Kim Jong-un will live up to his commitments. What the president has promised the north Koreans is a couple things. He hasn't insisted on regime change. He's laid out a path where north Korea could have a great future. They have hard-working people there. There's a great opportunity for North Korea. Whether they take that opportunity or not we have to say. If they don't take it, the United States is still the leading military power in the world. We have tremendous economic power bolstered because of the fantastic economy we've had under the trump administration and president trump's policies. There's a lot of pressure we can bring to bear and we have to see what happens. I don't want to speculate. The president is realistic about the situation. We hope Kim Jong-un lives up to the promise he made president trump in Singapore. I want to get your reaction to a recent statement from a very senior north Korean official who said earlier this month as trump is such a heedless and erratic old man, the time we can call him a dotard again will come. This is Kim young chon. He was at the dinner that the president had with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi. What do you make of that, this statement coming from somebody so close to Kim Jong-un? Well, look, it's their way of trying to negotiate. You know the president has called Kim Jong-un rocket man or little rocket man. These things go back and forth and it's all part of the give and take of interesting diplomacy with a hermit kingdom. There's not too much to read into that. Actions speak louder than words. We'll have to see what action chairman Kim takes. He has two paths in front of him. He's got a glorious path for the people of North Korea where they can become like South Korea and be a prosperous country or there's another path that takes them down the road of sanctions. Has there been any contact between the United States and North Korea since that meeting that Steve beegan had in early October? I don't want to get into that. There are communications that are open between the U.S. And I don't want to get into the details. I want to ask you about Eddie Gallagher the Navy S.E.A.L. Who was pardoned by president trump. I want to play some footage that "The New York Times" obtained of fellow Navy S.E.A.L. Members, part of Gallagher's platoon talking about him. I heard more rumors and stuff about Eddie targeting civilians. I saw Eddie take a shot at a 12-year-old kid. He got crazier and crazier. He was perfectly okay with killing anybody. The guy was toxic. We can't let this continue. Those are Navy S.E.A.L.S speaking, members of the platoon -- of Gallagher's platoon. Were you aware of those details? Was the president aware of the details when he was pardoned? This was a S.E.A.L. Who was awarded the bronze star for valor. He was suggested for a promotion at the time he was accused. There were legal issues with his trial and how the prosecutors conducted the pretrial portion of the proceedings. Ultimately the president as commander in chief said he's got the back of our men and women in uniform. He has the power to grant clemency. He applies that power here. He's done that with justice reform for Americans, primarily, you know, minority Americans, through his justice reform efforts. The president -- Ambassador, can I -- -- This was a case that deserved clemency. Listening to those statements, these are Navy S.E.A.L.S, one saying he took a shot at a 12-year-old kid. He was crazier and crazier. He was perfectly okay with killing anybody. Do you find those comments troubling? Does the president? It's troubling we send folks out that have to make split second decisions dealing with terrorists and bomb makers in very, very difficult situations overseas. The president said we'll stand by our warriors. We'll have their backings. There was an investigation. That's a select group of S.E.A.L.S. There were many S.E.A.L.S that supported chief Gallagher, that appealed to the president and asked for clemency. The commander in chief, he takes a look at the situation and does what he thinks is in the best interest of the country. In this case he felt the chief, who was out fighting for the United States, deserved clemency. We're -- We put these men and women in tough situations. The president took that into account. We're just about out of time. Two very quick questions, the day after Christmas the president tweeted about the impeachment proceedings saying, quote, it makes it much more difficult to deal with foreign leaders and others when I'm having to possibly defend myself. Which foreign leaders is he talking about? Which foreign leaders is he having trouble with? I don't think there's any specific foreign leader. Foreign leader after foreign leader tells him they're we pride ourself of being a paragon to the rule of law. I spent my entire year defending the rule of law. A lot of folks watched what happened in the house with the proceedings down in the basement, the inability for Republicans to call the witnesses they wanted and it disturbs them. They wonder what's happening in the United States. I think what the president said is let's get this trial in the senate and get it over with. Record stock markets, amazing foreign accomplishments you pointed out, whether the China trade deal, usmca or nato paying their fair share, taking Justin to al-baghdadi. Let's get back to the business of the American people. Lastly, your name was floated as a secretary of state if Mike Pompeo runs for senator in Kansas. You interested? Mike Pompeo is a fantastic secretary of state. He was one of the president's best picks for the cabinet. He's a friend of mine. I enjoy working for him. I hope he doesn't leave. I love my job now. I'm happy sitting where I am. I hope and expect that secretary Pompeo will stay. I spoke to him two nights ago. He said he's not running for senate. He said he's staying secretary of state. This is one American that's pleased that he picked Mike and Mike is committed to staying. We'll mark that down. Ambassador o'brien, thank you for joining us. Merry Christmas and happy new year. Thanks Jon. Coming up I ask senator Chris van Hollen about the

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