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)
  1. jack frost

    Need a war to fix it

    December 20, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nasty nate

    And american needs to preach peace in her backyard

    December 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris Glaser..Who Knows All (in Texas)

    So Bill Richardson is in North Korea.....no wonder why they hate us.

    Its real simple, you fire 20-30 cruise missles at various areas in North Korea. It's not like they will notice the destruction. I think they would benefit from it.

    Then once we destroy their country...we send billions of dollars to repair the shantys we destroyed. At the same time try to set up a new government that we know will fail right after we leave.

    All we need is the CIA to photoshop Kim King Ill running a red light in LA...to justify the attack and need to remove him.

    Honestly what has happened to dictators these days. No class. All they do is run their mouths....they talk the talk but can't walk the walk.

    All kidding aside....

    I think they forget....we know Chuck Norris.....and John Rambo. I also hope Richardson at least gets a key chain from the gift shop before he goes.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy bob hand job

      just go hit urself in the head with a hammer buddy you need to go to sleep for a long time.

      December 21, 2010 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Nasty nate

    bill richardson u are worried about koreans a million miles away and your country america and the state u are in charge of is flooded wit illegal mexicans makes nosense

    December 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Leon

    You know why North Korea reacted that way? The reason is very simple: China does not want to have another Korean war. Yes, China can have that big of an influence on NK.

    The view of wars to Chinese are completely different from the view of wars to Americans. Chinese think wars are the worst thing of the world (they had been attacked by so many countries in the recent history), while the Americans think wars make them so safe, so free, and so cool (they did a great job in the WWII). The Chinese government is kind of worried that if there is a war, they could lose their regime, while the American government is always eager to launch a war, because it knows that if there is a war, there will be money, at least for some people.

    Brainwashed or not? It is very easy to test. People here think that China is a danger country, even though it did not attack any other country in the recent history. People here think that the US is a very peaceful country, even though it attacked one country after another.

    A little harsh but that is the fact.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Imjesayin

    Wolf- You are a fool. Is NK censoring your reports? What is this cr@p about NK showing "restraint" in not "retaliating"? THEY ARE NOT BEING ATTACKED!!! That's not "retaliation", it's provocation to fire on another country first. SK is doing a live fire drill. Every country with a military does this. It does NOT give a neighboring country a reason to shell their innocent civilians. You and Bill "Hanoi Jane" Richardson are just pawns that are being used by these misbehaving children who run NK who didn't get enough attention from Mommy and Daddy. They hold peace and the rest of the world hostage. How is this different from terrorists?

    December 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. johnny g

    Does any else think that Wolf is channeling Kim Jong Il in the above photo?

    December 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sherri W.W.

    THE MOST DANGEROUS SPOT ON EARTH RIGHT NOW~WOLF B.SAID IT AND ITS VERY TRUE!~AS I SAID LAST NIGHT,THANK GOV.RICHARDSON~HE AVERTED A DISASTER~AND HE IS A FINE MAN.~DO NOT ANYBODY,FOOL YOURSELF INTO THINKING THIS IS LIKE THE OTHER WARS WE ARE FIGHTING!~BAD AS THEY ARE,A NEW KOREN WAR WILL JUST ABOUT FINISH THINGS~dont EVER Wish for such a thing~we are talking nukes here~and ,not only do we not want several countries blown up~we have nearly 30,000 of our troops always in S.Korea since the end of a war where we were not born yet~and we NEVER WANT ANOTHER LIKE IT~EVER! STUDY HISTORY IF YOU DONT BELIEVE ME.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nasty nate

    america is the true evil they dont give a damn about peace and honesty did we forget our american history or did we skip that class

    December 20, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leon

      Like several weeks ago, when there is a conflict in the Korean Peninsula, the US sent their Aircraft carrier there first, while China is asking more talks.

      Is really show off one's weapon a good gesture for peace?

      BTW, it is China's backyard.

      December 20, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • US ABE

      @Leon
      That's what allies do.

      December 20, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. raynardo

    I love it that you're wearing blue jeans, Wolf, even though with a tie. . .

    December 20, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lachman

    North Korea is like China, an untrustworthy country in the world, besides North Korea is in a financial mess, who depends heavily on Chinas assistance, it would be in the best interests of North Korea to merge with South Korea and abandon communism.

    December 20, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris Glaser..Who Knows All (in Texas)

      You fool abandon communism....that means they have to get real jobs. Communism is a success story....look at Russia....Cuba...they proved communism works. It shows in their fantastic economy. So we will not talk about that Tom-foolery...if Karl Marx was around he would slap you for it. And to the Richardson lover...you mam are misguided. Look at his state...isnt exactly the first thought when I think of states that are awesome.

      December 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nasty nate

    Just give us their women

    December 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Name*Tony

    Why bring the Eskimos into this. Let's go after Canada. The girl scounts could handle them

    December 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. KC

    Any truth to the rumor that Richardson had to do the high kick leg move when he exited the plane in NK ?

    December 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sherri W.W.

    IF THERE IS ACTUALLY ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO THINKS WE,OR ANYONE CAN"throw a few missiles at them"AND ALL WILL BE WELL~LORD!~DO ATTEND THOSE HISTORY CLASSES FOR SURE! When that happens~the time for talking~and living~will be over.AS I have also said before~WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE IN THE WORLD~I SLEEP A WHOLE LOT BETTER KNOWING A MAN WHO IS "COOL&CALM"like OUR PRESIDENT IS~THAT HE IS THE GUY WITH THE BUTTON~NOT SOME HOTHEAD FOOL!! WE WOULD ALL DO WELL TO REMEMBER THAT BEFORE WE EVER PUT SOMEBODY IN THE WH THAT HAS "NO IDEA" about ANYTHING! BELIEVE ME~PRES.OBAMA WILL BE DOIN WHATS RIGHT TO PROTECT HIS LITTLE GIRLS WHILE PROTECTING OURS AS WELL!

    December 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
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