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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  May 10, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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our top story: donald trump has fired the fbi's director. james comey was fired on recommendation of the president's senior legal officers. mr comey had been leading an investigation into alleged links between the trump election campaign and russia. the liberal human rights lawyer, moonjae—in, has claimed victory in south korea's presidential election. addressing supporters in seoul, he promised to govern for all south koreans. and this video is trending on bbc.com: britain's prime minister theresa may and her husband philip have appeared together on the bbc as part of the general election campaign. they talked shoes, household chores, and political ambition. that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. donald trump doesn't
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do diplomacy in any recognisable form. a clear strategy, a consistent message, they don't feature in the trump toolkit. it is that he can threaten north korea with war, while at the same time describing kim jong—un as a ‘smart cookie‘ who it would be an honour to meet. what does it all mean? my guess is christopher hill, a senior us diplomat under three presidents and a former lead negotiator on north korea. could trump's unpredictable approach to foreign policy actually work? christopher hill, in warsaw, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you very much. let's start with the general point about president trump and his foreign policy making style. admittedly, we only have 100 and a few more days tojudge him on. to what extent do you think it is breaking off the norms of foreign policy leadership? he is certainly breaking with the norms in terms of a virtual lack of staff. he has a secretary of state, a secretary of defence and there is not much in between. you get the impression that when he says things, it is really from his heart or i guess some other place, but it's definitely not considered opinion. that's one thing that is very different. another thing that's very different is, and this was a kind of criticism of president obama, that he didn't really take the time to get to know
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these foreign leaders, whereas donald trump has them to dinner and takes them to florida, et cetera. it also seems very friendly but you just really don't have a sense of where it's quite going. i think largely because he doesn't really know where it's quite going. let's talk north korea. that is obviously one of your special subjects. you famously went to pyongyang as the us lead negotiator at a time when you were desperately trying to find and negotiated way through the nuclear crisis with north korea. donald trump's style on north korea is, it seems, to mix bellicose language with actually signals that no other president has sent about his willingness to meet face—to—face. what do you make of that? very true. first of all, i think he has understood that north korea is a top of the charts issue these days. i mean, it's not going away.
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they are very much focused on developing deliverable nuclear weapons. i think he understands that during this term of his that he will quite likely face the american people in 2020 and have to explain what he has done about this north korean threat. i think he looks at this as a transactional negotiation. he can get the chinese to do what other people couldn't get them to do. and that somehow, he can find a sort of formula in negotiations that will make the north korean say, oh, we can deal with this guy, we can cut some arrangement with him. he goes into this with a sense, with a kind of thought that he understands that at a certain level, but of course, i don't think he has ever cracked a briefing book on it or anything like that and often when he is confronted with facts, he has never really seen them before. so, we have the odd spectacle of the chinese president xijinping talking to him about north korea and he said,
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"gee, after ten minutes of that, i finally understood it, it's a bit more complicated." he skates on a very thin fact base, to be sure. he is concerned about trying to deal with it. he feels there is no one better than himself to deal with it and that is a concept that frankly has to be tested. it's an interesting concept but maybe he bases that in part on the fact that people like you worked very hard on your briefing notes and briefing books and researched things very thoroughly and you tried to deal with north korea for many years and it has to be said, you signally failed. so, the trump message seems to be, i have inherited one heck of a mess from all of these so—called experts and diplomats that worked on this for 20 years, they got nowhere, i'm going to try things a little different. i think that's absolutely his view.
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that is, those of us who did our homework, worked very hard, try to integrate different elements of our government, elements of strategy, approached the north koreans, got them to do certain things in terms of disabling their plants and tried to give them certain payments in terms of fuel oil and things like that. ultimately, we were not able to get a deal because the north koreans wouldn't allow us to verify things. so, he looks at all that and says, the heck with that, i can just go in there, seat of the pants, and try to solve this. look, if it works, is absolutely wonderful, butjust because it hasn't been solved before doesn't mean it's going to be solved without cracking a briefing book. before we get to the trump approach, and i want to unpick it in a bit of detail. why do you think, and i referred already to your mission to pyongyang which was in 2007 and your talks with the other members of the multilateral group trying to fix the north korean problem, why, particularly in light of your visit to pyongyang and meeting the leadership there —
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why do you think that this carrot and stick approach that successive administrations have tried — why has it failed? i think it's failed, it is failed in the sense that north korea isn't prepared to give up their nuclear weapons. we sat down with the north koreans and said, "what do you want? what do you want to give up your nuclear weapons?" they said they want a peace treaty, you got it. they wanted economic assistance, energy assistance, all of these things we packaged together in a financial agreement and we put it altogether but at the end of the day, north korea was not prepared to have any kind of verification so we had to take their word for it on whether they were stopping the production of nuclear weapons and ultimately, that is something we absolutely could not live with. this despite numerous meetings
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in beijing and china at the helm of this. plus, as you mentioned, i made three trips to north korea, including going to their nuclear reactor. at the end of the day, they basically decided they would rather have nuclear weapons. the question is, can this president, working with very familiar elements, china, south korea, can he create a situation where north korea says, "we are better off giving up our nuclear weapons"? certainly, we were prepared to put whatever they wanted in the agreement, provided they were willing to give up their weapons. we were not prepared to look the other way and pretend they were giving up nuclear weapons when in fact they weren't. i think it's a very tall order to get them to do this. they have a new leader, kim jong—un. at least his father seemed to care what the chinese thought and tried to engage in these negotiations. kim jong—un shows absolutely no interest. right, well you negotiated
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with the father's team rather than the son's, but at least you have some sense of how they operate. when donald trump says things like, for example, "we could end up having a major, major conflict with north korea, absolutely." and when he sends the warship aircraft carrier group to the region, when he uses the bellicose language, how does that go down with north korean officials? well, they are obviously listening very carefully. i'm sure, to some extent, they are worried he could actually follow through on these things. to another extent, he is trying to be more bellicose to the north koreans. he is trying to out north korean the north koreans. they are pretty good at bellicosity. at some point they may just say let's wait and see if he's really going to do some of these things.
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it's notjust bellicosity, is it? you said not so long ago, a direct quote from you, "the feeling is, within the next four years, they really could have a missile system with a nuclear warhead." within, that is, the term of the trump presidency. is it not the case that no us president can allow that to happen and if the diplomacy doesn't yield anything, beijing can't deliver on getting north korea to change tack over the next year or two, there will have to be an american military intervention, won't there? it's quite possible but here is the scenario. you launch a pre—emptive strike against the north korean nuclear facilities and then the north koreans retaliate by by launching artillery at the 20 million or so south koreans who live within artillery range of north korea. once they strike south korean civilian centres, then what does the us do? does the us then retaliate for that because the south koreans certainly will. and then we are into a second korean war. that's a pretty big step.
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that's not something you want to bluff your way into. you want to be purposeful and talk to the south koreans about it. you want to make sure there are no mixed signals. you want to talk to the japanese and oh, by the way, you might want to share it with the american people who might not be quite up for another war right now. there are a lot of things to go into his decision of whether to launch a pre—emptive strike against the north korean facilities, even if he feels it is absolutely something he has to do to protect the american people. lets change tack. if we are to avoid the doomsday scenario of missiles flying across the sky, then the chinese are going to be a pretty major part of any diplomatic shift here. do you see signs, again, that the donald trump style, and we have to remember that president xi has already been to florida hobnobbing with president trump, do you see signs that the chinese, in a sense, are reacting more positively and proactively to the trump style
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than they were to 0bama's, on north korea in particular? i think that is fair. i think the chinese like the decisiveness of trump. they think they can understand it better. they didn't know what president 0bama meant by strategic patience. they hear this guy getting up and clearly not a very patient individual and saying that this needs to be resolved, they kind of like the directness. the problem is what to do about it. the chinese can clearly do a lot more in terms of economic sanctions, but the question is whether doing more on the economic sanctions will be enough to get the north koreans off their own nuclear train because they are really moving very fast on that. frankly, i think the chinese like working with the americans when americans talk this way even though, i'm sure in the dead
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of night, they worry a little about whether president trump will follow through on all of these things. isn't one of the to the keys to this, that unlike your boss when you were dealing with north korea, that is george w bush who put north korea in the famous axis of evil, trump and his secretary of state rex tillerson are not doing that and, looking at the quotes, they're going out of their way to say this. this is from rex tillerson, "we do not seek a collapse of the north korean regime, we do not seek accelerated reunification of the peninsular, we are not out to bring the regime to its knees." that may be an important signal to beijing. i think it is an important signal especially to beijing and another reason why the chinese liked dealing with the president and secretary rex tillerson. there is no question that the trump administration has been very clear about this. whereas, during the bush administration,
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those statements were similar to what condi rice would say but quite dissimilar to what vice president cheney would say. so they were hearing mixed messages from the bush administration, we were very worried about that. i this case, there is a clear messages. we want to see north korea get rid of their nuclear weapons, we are not seeking regime change. i want to emphasise that when we reached an agreement with the north koreans, we explicitly put that in, that we were looking forward to living peacefully together with north korea. we put that very explicitly. so, i'm not sure that this is necessarily going to solve the problem but i guess it is a starting point to laying out for the north koreans that it's about their nuclear weapons. not trying to change the regime. a slightly different question related to donald trump. 0n the one hand, he gives
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the message he is ready to go to war, but on the other hand, he says he is honoured at the thought of meeting kim jong—un and maybe we can talk. when it comes to china, we get similar talk of china raping the american economy, being declared a currency manipulator, and then that's put on the shelf and donald trump says very nice things about president xi and suggests he wants to work side—by—side with china or north korea. sending these mixed signals, contradictory signals, by twitter, by tv appearance, does this in any way work in terms of putting your adversaries off—balance? you know, performance art is part of many professions, including diplomacy. i think to some extent we have this reality tv show man engaging in some performance art.
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it is not a bad idea to have your adversaries a little off—balance and i think he has succeeded without. —— off—balance and i think he has succeeded with that. the problem is mixed messages can lead to some very serious mistakes. so, i think he needs to be careful with this stuff. he was talking about the south koreans, "we want to stand by them, help them, make sure our alliance is positive" and then he says, "by the way, we want them to pay for this anti—ballistic missile system we are installing." the pricetag was of the order of $1 billion. immediately, the secretary of defence mattis had to walk back the president's comments on that before it created a firestorm in south korea. in addition, the president had at one point said "of course we also want to finish the us—south korean trade agreement, which is so terrible." and of course, the south koreans spent a lot of time getting that through the national assembly and getting consensus on it and it is the last thing they wanted to reopen. sometimes he makes these mixed
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statements and they are worrisome because you never know what the next statement means, is it a serious one or is it a bluff? there's kind of a problem in that he does not have enough people who can go in there and fill in between the various statements. we don't have ambassadors anywhere in the region. there are no assistant secretaries, undersecretaries. it is a home—alone crowd. so they have to wait for the next statement from the president and it's worrisome to all these countries. i guess it's worrisome to you because you're are a senior diplomat yourself and when donald trump does not appear to respect the importance and significance of senior diplomats, i can imagine it would hurt you a bit. coming back to the wider point, which i want to put to you, because it seems to be a critique of the foreign policy—making establishment of which you were a part, donald trump's message, notjust on the korean peninsula and on the middle east,
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but on a range of things, "i inherited a 20—year long failure, a mess. clinton, bush, 0bama, they did not really address a host of these problems, and that's why i'm going to have to do it myself." he has got a point, doesn't he? he's got a point. but every president sincejohn adams because george washington was the first, can point to their predecessor and say "i inherited a mess." the issue isn't whether you inherited a mess, but what you are going to do about it. i think there's a limited tolerance in the us for listening to people talk about their predecessors. i think the question will be what is he going to do about this? of course these issues are tough and there are things not easy to explain. but he cannot face the american people in 2020 and say this was all my predecessors‘ fault. i take your point. but what he can do, and let us get specific on the middle east,
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he can point at 0bama‘s red line on chemical weapons with bashar al—assad, which 0bama signalled would produce an american military response, which of course, it did not. but donald trump actually made good on the notion of that being a red line. frankly, many people criticising donald trump during the campaign in the early days of the presidency, like former cia director, michael hayden, are now saying, do you know what, he handled that really well, and it was an important signal and an important message he sent with that airstrike on the airfield in syria and he did it in a respected and fine way. maybe you will need to reassess. i don‘t know about you guys, but many people, including us guys, felt it was a good decision. if syrians are going to drop chemical weapons on civilians,
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the president of the united states, as a matter of principle, should go out and hit them and hit them hard and that is what he did. but i want to draw a distinction between hitting a syrian air base and coming up with a political plan going forward that will address this carnage in syria in the long—run. i have seen no effort, really, to address the politics or the diplomacy of the issue, no effort to address what syria should be when the war ends. i think president 0bama failed miserably on that, but i don‘t see any renewed effort from president trump to say, 0k, we are going to lead a diplomatic effort and work with others and see what we can come up with. i mean, just whacking the syrian air force on one of their air bases is not solving the problem. yeah, ok, it‘s notjust whacking one airbase, it is a message, "i will take decisive action when it is merited, i will deploy american military
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force" as he just did in afghanistan with that quote—unquote mother of all bombs dropped on caves where is fighters were said to be based. you know, this is a guy who does things. 0bama, frankly, and you were his ambassador in iraq, who made this happen, 0bama just wanted to get out of iraq and get out of afghanistan and it seems he did not want to use american military force in a decisive way. trump, coming back to the point of being unpredictable, is different and he appears decisive. those two things matter, don‘t they? they do matter. i would like to say about president obama, he went after more bad guys with more cruise missiles than ever in the history of america and set a record that will be hard for anyone to beat. he did go after people. the problem was he did not want to stay in any comprehensive way, he didn‘t want to be
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there to help build the middle east. there are two wars in syria. one is a war of annihilation against islamic state. there is no negotiation with those people. we just have to keep going after them and tell we have essentially killed them off. the other issue is the war of succession in damascus and whether the united states can work with others, including the russians, the iranians, and maybe the saudis and others to see if there is a solution there. and that is where i think american presidents need to bejudged to find a solution. hitting the syrian air force, no question, it was the right decision. when you come after civilians, we have to restore deterrence, and we also have to launch punitive raids. that is what it was, punitive. but punitive doesn‘t mean we‘re using force to support a political goal. i‘d like to see more political goals there rather than just whacking people when we‘re mad at them. we are almost out of time.
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in your diplomatic style, you have been identified much more closely with hillary clinton. some say you would have gotten a seniorjob if she won. but is it possible that 3.5 years from now, you might reflect on things and say, you know what, donald trump, much to my surprise, proved to be a much more effective foreign policy president than i ever thought possible? i don‘t rule that out. i think to some extent, he has had a much sharperfocus, especially in dealing with china. we have a lot of issues with china. human rights issues, trade issues, south china sea issues. i think he has very much sharpened the spear and said we need to put north korea as a priority. i like seeing priorities
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set in diplomacy. coming in with christmas trees of things you want and not getting anything done, well, when you set a priority, you have a better chance of taking care of it. i welcome that approach. my only concern is that i don‘t really see the mechanisms by which he can follow through. diplomacy is notjust showing up, it is following up as well. i don‘t really see that. i would like to see him either empower the foreign service he has got there, or if he really needs to bring in other people, that is fine. but we need to get on with the task. i don‘t think america can be in retreat right now. it has to be directly engaged on these very tough issues. we are out of time now, but, christopher hill, thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. hi there.
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we had some glorious sunshine yesterday across western parts of the country once again. these were the clear skies in abersock, north—west wales. we have had a lot of sunshine over the last few days across western parts of the country. but if i run through the last few days in the east, you can see rather cloudier weather in from the north sea, with pesky winds bringing cloud across much of central and eastern england in particular. it hasn‘t felt warm either under the cloudy sky. however, the weather is going to change because the wind is changing direction. we‘re not bringing cloud from the north sea. the pressure is relatively higher on wednesday. the winds will be
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a little bit lighter. it will be sunny and warm day for many parts of the country. yes, warmth on the way but it will be a chilly start to the morning. temperatures start around two or three degrees in the countryside. there will be a few spots see temperatures below freezing in the coldest areas. cloudy in scotland. a bit of rain for the northern isles. 0therwise, mainly dry. we should see sunshine from the central belt southwards across scotland, northern ireland, england and wales, mostly starting fine and sunny with a few patches of cloud to start the day for east anglia. i think for most of us temperatures come up quickly with light winds and blue skies overhead. and that‘s really the way the weather will stay through the rest of the day. again, prone to a few spits and spots of rain across the far north of scotland but otherwise essentially it is a dry picture with sunshine. and temperatures across parts of central england towards the south—west, eastern wales, could reach the 20s, so it‘s going to be warm and pleasant in the sunshine.
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heading through wednesday evening and overnight, we keep cloudy weather for scotland. and late in the night we might see just a few showers pushing in from the near continent. signs of a change in the weather on the way. temperatures overnight around 7—9 degrees, so thursday morning starts off something like this — most of us start off on a sunny note and then showers move up from the continent, some of those could turn thundery through the day. still, for many areas it is a decent day with dry weather, warm sunshine, temperatures rising, 19 degrees or so in london. but then through thursday night and on into friday it looks like we will see some thunderstorms pushing in from the near continent. hit and miss in nature. but some of the downpours might be intense. there might be some hail mixed in. the wind will start to get stronger and then it will be cooler for eastern scotland with cloud and rain. for the weekend we will have some relatively warm conditions. some bright spells intermingled with one or two showers. that‘s your weather. i‘m rico hizon in singapore. the headlines: president trump fires the head of the fbi, james comey, saying fresh leadership
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is required to restore trust in the organisation. democrats demand assurances that an independent fbi inquiry into alleged links between the trump election campaign and russia will continue. the american people need to have faith that an investigation as serious as this one is being conducted impartially, without a shred of bias. a more conciliatory approach to north korea from the new president in the south, but where will this leave donald trump‘s policy in the region?
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