Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico HARDtalk


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Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico

Stephen Sackur speaks to Bill Richardson, former Clinton cabinet secretary and one time US North Korea emissary. What is Trump's brand of disruption doing to US foreign policy?


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Now on BBC News,

it's time for HARDtalk.

0:00:010:00:04

Welcome to HARDtalk. On Stephen

Sackur. We will be presented with

0:00:110:00:20

foreign policy choices that could

define, from's presidency. A meeting

0:00:200:00:26

with Kim Jong-un is looming, so to a

decision on whether to dump the

0:00:260:00:30

nuclear deal with Iran. Never far

from the surface, how to handle

0:00:300:00:36

relations with Vladimir Putin's

Russia. My guest is one-time US

0:00:360:00:43

North Korea emissary Bill

Richardson. What is trump's brand of

0:00:430:00:48

disruption doing to US foreign

policy?

0:00:480:00:51

Bill Richardson, welcome to

HARDtalk. Thank you, nice to be with

0:01:170:01:25

you. I want to tap into your wide

experience in Washington, inside and

0:01:250:01:33

Administration and as a congressman

and a former UN ambassador for the

0:01:330:01:37

United States. When you look at

foreign policy-making in America

0:01:370:01:41

today, how are the big strategic

decisions being made?

Well,

0:01:410:01:48

unfortunately, I think they are

being made on the flight, on the

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spur of the moment by the President,

by tweets, and I don't like the

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disarray. I am a traditionalist. I

think diplomacy is a very important

0:01:570:02:04

statecraft and I worry that we don't

have a national security team in

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place that the President, while

making a right decision to meet with

0:02:090:02:12

Kim Jong-un, might not be prepared,

that he is listening to his

0:02:120:02:21

political instance as opposed to

what is in the best foreign policy

0:02:210:02:24

of the United States. I am very

unsettled, yet, at the same time, on

0:02:240:02:29

this North Korea issue, I think the

right approach was a face-to-face

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meeting, but I wonder if we will be

prepared.

I am intrigued that you

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actually approve of the notion that

too many people, shocking notion of

0:02:380:02:44

a trump Kim Jong-un summer. Before

we get there, tell me in your

0:02:440:02:49

experience, what does it say that

Rex Tillerson for example only

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learnt of that summit, we

understand, by reading it on

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Twitter, he only learned of his own

dismissal by reading about it on

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Twitter. What does that say about

the way the President operates?

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Well, it says that it is an

undisciplined approach. It says that

0:03:070:03:13

the sleek, Tillotson and the

President did not have personal

0:03:130:03:16

chemistry. I think Tillotson was

more moderate, he wanted to stay in

0:03:160:03:21

the Iran nuclear deal, he wanted

diplomacy with North Korea a lot

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earlier, he wanted to be tougher on

Russia, and they just didn't mesh.

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The chemistry wasn't there. It's

very important for a president and

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his chief foreign policy adviser to

basically have confidence in each

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other. That didn't happen. But I

just think the unceremonious way

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that Tillotson was dumped, the in

ceremony is way decisions are made

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on personnel, White House staff,

there are reports that the National

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Security adviser may be next. I know

him, he is a capable man and I worry

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that the President just wants to

have around him individuals that

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will not disagree with him, that

will just reinforce his views, which

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in many cases, I believe are not

internationalist views, not the best

0:04:080:04:14

in the interest of the United

States.

We are going to talk plenty

0:04:140:04:17

about North Korea. I want to start

the substance with Russia, partly

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because it is a huge issue in the

UK, as a result of the nerve agent

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attack on a former Soviet agent, Sir

J Scrip in a town in the UK along

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with his daughter. -- Sergei

Skripal. It has accused -- was used

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tension. Going back to Tillotson and

his firing, he chose, after his

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firing, to brew pointedly made these

remarks about Russia. He said, much

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work remains to respond to the

troubling behaviour and actions of

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the Russian government, and he

warned that Russia could face yet

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greater isolation. Do you think that

Tillotson was pushing Donald Trump

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to confront Britain in a way that

Donald Trump simply doesn't want to

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do?

Yes, I do think he was trying to

push the President in the right

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direction, which was to stand with

you guys, you are our main ally, and

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the evidence is overwhelming, that

this nerve agent was deposited by

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the Russians. You have concrete

proof. And we stand behind you. Yes,

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the press secretary should, the

Secretary of State should, but I

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haven't heard the President himself

say, we stand with Great Britain,

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with the Prime Minister, with the

enormous evidence, and Russia should

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stop. They have interfered in our

election, there has been substantial

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demonstrations of that involvement,

certified by our intelligence

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agencies, so Russia, you should stop

doing this. You should stop doing

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this to our allies, to the United

States, stop getting involved in

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elections throughout the world,

which they are doing. I didn't hear

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that from the President. So I think

Tillerson was nudging him and

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obviously we still haven't heard it.

I want to see the President. I want

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to see him succeed. I want him to

stand behind our allies like you

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guys, that are facing this real

dilemma in your foreign policy with

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an important state actor.

Several

points come out of what you've just

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said. It should be said newly

re-elected Vladimir Putin described

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allegations that the Russian state

was behind the attack on Sergei

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Skripal of nonsense. We need to put

that on the record. Also, are you

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being fair to Donald Trump? He did

ultimately come out and issue a

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joint statement alongside the UK,

Germany and France, condemning the

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outrageous attack in the UK. Just

last week, the US expanded its

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sanctions against targeted

individuals in Russia. When you

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compare trump with Obama, is trump

doing so much less on Russia than

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Obama did? Well, in my view, he's

not doing enough. Yes, he made that

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joint statement. But I want to hear

him also with our election. It is

0:07:180:07:23

very strong evidence by our

intelligence agency of enormous

0:07:230:07:29

involvement in the election. Maybe

he didn't decide the US presidential

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election. I have yet to hear the

President in very strong terms

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condemn what Russia did. The

President himself. And, yes, all

0:07:370:07:42

right, we are making joint

statements, but I want to see that

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outrage because Vladimir Putin was

re-elected, some say with 107% of

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the vote. I saw that. Maybe he will

now recognise that he has got to be

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a world leader again, that it's

responsible in the next six years.

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But their continued interference in

family activities around the world

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and elections, it is

incomprehensible. Yes, Russia wants

0:08:100:08:14

to get restored as a major power

again, but not at the expense of

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human rights and people and possible

nerve agent killings and Syria,

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conspiring with Assad. Maybe now,

Putin will change. I doubt it, but

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that is my hope. Don't you think

Democrats need to be careful right

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now? The way they are pushing the

notion that Donald Trump stands not

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just accused, but in many democratic

rights, guilty of collusion with the

0:08:370:08:41

Russians over the last potential of

election, -- presidential election,

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isn't that hamstring in the US

administration's ability to really

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direct a coherent Russia policy

right now?

Well, what is important

0:08:510:08:58

here is this muller investigation

needs to keep its course. Let him

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come up with whatever the facts are.

Two, I think it is important that

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we, as Democrats, not just attack

the President. Let's find the facts,

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but at the same time, let's, with a

message that eluded us in the last

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election. And I think elections in

the United States are moving our

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way, in Pennsylvania, we won an

election in a district that

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President Trump won by 20%. We won

that. So the public is turning

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towards a Democrat slowly, but we

have to just be positive about our

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vision. We need an economic message.

People want to make more money, they

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want higher wages, they want the

working class to do better. I think

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that escaped us. But I think on this

Russia issue, I don't think the

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Democrats are wholesale saying there

was collusion. I think there is

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enormous suspicion about it, this is

why this investigation, Mr Muller

0:10:020:10:07

needs to be concluded. The present

needs to stop attacking that

0:10:070:10:12

investigation.

After some extremely

strong condemnation by tweet from

0:10:120:10:15

Donald Trump about investigation

over the weekend, there are any

0:10:150:10:21

speculation that the President might

even fire Robert Muller. If he did,

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what would that produce in

Washington?

One senator said it

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would start the end of his

presidency. I don't know. I think it

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is up to the Republicans who, I

would hope, looking at our past

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history, Watergate, would say this

is untenable. This shouldn't happen.

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And that this would read contested

enormously. Democrats would, but

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remember, Republicans have a

majority in the house and Senate.

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Also, the American people I think

would find this enormously troubling

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and it would be demonstrations in

the streets like you've never seen

0:11:000:11:04

if this happens. I'm not sure it's

going to happen. I don't know what

0:11:040:11:08

the President is going to do, but is

of the earthly in a very contested

0:11:080:11:12

fight with Robert Muller, not just

publicly, but I hope he is not

0:11:120:11:18

plotting to terminate him. I think

that would be a huge mistake for

0:11:180:11:22

him, a disaster.

I tell you what is

weird. We are talking about this and

0:11:220:11:27

it will unfold. At the very same

time coming back to foreign affairs,

0:11:270:11:31

the very same time that Donald Trump

is going to make to make key

0:11:310:11:36

decisions. Let's get to North Korea,

you are one of the very few

0:11:360:11:40

Americans who knows what it is like

to negotiate with North Korean

0:11:400:11:44

officials in Pyongyang. It intrigues

me that you say you approve of

0:11:440:11:49

Trump's decision to go one-on-one

with Kim Jong-un. Why do you think,

0:11:490:11:55

given Trump's character, that is a

good idea?

Well, I have been

0:11:550:12:00

involved with this issue for many

years. I have been there eight

0:12:000:12:05

times, negotiating with the North

Koreans. I have never seen the

0:12:050:12:08

Korean peninsular so tense, so

troubled, soap potential of the

0:12:080:12:13

conflict, either missile. He threw a

game changer, which hopefully will

0:12:130:12:24

reduce tensions. My worry is that we

are setting unrealistic expectation

0:12:240:12:29

that we are going to expect North

Korea to Dean regularised. They are

0:12:290:12:33

not going to do that. That doesn't

mean we don't have these talks to

0:12:330:12:39

talk about freezing or slowing down

the missiles or nuclear activities

0:12:390:12:43

or conventional warfare are finding

ways to defuse tension. So I commend

0:12:430:12:47

him for the trip will stop what I

worry is that we are not ready with

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a strategy.

York position leaves me

puzzled because we know that the

0:12:510:12:56

North Koreans regarding meeting

President to president as on the

0:12:560:13:02

ultimate prizes for their diplomatic

strategy, so why give them a rise

0:13:020:13:05

when you say to me, look, we can't

expect them to eliminate the nuclear

0:13:050:13:09

weapons programme and they won't be

nuclear right. In essence, you are

0:13:090:13:13

saying we give them the prize and we

get really nothing substantial in

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return.

Well, we did get something

in return. We got them to agree that

0:13:170:13:26

we will continue our military

activities with the South Koreans.

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They are not shooting any missiles

or any kind of nuclear activity.

0:13:300:13:36

They have made concessions to. I

agree. Meeting President President

0:13:360:13:41

is a major concession because it

legitimises what Kim Jong-un has

0:13:410:13:45

been doing, but at the same time, it

shows a boldness by our president.

0:13:450:13:50

My point is that the negotiations

should not just be about

0:13:500:13:54

denuclearisation. They should be

about freezing missile activity.

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They should be about three Americans

detained in North Korea. They should

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be about the remains of soldiers

from the Korean War, about

0:14:030:14:07

conventional weapons pointed out

South Korea, about chemical weapons

0:14:070:14:11

in North Korea sent into Syria,

about missile exports and you clear

0:14:110:14:17

exports that North Korea sent to

Pakistan and other world states. So

0:14:170:14:21

I think there is a lot more and

denuclearisation, if it happens,

0:14:210:14:26

should be a goal, but it has to be

very long-range. It will take a long

0:14:260:14:30

time.

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Here is a question that taps into

the wave that your experience of

0:14:360:14:41

government works. If they happen, we

are expecting by the end of May,

0:14:410:14:45

which side you think is better

equipped to conduct the highly

0:14:450:14:49

complex, detailed negotiations? Is a

Trump administration which currently

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has no ambassador in South Korea,

the Undersecretary of State

0:14:530:14:58

responsible for arms control and has

just lost the top State Department

0:14:580:15:03

North Korea expert, or is that the

North Koreans who had been thinking

0:15:030:15:07

about little else but how to get

into this place where they have

0:15:070:15:11

talks with the US President on the

other side? Which side is better

0:15:110:15:14

equipped?

Well, I think we are

better equipped because we have

0:15:140:15:19

Japan on our side, we have South

Korea on our side, we have China

0:15:190:15:22

most of the time on our side, but

yeah, I do worry that we are not

0:15:220:15:28

prepared in terms of our personnel,

our strategy, but we do have 60

0:15:280:15:31

days. Now I have negotiated with the

North Koreans, they are disciplines,

0:15:310:15:37

they do not think like us, they do

not believe in quid pro quo, they

0:15:370:15:42

believe in the cult of personality

and everything they believe in,

0:15:420:15:45

everything they say has to happen.

So there are going to be so very

0:15:450:15:49

tough negotiations but we do have

time. What I worry about is this

0:15:490:15:53

opening that you made about Iran,

May 12 is the deadline that the

0:15:530:15:59

President has to say whether we stay

in the deal. I hope we do the

0:15:590:16:04

because I think Iran has complied on

the nuclear agreement. It has been

0:16:040:16:12

terrible on terrorism, it has been

terrible on getting involved with

0:16:120:16:15

Syria and Yemen, but I do think that

if we pull out of it May 12 and we

0:16:150:16:22

are negotiating with the North

Koreans, the North Koreans are going

0:16:220:16:26

to say well, how can we negotiate

with an American president is an

0:16:260:16:29

ex-president might pull out of

another nuclear deal? So I am very

0:16:290:16:34

concerned about that too.

Well,

let's talk about that Iran decision

0:16:340:16:39

because it seems to me again the

Democrats had to face a difficult

0:16:390:16:43

question here. The problem with the

deal going back to 2015 was that

0:16:430:16:47

Barack Obama, in pushing the deal,

and it was a signature policy for

0:16:470:16:51

him, he never got a truly national

consensus around the deal. The

0:16:510:16:55

Republicans in the Congress almost

to a man and woman opposed it

0:16:550:17:00

vehemently. All of the Republican

candidate to run for president in

0:17:000:17:05

2016 said that they would trash the

deal, so in many ways it is no

0:17:050:17:09

surprise that Donald Trump, with a

mandate, it has to be said, is

0:17:090:17:14

following through on his promise to

undo what he says is the worst deal

0:17:140:17:18

in America's history.

Well, I

believe that it makes sense to

0:17:180:17:24

preserve the nuclear deal, which is

15 years. Iran does not have a

0:17:240:17:32

nuclear weapon, serious deterrents

on their enriched uranium. Now, the

0:17:320:17:39

possible compromise might be a

missile deal that Europe, your

0:17:390:17:44

country, European allies, push Iran

that to limit or reduce that

0:17:440:17:51

terrible activity that they do with

their missiles.

So... We did not

0:17:510:17:57

take my points, Bill Richardson, did

not take my point that Donald Trump

0:17:570:18:01

does have a mandate for this

particular element of his foreign

0:18:010:18:04

policy?

Well, it is not exactly a

mandate. I think there were

0:18:040:18:09

Republican supporters, Rex Tillerson

wanting to keep it. Most of the

0:18:090:18:13

American foreign policy

establishment and Republican

0:18:130:18:17

senators think it should be kept. --

wants him to keep it. You know, it

0:18:170:18:23

is divided, there is no question and

I wish that we had gotten more with

0:18:230:18:29

Iran on their subversive activity,

their terrorism support, what they

0:18:290:18:33

are doing in Yemen and Syria, their

threats on Israel. Look, it could

0:18:330:18:37

have been maybe a better deal but

still, Iran has been complying with

0:18:370:18:41

the nucleoside and we do not want

two nuclear act is, North Korea and

0:18:410:18:46

Iran, on the world stage and that is

my worries is a van Zyl is

0:18:460:18:51

terminated.

I understand that you

are saying that you know better than

0:18:510:18:56

I do that the deal, in terms of its

long-term outcome, it allows Iran to

0:18:560:19:00

begin again its nuclear enrichment

programme a full-scale, but in the

0:19:000:19:06

period between six and 13 years from

now, so it is not a finite and to

0:19:060:19:10

the large-scale uranium enrichment,

and at the same time, the Iranians

0:19:100:19:15

are allowed to continue missile

testing. So the many people in the

0:19:150:19:20

United States, and indeed the key

allies like those in Israel, it

0:19:200:19:24

looks like a deal that at best

simply kicks the can down the road.

0:19:240:19:29

Well, the problem, Stephen, is in

the midst of a possible negotiation

0:19:290:19:35

with North Korea, you have to admit

that the North Koreans are going to

0:19:350:19:39

say why should we make a deal with

the United States is on one

0:19:390:19:42

president to another they pulled the

plug on this deal? The timing is

0:19:420:19:46

very unfortunate, May 12. So... And

there is no possibility of delaying

0:19:460:19:53

that decision, as I am very

concerned. I just think that the

0:19:530:19:56

North Koreans, I know how they are.

They think of every avenue, they are

0:19:560:20:01

going to find a way to use this

potential disruption of the Ah Van

0:20:010:20:05

deal. And I am not a fan of Iran, I

did not openly support President

0:20:050:20:10

Obama's deal. -- Iran deal. I worry

now, at the timing and this

0:20:100:20:19

colossal, important decision to meet

with Kim Jong-un, but these two

0:20:190:20:24

decisions are going to hit each

other and it is not going to be

0:20:240:20:28

resolved in our interest, that is my

worries the President terminates the

0:20:280:20:31

deal.

OK, I want to change tack a

bit and ask you something is very

0:20:310:20:37

personal to you. You are by Aung San

Suu Kyi in the unmarked to be part

0:20:370:20:41

of an advisory committee looking at

what had happened to the Mahindra

0:20:410:20:45

people and the exodus of so many of

those people across the border into

0:20:450:20:49

anger --. You agree to be part of

the committee, then it seems you had

0:20:490:20:55

a stand-up row with Aung San Suu Kyi

herself about some of the activities

0:20:550:21:00

of the Myanmar government and you

quit your post. -- Rohingya people.

0:21:000:21:05

How disappointed are you in Aung San

Suu Kyi right now?

Well, I am very

0:21:050:21:10

disappointed in her. She has not

fulfilled, I think, her commitment

0:21:100:21:15

as a champion of human rights. I

have supported her for 30 years as a

0:21:150:21:21

public official with my foundation.

I did everything, we had a good,

0:21:210:21:25

strong relationship, and I'm

disappointed she is not speaking out

0:21:250:21:30

against own military on the human

rights situation with the Rohingya,

0:21:300:21:35

and this commission she set up, I

found out that she did not want any

0:21:350:21:44

frank advice. I wanted two

journalist released, I said you

0:21:440:21:48

should release them, this is

important.

We do not have much time,

0:21:480:21:52

I want to be clear about one thing.

Do you believe she has become an

0:21:520:21:56

apologist for State ethnic

cleansing?

Well, I will not say an

0:21:560:22:02

apologist. She has become an

accomplice because she has become a

0:22:020:22:05

politician that wants to stay in

office, she does not want to upset

0:22:050:22:09

the military that is extremely

powerful in the unmarked, but she

0:22:090:22:12

should because she is the head of

state.

Final thought, and this takes

0:22:120:22:18

us away from foreign affairs to your

country. The president, and fail, it

0:22:180:22:25

has to be said, I do not know if you

are interested in running again, but

0:22:250:22:30

a lot of people are speculating

about whether Democrats are going to

0:22:300:22:34

find candidates capable of hitting

Donald Trump in 2020. He is a man

0:22:340:22:39

who liked him or loathe him dominate

the political scene. Frankly, there

0:22:390:22:46

does not seem to be anybody on the

Democrat side. How and where the

0:22:460:22:50

Democrats going to find someone to

beat Donald Trump?

Well, the good

0:22:500:22:54

news is we have three years. The

good news also is I believe that it

0:22:540:23:01

is, Donald Trump is not doing well

with voters. He is going to be

0:23:010:23:04

fermentable but I think the

Democratic Party realises it cannot

0:23:040:23:09

just be a progressive, Liberal

Party, that we have to talk about

0:23:090:23:13

economic issues, like we did in

Pennsylvania, we are moderate,

0:23:130:23:22

conservative Democrat one, and we

have been winning in a lot of

0:23:220:23:26

elections recently. It is either

going to be candidates like Joe

0:23:260:23:29

Biden, or a new face, but the good

news is we have three years and I

0:23:290:23:33

believe that we will find a strong

candidate and Count me out. I am

0:23:330:23:39

done, but I think at the same time,

we have a real opportunity to win

0:23:390:23:46

short-term in these congressional

elections, I think within the house

0:23:460:23:49

of representatives, maybe not the

Senate, and then we recapture the

0:23:490:23:52

presidency. I believe that is what

is going to happen but we will see.

0:23:520:23:57

We will see indeed, but Will

Richardson for now, thank you very

0:23:570:24:01

much for being on HARDtalk.

Thank

you, Stephen.

0:24:010:24:04

Stephen Sackur speaks to Bill Richardson, former Clinton cabinet secretary and one time US North Korea emissary. The next couple of months will present President Donald Trump with foreign policy choices that could define his presidency. A summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is looming, so too a decision on whether to dump the nuclear deal with Iran. And never far from the surface, how to handle relations with Vladimir Putin's Russia. What is Trump's brand of disruption doing to US foreign policy?