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. phil

    @Lachman...N. Koreans and Chinese are not trustworthy? Dishonest you say? How is it that they have so many living in Pyongyang then? If you even get caught writing a hot check, you are banished from the city. (what would the pop. of your hometown be with these laws enforcing honesty) China? If you are convicted of fraud, you are executed. How can these people be so dishonest, and still be living? We aren't exactly known for our outstanding honesty ya know. Dishonesty is rampant here in the USA as we all know. And most of it is perfectly legal here. If we had laws like China, our census takers would be done before lunch. Our cities would need to raise how many bond issues for graveyard expansion projects. Kids would be dodging headstones in our schoolyards. Tick's me off when we look down our noses at other countries based on our perception of their government. How many vacant chairs would their be in our Congress if fraud were a captal offense

    December 20, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • YoMamma

      All office-holders should be lined up and executed. Let's start fresh, and with the lingering stench of corruption to keep them honest...get the ropes...

      December 21, 2010 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Really?

    I once had tension, then I farted and felt better after that.

    December 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. phil

    Would THERE be rather...beat you to that one schoolmarm(s) but wait!!!there's more!

    December 20, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sherri W.W.

    The best thing will be if N.Korea DOES allow the UN inspectors back in,as they stated to Gov Richardson that would now be willing to do~We must keep communications open with them.True~they DO like to"saber~rattle",but really they mostly want the world to notice~and respect them~they just dont go about it right~which is why we HAVE to try,so things NEVER GET COMPLETELY OUT OF HAND~Accidentally,or any other way!

    December 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sherri W.W.

    @Chris from Texas~Nothing wrong with New Mexico~and the Gov.did best he could with what he had to do with there.~He is still a very good person,to talk to these people,because he does know how to do that well!~And~I love Texas,but you folks got a REAL mess on your hands now for sure~unless&until you get Perry out of there,things in Texas will keep getting much worse,and I hate to see it!

    December 21, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. NetNinja

    Since I do not live there however I have been there 3 times I can say that both sides will lose a tremendous ammount.

    So what can Korea do?

    1. Ignore thier agressive Neighbor to the North?
    2. Kick the U.S. out of Korea?
    3. Continue to appease the bully by giving in to thier demands to keep the rulling class rich the the poor brainwashed?

    The only way to win is not to play?
    So while South Korea continues to prosper under U.S. protection everything is OK. Move along nothing to see here.

    One day someone is going to pay and the longer South Korea waits the more it will lose.

    December 21, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. workingtaxpayer

    I would have prefered Richardson instead of Obama when both ran for the demo nomination. Richardson has credibility and the world's respect and it appears it went as far as possible in NKorea. Blitzer's reporting is appreciated. For those out there that want another war, least not forget we're already in 2, have military in 90 nations already, and Iran is still a power keg. And, the US is not the only country on the planet...better relations w/China and Russia is in our best interests. As a taxpayer, I for one am tired of all this conflict we pay for. The monies are better spent here, including reducing taxes. It's about time we start addressing the unemployed here.

    December 21, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Sherri W.W.

      I am glad you said those things about the Gov.~and Wolf too.Yes Gov.Richardson DOES HAVE A LOT TO OFFER AND HE WAS NOT TREATED WELL BY REPUBS FOR SURE!As I said~ITHINK HE WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT PERSON TO HAVE IN PRES.OBAMAS'team~HOWEVER I DO THINK PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THE RIGHT MAN FOR THIS COUNTRY,AT THIS TIME.GIVEN THE CHANCE[longer than 20 months] I BELIEVE HE WILL DO A GREAT DEAL~HAS ALREADY~FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS AN POOR~the HEALTH CARE WILL BE FINE IN AWHILE~AND WE NEED IT BAD.No DOUBT THE BEST ANSWER FOR THAT WOULD BE A MEDICARE TYPE INS FOR ALL~THO MEDICARE IS VERY EXPENSIVE RIGHT NOW~BUT SENIORS HAVE TO GET THAT DONUT HOLE FOR MEDS CLOSED UP,AND WITH 50%REDUCTION IN COST OF SENIORS MEDS IN 2011 IT IS GOING THE RIGHT WAY.I asked our family dr.a week ago and he said it will all work out and he has no intention of not going along with the new HC ,AND he doesnt know any doctors who are against it! SORRY~got off on another subject there,and I agree we SURE DO NEED MORE MONEY AT HOME FOR JOBS,SENIORS AND INFRASTRUCTURE TO NAME A FEW! I THINK IF WE HELP PRES O.WILL GET IT ALL DONE FOR US~I REALLY DO.

      December 21, 2010 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sam Park

    South Korea will fight back against a North Korean Provocation the next time. Many of the citizens here in South Korea have been angry over the Lee Myung-Bak administration doing nothing in efforts to fight back against a provocation.
    So the Lee Myung-Bak administration will proceed with belligerence on North Korea. There are reports that China and Russia are having drills

    December 21, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Sherri W.W.

      replyto:SamPark~my last comment on this tonight .but just wanted to say that you obviously know MUCH more about that whole area than I could hope to~and I too,am very afraid that it will all get in a mess where China&Russia&Lord knows who,gets in on it! I dont like to think of the drills you mention,and a lot more I can only imagine thats going on! Pray to which ever God any person worships,that somehow,some way,they will all learn to live together~and I wish Iran would get along as well.Its something good to wish for this holiday season for sure!

      December 21, 2010 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. remycaleb

    I lost 46 pounds and 6 inches in my waist. This is not a fake pill. Try the new "Hypersonic Weight Loss"

    December 21, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sherri W.W.

    @NetNinja~~sadly you are right on all counts. There just does not seem to be a way to fix it~and I dont think we can leave SK either,so it is a mess for sure~and an unfair one to both Koreas&their people!-Probably best we can do is exactly what we are doing~trying to be peacekeepers.We SURE dont want to get into it with everybody going at it,including China.No Way! And they dont either really,because none of us~or them~want our countries gone forever.So we do best we can,which is the reason I appreciate ANYONE who can talk sense to all of them!

    December 21, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. TOMDAN

    leon, go back to school study more history.
    the chin attack VIETNAM.
    the chin attack TEBET.
    the chin attack TAIWAN.
    the chin attack RUSSIA.
    the chjn attack MOGOLIA.
    the chin attack INDIAN.

    December 21, 2010 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Brad Whistle

    can Wolf stay in North Korea...forever...please?

    December 21, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Matt

    Bill Richardson has some courage. Wish other politicians did. It takes a lot to convince a crazy person to put... the gun.... down.

    December 21, 2010 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. BC

    You think it might have something to do with a U.S. carrier strike group nearby? Or how about hundreds of ICBM's pointed at the north? Deterence still works, even with little barking-dog countries. It's too bad there is no specific country for Islamic extremism – such a country would be a blackened ember of melted glass by now.

    December 21, 2010 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      zOMG. are you stuck in 1982? No modern country today uses ICBMs anymore.

      December 21, 2010 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack Has No Leg To Stand On

      Jack, your intel is amazing and is right on par with your opinions–absolutely worthless. Thanks for providing insight to the entire public that you have no idea what you are talking about.

      December 21, 2010 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Viceroy

      Clearly, you're both idiots. Jack is right, the U.S. no longer employs ICBMs. THe Peacemaker was the last ICBM we used and they were retired. We now use SSN based missles such as the Trident. Many other countries also don't use ICBMs anymore due to the cost of maintaining them and the lifespan.

      December 21, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jack

    You people keep beating on Bill Richardson, etc. I didn't see any of you go to N. Korea to try to defuse the situation. Hell, come to think of it – did any of you do anything for that cause? I thought so. You guys will never even be 1/2 the man Bill Richardson is. Just remember, he makes more money than you, has a better career than you, and bangs hotter chicks than you can ever imagine. So why don't you go back to your 9-5 jobs and work and waste away.

    December 21, 2010 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
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