Blitzer: Korean tensions 'eased significantly'
December 20th, 2010
08:52 PM ET

Blitzer: Korean tensions 'eased significantly'

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (far right) has been in Pyongyang, North Korea, covering New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s (center) diplomatic talks with the North Koreans.  He was the only journalist on Richardson’s trip to North Korea. He spoke via phone Monday evening to CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Crowley: Joining me now is Wolf Blitzer from Pyongyang. He's been over there covering New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in these delicate, delicate times for North Korea. Give me a sense when you first learned and how you first learned that North Korea was backing off and would not retaliate against the South for the South’s live fire exercises?

Blitzer: “It's interesting. Candy - throughout the days that I was here covering Richardson's talks, and he met with top-ranking North Korean officials, I kept hearing some - at least private comments to me as a reporter - that seemed to be a little bit more moderate, a little bit more responsible than some of the earlier statements that they made for propaganda purposes. But I assumed that once the South Koreans began their live-fire exercise on this island, that the North Koreans would respond militarily with some sort of retaliation - that's the statement going into the exercise that the North Korean military had made. I assume when they make a statement like that, they’re not going to back down.

It was not only encouraging, but surprising to me, at least, when they formally said, ‘You know what? We're not going to respond militarily. Right now, it's not worth it.’ With hindsight, I think it came on the heels of the North Koreans agreeing to some of Richardson’s proposals to create a hot line – at least they were receptive to creating a military-to-military hot line between North and South Korea - a joint military commission involving the U.S. and both Koreas as well as allowing international atomic agency monitors to come back and start inspecting the nuclear facility.

So there was a series of steps that were coming through.  At least in the statements the North Koreans were making to me,  they seemed more moderate. But I was still surprised when they formally announced they weren't going to retaliate. That seemed to be a new opening. And maybe there's a new chapter. But of course, we'll have to wait and see.

Crowley: When you talk about the things that Bill Richardson, the outgoing governor of New Mexico proposed, he has no official standing with the administration. They clearly know he’s on this trip, they’ll clearly debrief him when he gets back. But when he says things like 'OK there should be a hot line, and you should do this or that,' is there anything that he - the governor - knows that says to him that South Korea will go along with these things if the administration is on board or is this pure freelancing?

Blitzer: I don't think it's pure freelancing. Certainly the North Koreans don't consider him to be a freelancer even though he's here as a private citizen. The Obama administration said to him if you want to go, go. Six months ago,  they said to him “don’t go” after the torpedo destruction of that South Korean warship the Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean families.

At that point, he was invited and the Obama administration said “don't go.” He didn’t go. This time they didn’t tell him not to go, so he’s here. I think they look at him as a United States official, basically, and all of the meetings that I covered, it seems like a government-to-government meeting. He's there at the table with two or three aides and they’ve got a whole team on the other side of the table with note takers. It looks very, very formal.

These meetings he’s having are anything but informal. I’m sure he’ll go back, brief the Obama administration on what happened, what he saw, what he learned. I assume it will be useful for the Korean experts in Washington. I think he leaves here encouraged by the specific proposals that they accepted but more importantly that they refrained from escalating this crisis.

This could have been a disaster. This is the most dangerous spot on Earth right now. One million North Korean forces over the DMZ.  On the other side, hundreds of thousands of South Korean forces, 30,000 American soldiers in between, not only with artillery, rockets, but nuclear weapons. This thing could have escalated, it could have exploded, a tinderbox as Richardson kept calling it. The fact that it's calm now, quiet for the time being, it’s not over with by any means, but it's been eased significantly. I think it's encouraging.

Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
soundoff (75 Responses)

    i think the tensions will return..

    December 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bensky

      Again and again, and again, and again. NK leaders have to keep their mouth wagging, without much bite, in order to survive. This is a really barbaric regime ... and China one day will have to commit to an NK regime change.

      December 21, 2010 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. janel

    Those countries overreact to everything they need to take a deep breath and control themselves


    December 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    North Korea can keep Wolf Blitzer.

    December 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • free plaestine

      like they need a zionist...

      December 20, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Learn Some History

      Better to be a zionist than yet another arab terrorist. Maybe if the arabs occupying the Israeli west bank of the jordan quit blowing up their children and instead concentrated on delevoping their society they wouldn't live in squalor.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • US ABE

      @Learn Some History
      Well said!

      December 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boo


      December 21, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. nonPCrealist

    tensions will cool until NK needs some more rice or wheat or oil etc..

    The matter needs to be resolved, not avoided.

    December 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • robert orlick

      Our status as a warrior nation must be maintained. If we can't get involved with the N Koreans then lets fight Eskimos, or somebody. After all we have been fighting wars since 1941. Our reputation must be maintained. TO WAR!

      December 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • gerald

      actually we've been at war somewhere in the world since 1898.Gotta love the MI Complex!!!

      December 21, 2010 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sam Park

    I've been living here in South Korea, and the citizens frankly are worried about a North Korean retaliation.
    I think Gov. Bill Richardson is doing a massive job trying to cope and ease tensions on this peninsula.
    Many around the world are still speculating if North Korea will live up to its word, HOWEVER, with Kim Jong-Il
    not being there, anything can change. If it didn't come from the reclusive leaders acknolwedgement, this could
    be a move from Gov. Richardson to ease tensions for a short-time. And for North Korea to cool down for
    a short time.

    North Korea giving into the demands of anything from the United States, whether that be from the U.S. government
    or a private citizen is likely to be overturned. This may just be a strategic move from North Korea trading their
    embarrassment of not retaliating for some time off.

    Sorry to mention Korean peninsula history here, but throughout the centuries this peninsula has never had a peaceful
    means of resolution even during the great days of the Three Kingdoms. Peaceful resolution in Korea doesn't equate to
    "giving in to others demands" for Koreans.

    December 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |

      i dont understand South Korea is a democracy right why dont you people instead of being scared of an attack by the north why cant you protest against the South Korean goverment for doing these military drills if a war would of broke out it would of been South Koreas faulght im 15 and i know stuff 🙂

      December 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam Park


      To answer your question, there are many people in the Democratic Party of South Korea who are against the protesting
      of these live-drills conducted off the coast of Yeonpyeong Island. They feel it would further the retaliation of North Korea and are protesting against the opposition party "The Grand National Party" here in South Korea.

      We know anything the North Koreans do would be provocation to the peace and safety of the Korean peninsula.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam Park

      let me make a correction****

      the Democratic Party IS protesting against the live-fire drills.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      RODRIGUEZ, I'm 16. Let me clear something up.

      South Korea has a right to – and should – perform these drills. This is the second or third time this year that North Korea has killed their people without any provocation. All the South wants to do is protect itself, and it's time that they show they will not back down. If war broke out because of these drills, it would completely be NK's fault for provoking and trying to scare the South into submission.

      Also, there wouldn't be any point in the South protesting because of these drills. They NEED these drills a lot, and they are completely right to do them.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • patrick


      Are you really saying this? Imagine US doing military exercise in Alaska and Russia saying US should not perform the exercise and Russia will attack the US if it does. Do you think US should stop the exercise because of such threat? As a country, should it surrender to a such bully? Is it not the right for a country to perform military exercise within its boundaries? Let me ask you this. Do you always surrender to bullies?

      December 20, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lopez

      Sam I truely believe that its necesary for every country to perform drills that are necesary to protect their country. You guys are in your full rights to perform those drills. As long as South Korea isn't hurting anybody while performing the drills it's OK. It's really inmature for the North Koreans to react the way they have with threats. Im sure they perform drills as well, and its rediculous how some people dare to say "just dont do drills" its like telling somebody to not lock the doors from your house. Drills are just a way to prepare yourself in case of an emergency meaning in this case. In case of War. I have never been to South Korea but I truely back up the South Koreans. It's just obsurd what the North Koreans are doing.

      December 21, 2010 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. The Truth

    NK is like the middle child that feels neglected. Occasionally they need a hug and reassurance. That's sad, especially when they are Nuclear.

    December 20, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike Wiz

    The "Big News" is that NKorea will NOT respond to SKorea TEST firing? Oh? And what of the LIVE firing that those fools did into a SKorean Island with Humans Killed? MacArthur was right.

    December 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Learn Some History

      MacArthur was NOT right. MacArthur is the reason we still have a North Korea to cause problems. China warned the UN not to push the North to the Yalu River. Truman ordered MacArthur not to push the North to the Yalu River. The war was won, the North was routed. What did MacArthur do? He pushed the North over the Yalu in contravention of a direct order from the Commander in Chief! The Chinese intervened and caused a stalemate. Had MacArthur not been a treasonous dog there would be one Korea governed in Seoul.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rez27

    Oh good grief – North Korea wins this PR skirmish – they should keep Wolf and Richardson. Remarkable, really, how these people have themselves convinced that the North is quivering away until Blitzer and Richardson come over to reassure them. Unbelievable naivete.

    December 20, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rachel Yoon

    The thing that most people don't understand is that they look at these articles and say "oh, these Koreas are so immature" or something like that. What they don't realise is that should North Korea and South Korea declare war on each other, it won't just be Korea War 2, it'll be World War 3. It's hard to reason with North Korea because they use the money South Korea gives them to create more nuclear weapons instead of raising their economy, and they use the food that SK gives them not to feed their starving country, but to sell it and again, make more nuclear weapons. Then they threaten SK that if they don't send more money/food, they'll bomb SK. Using the same comparison as a person who posted above, NK isn't just a middle child, it's the spoiled youngest child in a family of seven with no sense of fairness at all. And yet it is continued to be spoilt due to their position of power (nuclear weapons) the tension cannot be resolved even after this crisis. NK and SK are still technically at war, after all. This momentary slight 'peace' is a break from all the deaths and losses.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. The Truth 2

    I believe the North Koreans all talk. They willp talk talk talk, but when it comes to actuallity they won't retaliate. There facing one of the most powerful military forces of the United States. If the United States wasn't on the Souths' side, then North Korea would have ended this a. Long time ago, but that is not the case.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ben

    North Korea will always be a problem- its economy sucks,its people are starving,the goverment is getting nervous and do not want to relinquish any power at all, 28000 us troops, yes its a tinderbox all right.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Reason

    North Korea is completely unpredictable at this stage. I'm glad that they abstained from retaliation at this point but that is little comfort for the future. Until there is a regime change there can be lalmost no hope that they won't attack at some point and even with change in leadership it isn't certain. As china grows economically I think they'll have even less interest in supporting their communist brothers to the south. Our best chances for the future are that North Korea will someday want to foster their own economy using something other than scare tactics.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam Park

      totally agree,

      which is why The United States and South Korea are trying their best through political means in having the Chinese divert away from North Korea.

      There was a wikileak where the Chinese said they felt, the North Koreans were becoming useless or something to that extent.

      December 20, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nicoyas

    @Rodriguez: Haven't they taught you about run-on sentences yet Jr.?

    December 20, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lo

    I think we should start something just to get china involved. If we win we don't have to pay china back the debt. If we lose we'll prolly lose hard and won't pay china back the debt. Either way it's a win win!

    December 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marco

    nice, now he can come home and make peace between the Sindicado and the Sorenos.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
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