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Panetta: North Korean leader's decisions have been erratic

March 29, 2013 7:37:53 PM PDT
Thousands of North Korean soldiers are marching in Pyongyang in support of North Korea's call to arms. Kim Jong Un has ordered preparations for an attack on the United States and South Korea.

In just the past couple of weeks, North Korea's leader has cut hot lines to the south, ordered his army to prepare for war and threatened missile attacks on the United States and South Korea.

On Tuesday I sat down with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and asked him about North Korea's threats. He says decisions from the country's young leader have been erratic.

"At one point he was trying to reach out and see if there was some way to negotiate our issues and then suddenly he flips around, they conduct this test of ICBM, they do this test on a potential nuclear weapon, and then they start talking about attacking the United States attacking South Korea," Panetta said.

North Korea's state run media published a picture of Kim Jong Un with what are purported to be attack plans on a board behind him. That in direct response to the U.S. sending a pair of B-2 stealth bombers on a practice mission 50 miles from the North Korean border, part of joint military exercises with South Korea.

"Those exercises are to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict," said General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"We will unequivocally defend and we are unequivocally committed to that alliance with South Korea and we will be prepared," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said.

For the first time in a long time, the U.S. and China have joined forces to pressure North Korea, voting in January on U.N. resolutions tightening economic sanctions.

Mark Matthews: "So you got those resolutions, do you ever see China cutting off food and fuel?"
Leon Panetta: "I don't really think they're ever going to cut off food and fuel because I don't think they just want to let them float out there."

Panetta says the fear is that North Korea could become even more isolated and dangerous.

"I think China's got to continue to put pressure on them but as always the only way to you can do that is to try and lean on the leadership to sit down and work through the issues," Panetta said.

On Friday China called for a de-escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula, while signaling that it will not intervene directly in restraining North Korea.


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