ABC: North Korea Has Rational 'Historic Fear' of U.S. Worsened by Bush's 'Axis of Evil'

ABC's Mark Litke, checking in from Seoul on Monday's World News, seemed to rationalize North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's pursuit of a nuclear weapon as he treated as credible the contention the regime has had, for decades, a reasonable fear of U.S. invasion, a fear exacerbated by President George W. Bush. Litke proposed: “It's difficult to imagine Kim Jong Il as a clever and calculating leader who knows exactly what he wants, but, in fact, he may be much smarter than most people realize." Litke soon outlined, leading into a soundbite from Clinton administration UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, how “Kim has justified his missile tests and nuclear program as a deterrent to what he sees as an eventual U.S. invasion. It's a longstanding fear dating back to the Korean War when Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, feared the U.S. would use nuclear weapons against his country. That historic fear was reinforced 50 years later when the U.S. labeled North Korea part of an 'Axis of Evil' with Iran and Iraq. Kim Jong Il feared he would always be next after Iraq." (Transcript follows)

The Monday night coverage on CBS and NBC of North Korea's atomic test avoided giving credence to such blame-America reasoning.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the October 9 World News with Charles Gibson on ABC.

Gibson set up the piece, the last of a series of reports on North Korea:
"And that is where we go next, to the Korean Peninsula. This is an international crisis borne out of one person's actions. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, inherited the reins of power after his father, the former leader, died. His country is crippled by sanctions already in place, and his government is the most isolated in the world. But, as ABC's Mark Litke reports from Seoul, South Korea, Kim Jong Il may be getting what he wants."
From South Korea, Mark Litke began:
"He is often portrayed as an odd reclusive, rarely seen or heard in public -- a vain, eccentric playboy who loves expensive wines and Hollywood movies -- it's difficult to imagine Kim Jong Il as a clever and calculating leader who knows exactly what he wants, but, in fact, he may be much smarter than most people realize."

Donald Gregg, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea: "Kim Jong Il, in my view, is interested in the survival and the evolution of his state into a less abnormal state. He's not interested in suicide."

Litke: "So why set off a nuclear bomb when nearly the entire world has been threatening the North with even greater isolation? Many analysts believe Kim sees nuclear weapons as North Korea's best bargaining chip in trying to gain international respect as a world power, and not a crumbling regime."

Professor Lho Kyong Soo, Seoul National University: "What I think they're trying to do is to show the world that they're going to do it their way, that nobody is going to stop them."

Litke: "Another reason, Kim has justified his missile tests and nuclear program as a deterrent to what he sees as an eventual U.S. invasion. It's a longstanding fear dating back to the Korean War when Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, feared the U.S. would use nuclear weapons against his country. That historic fear was reinforced 50 years later when the U.S. labeled North Korea part of an 'Axis of Evil' with Iran and Iraq. Kim Jong Il feared he would always be next after Iraq."

Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM): "Could be that they want to enter a new negotiation, and they're just using this for negotiating leverage. And having a nuclear weapon is substantial leverage."

Litke: "Kim has suggested he'll back way from his own nuclear program only if the United States offers direct talks, agrees to a non-aggression pact, and ends its crippling sanctions against North Korea's international finances. But none of those demands are likely to be accepted anytime soon. Mark Litke, ABC News, Seoul."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center