John Negroponte - US Deputy Secretary of State, 2007-2009 HARDtalk


John Negroponte - US Deputy Secretary of State, 2007-2009

Stephen Sackur speaks to John Negroponte, a veteran US diplomat and adviser to a host of Republican presidents, to ask about President Trump's impact on America's global role.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to John Negroponte - US Deputy Secretary of State, 2007-2009. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Now on BBC News it's HARDtalk with Stephen Sackur.

:00:00.:00:10.

Welcome to HARDtalk. I am Stephen Sackur. Donald Trump embraces

:00:11.:00:20.

disruption. What does that mean for America's national security and

:00:21.:00:23.

foreign policy? At first glance it seems to herald a new era of

:00:24.:00:28.

confrontation from the Korean Peninsular to the Mexican border.

:00:29.:00:33.

But are there limits to the President's break with convention?

:00:34.:00:38.

Well, May guest is veteran diplomat and adviser to a host of Republican

:00:39.:00:44.

members, John Negroponte. Does this Presidency marked a permanent shift

:00:45.:00:46.

in America's global while? -- role? John Negroponte, in Washington, DC,

:00:47.:01:19.

welcome to HARDtalk. Thank you. Let me start with some words if I may

:01:20.:01:23.

that you wrote or at least you co- site in a very public letter during

:01:24.:01:28.

the presidential campaign last year. It was a grim warning about Donald

:01:29.:01:35.

Trump as future president. You said then, he in your view could be the

:01:36.:01:39.

most reckless president in American history. You had eight months to

:01:40.:01:44.

judge him. How do you feel about it now? Let me just put the letting

:01:45.:01:48.

context. I didn't write those words but I did sign the letter. And I

:01:49.:01:53.

also came out in favour of Hillary Clinton, which is a somewhat unusual

:01:54.:01:58.

thing for a Republican to do. But that was in the context of a

:01:59.:02:01.

political campaign. I guess my short answer as to how things have come

:02:02.:02:06.

out now, I think, and to the question that you asked at the

:02:07.:02:10.

beginning of the show, I think that there are limits to what he can do.

:02:11.:02:16.

He is constrained by the Congress, by the Constitution, by our courts

:02:17.:02:19.

and by the reality out there, which makes itself more evident every day.

:02:20.:02:24.

So he, like everybody else in the past, has to deal with events and

:02:25.:02:28.

the circumstances that he confronts. In terms of the style of this

:02:29.:02:32.

Presidency, do you think he is listening to his key advisers in the

:02:33.:02:36.

foreign policy and national security machine? Well, that is a great

:02:37.:02:41.

question because it is hard to tell whether and when he is listening,

:02:42.:02:45.

and whether... Even if he does listen, how long it takes hold. But

:02:46.:02:52.

I think in a number of instances we've seen pragmatism takeover after

:02:53.:02:58.

initial bluster. Example, some of the comments he has made about our

:02:59.:03:03.

alliances. Originally, both in the campaign and in his initial days in

:03:04.:03:08.

office, and now of course it has reaffirmed our Nato alliance, he is

:03:09.:03:12.

fast friends with the Prime Minister of Japan, the most important

:03:13.:03:17.

alliance that we have in east Asia, Pacific region, along with South

:03:18.:03:23.

Korea, Australia. He was going to cancel North American Free Trade

:03:24.:03:28.

Agreement and now we are busy holding serious negotiations with

:03:29.:03:35.

both Mexico and Canada. Yes, but John Negroponte, on those issues,

:03:36.:03:39.

that maybe today's statement or policy, though it could change

:03:40.:03:43.

tomorrow, which comes back to a fundamental point which a whole host

:03:44.:03:47.

of important people have raised over the last few months, including James

:03:48.:03:53.

Clapper, from national intelligence, and other veterans, they have said

:03:54.:03:56.

this guy is simply not fit for office. What do you think? I mean, I

:03:57.:04:01.

am a little bit disappointed in Jim's statement. I am surprised that

:04:02.:04:08.

a former director of national intelligence would make a statement

:04:09.:04:12.

like that. I don't think he is in a position to judge the fitness of the

:04:13.:04:17.

President. And, secondly, I don't think that is the whole...

:04:18.:04:19.

CROSSTALK How can you say that when this

:04:20.:04:23.

letter that we started the interview with said, you know, "Most

:04:24.:04:28.

fundamentally, Mr Trump lacks the character, the values and the

:04:29.:04:32.

experience to be president? " he questioned his mental fitness,

:04:33.:04:40.

I believe, to hold office, and I would never go that far and I would

:04:41.:04:44.

never say that. I did not say those words. I associated myself with that

:04:45.:04:49.

letter, no doubt, and I won't take it back. And I supported Hillary

:04:50.:04:53.

Clinton, though I want to point out that was in the context of a

:04:54.:04:57.

political campaign. We only have one president at a time. He has been

:04:58.:05:01.

elected now. We've got to want him to succeed. I don't think the best

:05:02.:05:06.

way to support him in carrying out his role is to make a pronouncement

:05:07.:05:11.

that he is unfit for office. That is not the judgement of a retired

:05:12.:05:14.

government official to make. If anybody does that, it is gonna be

:05:15.:05:19.

people in the Congress, and the vice president and so forth, according to

:05:20.:05:22.

the procedures of the 25th amendment. I've got you. Well, in

:05:23.:05:27.

that case, let's drill down into actions and judge him on those. So,

:05:28.:05:32.

let's start in the Korean Peninsular. I know it is something

:05:33.:05:35.

that you have been following very closely, along with everybody in the

:05:36.:05:38.

foreign policy establishment in Washington. Let's just look at the

:05:39.:05:43.

Trump rhetoric, a gamba style, it is let's face it, bellicose, the phrase

:05:44.:05:50.

is "Locked and loaded, fire and fury like the world has never seen".

:05:51.:05:55.

Clearly implicit in that is a threat that the United States, if North

:05:56.:05:59.

Korea doesn't change policy, change direction on its nuclear programme,

:06:00.:06:03.

the United States could contemplate a first strike military option. Do

:06:04.:06:10.

you believe that is a real option? No, I do not. And the reason I do

:06:11.:06:18.

not is, first of all, it would wreak havoc on the peninsular and the

:06:19.:06:24.

first people to suffer, or the next people to suffer after any kind of

:06:25.:06:27.

attack on North Korea would be South Korea and Seoul, which is only 35-

:06:28.:06:34.

40 miles from the border with North Korea, is a complete hostage not

:06:35.:06:37.

only to North Korean nuclear weaponry, if it were to choose to

:06:38.:06:41.

use it, but to conventional artillery. So it would just be some

:06:42.:06:46.

kind of a Holocaust and it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

:06:47.:06:50.

And it has been one of the fundamental conundrums of our policy

:06:51.:06:56.

towards career throughout the years, is this hostage type situation that

:06:57.:06:59.

exists on the peninsular. So, political and diplomatic means of

:07:00.:07:04.

solving this must be found. OK, well. And that is the right

:07:05.:07:09.

approach. You couldn't be clearer with me. But explained the absolute

:07:10.:07:13.

incoherence in Washington that we outsiders here on a daily basis. I

:07:14.:07:18.

met Lindsey Graham the other day. We had a great conversation. We talked

:07:19.:07:23.

about Korea. This is a direct quote. "I Am 100% certain that if Kim

:07:24.:07:29.

Jong-un continues to develop missile technology that can hit America, and

:07:30.:07:33.

if diplomacy fails to stop him, they will be an attack by the United

:07:34.:07:39.

States". Well, that is a senator speaking. He is not the one who is

:07:40.:07:43.

going to pull the trigger. Only the President can decide to do that. Let

:07:44.:07:46.

me say something about this conversation regarding Korea and

:07:47.:07:51.

these types of conversations, which disturb me. We always sought or

:07:52.:07:59.

start out almost as if it is the United States that bears

:08:00.:08:01.

responsibility for the attention of the peninsular. And to my way of

:08:02.:08:06.

thinking this is a little bit like standing the truth on its head. It

:08:07.:08:11.

was North Korea that invaded South Korea in June of 1950, with, by the

:08:12.:08:17.

way, the encouragement of the Soviet Union, it now Russia, and China. And

:08:18.:08:22.

I think those two countries bear some responsibility for the

:08:23.:08:25.

situation of the peninsular. And it is Kim Jong-un in violation of

:08:26.:08:31.

myriad resolutions and of the nuclear non-proliferation Treaty who

:08:32.:08:34.

has just exploded a hydrogen bomb. So where is the outrage? We focus

:08:35.:08:41.

all of our energy... We focus all our energy on some of the rhetorical

:08:42.:08:47.

blemishes of the president of the United States.

:08:48.:08:48.

CROSSTALK I don't think for a moment he will

:08:49.:08:52.

pull the trigger. Your point is well taken. If I am invited to Pyongyang

:08:53.:08:56.

to have a conversation with Kim Jong-un I guarantee I will put him

:08:57.:09:00.

on the spot. Well I hope so! Yes, but right now I am talking to you. I

:09:01.:09:05.

wish you would go there. So do I but right now with you need to talk

:09:06.:09:09.

about the way the US is candling this because this is what the

:09:10.:09:13.

insight you have into. Let me talk to you about a couple of things on

:09:14.:09:17.

how Trump is handling it. You have to let me ask you the question. I am

:09:18.:09:21.

simply asking you what is the long-term consequence of Donald

:09:22.:09:24.

Trump, and some talk to him about this, like Lindsey Graham, and you

:09:25.:09:28.

know this, Lindsey Graham says that Donald Trump said to him that if

:09:29.:09:32.

there is going to be a walk to stop Kim Jong-un it is going to cost

:09:33.:09:37.

thousands of lives but those lives are going to be lost over there.

:09:38.:09:41.

They are not going to die here. Now that seems to be the mentality

:09:42.:09:46.

Lindsey Graham is portraying as Trump's mentality. My question to

:09:47.:09:50.

you is, if you are saying, you know what, ignore the words we are not

:09:51.:09:53.

going to launch and military strike against North Korea, what does it do

:09:54.:09:57.

to American long-term credibility? All of the threat and no action. Let

:09:58.:10:02.

me say first of all, I consider that a rhetorical response to the setting

:10:03.:10:08.

off of a hydrogen bomb. But at the same time the President is pursuing

:10:09.:10:13.

diplomatic avenues. He just had an extensive conversation with Xi

:10:14.:10:17.

Jinping, the president of China. He constantly talks with Prime Minister

:10:18.:10:23.

Abe of Japan. All the key stakeholders in the Korean situation

:10:24.:10:29.

besides ourselves, China, Japan, South Korea, we are in constant

:10:30.:10:34.

contact with all of these people. The President himself is leading

:10:35.:10:37.

that diplomatic effort. He has just accused the South Koreans, I am

:10:38.:10:42.

using the word he used on Twitter, appeasement. He has had a

:10:43.:10:45.

conversation with the President of South Korea since and I think the

:10:46.:10:48.

South Korean president has come around to taking a pretty stern line

:10:49.:10:52.

vis-a-vis North Korea. He has asked for the additional deployment of the

:10:53.:10:58.

so-called thermal altitude, the THAAD devices, to protect against

:10:59.:11:04.

incoming missiles, and we are enabling greater military

:11:05.:11:06.

capabilities for the South Koreans, citing we are in pretty good harmony

:11:07.:11:10.

with South Korea about how to confront this situation -- so I

:11:11.:11:13.

think. But Ambassador John Negroponte, you seem to say what

:11:14.:11:21.

low-to-mid -- Vladimir Putin has set and Jim Clabo has set, which is what

:11:22.:11:25.

the administration won't say, if North Korea is absolutely intent on

:11:26.:11:30.

continuing its nuclear programme and developing the ballistic missile

:11:31.:11:36.

capability with the bomb, in the end there is nothing we can do to stop

:11:37.:11:42.

them. No, I don't think I would say that. I would say that we've got to

:11:43.:11:47.

revitalise some of the diplomatic efforts that we undertook in the

:11:48.:11:52.

past. I was involved in the Bush administration when we had six party

:11:53.:11:56.

talks on the Korean question. I think that would be a good

:11:57.:12:00.

initiative. I think more sanctions. I think one of the things that's

:12:01.:12:04.

before the UN Security Council at the moment is to stop oil exports to

:12:05.:12:11.

North Korea. The Chinese and the Russians are baulking at this. But I

:12:12.:12:15.

think if we are not going to use military force, then we have to use

:12:16.:12:18.

more effective economic and diplomatic pressure. And I think

:12:19.:12:23.

that can be done. And talking of coherence, you know, your time with

:12:24.:12:26.

me is very measured. But when you heard the woman who has one of your

:12:27.:12:30.

previous jobs, that of the US ambassador at the United Nations,

:12:31.:12:33.

when you heard Nikki Haley talk about the United Nations looking at

:12:34.:12:38.

every country that does business with North Korea giving aid to North

:12:39.:12:43.

Korea's reckless nuclear ambitions, and implying that there could be

:12:44.:12:50.

"Secondary sanctions" to put an embargo on all of those nations,

:12:51.:12:53.

presumably starting first off with China, did you see that as realistic

:12:54.:12:57.

and helpful? Some of that, the devil is in the details. Clearly we can't

:12:58.:13:02.

stop trading with the People's Republic of China. We have more than

:13:03.:13:07.

$500 billion worth of trade a year. We would have to stop importing

:13:08.:13:11.

iPhones. That would be hard to get the Americans to do. You might apply

:13:12.:13:15.

secondary sanctions against specific Chinese firms. Those upon and we

:13:16.:13:20.

might have information that they are doing business with North Korea and

:13:21.:13:25.

better enabling the economy. Something to that effect. In other

:13:26.:13:32.

words, very specific, targeted targeted words, that is not the --

:13:33.:13:39.

beyond the realm of imagination whatsoever. Let me see if your tone

:13:40.:13:43.

continues into the next region that want to get to you, that is Donald

:13:44.:13:47.

Trump policy on his own backyard if I can put it that way, Mexico and

:13:48.:13:51.

Latin America. A whole host of policies, starting with the wall,

:13:52.:13:56.

which he still seems intent on building, and he is having to battle

:13:57.:13:59.

with the Congress about getting the money for it, and a host of other

:14:00.:14:03.

things. In recent days the signal he has sent by saying that these

:14:04.:14:11.

so-called macro -- Dreamers, the miners that Obama protected from

:14:12.:14:14.

deportation, Donald Trump has effectively ended that protection, a

:14:15.:14:18.

host of signals which suggest he doesn't mind riding up Mexico and

:14:19.:14:23.

indeed other near neighbours in Latin America because he doesn't

:14:24.:14:27.

care about that relationship and that sphere of American sort of

:14:28.:14:31.

foreign policy-making and influence. What do you make of that? Because

:14:32.:14:36.

you have spent a lot of your career in Latin America. Not only did I do

:14:37.:14:42.

that, I was in Mexico when we both conceived and negotiated Nafta. It

:14:43.:14:45.

is a subject near and dear to my heart. It was a major accomplishment

:14:46.:14:49.

of the United States government. Trade with Mexico since we signed

:14:50.:14:51.

the Nafta has quadrupled, I think. The export from Mexico to the art of

:14:52.:15:28.

states has United States content in it. That is much better than only 5%

:15:29.:15:32.

content if the product is coming from China, for example. That is

:15:33.:15:37.

number one. Number two, Mr Trump was about to renounce the Nafta a couple

:15:38.:15:42.

of months ago. Then his secretary of agriculture came to him and said to

:15:43.:15:48.

him, by the way, do you realise, Mr President, that Mexico is the

:15:49.:15:52.

largest or the second largest market for agricultural exports from every

:15:53.:15:56.

single state in the United States, and we just can't possibly stop

:15:57.:16:03.

trading with Mexico. It is going to be disastrous. In the State

:16:04.:16:25.

Department, the desire is to modify the Nafta, modernise it, updated,

:16:26.:16:34.

but not subjected to any radical changes, and certainly not to

:16:35.:16:38.

discard the agreement. What do you think America's traditional allies,

:16:39.:16:42.

you know, in this conversation we have referred already to traditional

:16:43.:16:46.

allies in Asia like South Korea and Japan, we've just addressed Mexico,

:16:47.:16:52.

we could talk about European allies in Nato starting with Angela

:16:53.:16:55.

Merkel's Germany, what do you think they believe is happening in

:16:56.:17:03.

Washington right now? I think they probably think, just like I do, that

:17:04.:17:09.

we have elected quite an unusual person to be president of the United

:17:10.:17:13.

States, and that he is kind of an original number. But at the same

:17:14.:17:19.

time he is president. And he will be president three at least one term in

:17:20.:17:24.

office, and so they have to figure out how best to deal with that. I

:17:25.:17:31.

think they probably also have some competence, as do I, that both

:17:32.:17:35.

events on the one hand and fundamental national interests on

:17:36.:17:40.

the other hand will cause us to ultimately behave more or less the

:17:41.:17:46.

same way we have been in the past years and decades. And I think we

:17:47.:17:51.

are seeing some of that playing itself now. And it has only been

:17:52.:17:56.

eight months. But I think if we have this conversation think you will see

:17:57.:17:58.

that patent reinforced. we have this conversation one year

:17:59.:17:59.

from now, I think we this conversation think you will see

:18:00.:18:00.

that patent reinforced. will see that pattern be reinforced.

:18:01.:18:03.

Interesting that you say that. And in your comments about Allies

:18:04.:18:07.

perceptions. They will have to live with that. Frankly, right now, you

:18:08.:18:15.

don't know whether you will be living with his president for the

:18:16.:18:19.

next 3.5 years because he lives under the shadow of a very serious

:18:20.:18:24.

investigation and, frankly, no-one knows where the special prosecutor's

:18:25.:18:28.

investigation will end up. As best I can tell they have so far identified

:18:29.:18:33.

two or three people, his former National Security adviser and Mr

:18:34.:18:39.

Manor fought and possibly a couple of others, none of whom are in his

:18:40.:18:43.

administration right now. I will wait and see before rate rush to

:18:44.:18:49.

judgement. On whether this investigation will produce a

:18:50.:18:53.

significant outcome. I haven't seen anything yet that causes me to think

:18:54.:18:58.

it will. But obviously the special prosecutor will explore the facts

:18:59.:19:03.

and do a good job. When Donald Trump spoke about this he simply says the

:19:04.:19:07.

whole rush investigation is fake news, a hoax. He blames the

:19:08.:19:14.

mainstream media whom he has dubbed terrible people on the whole. Others

:19:15.:19:19.

have looked at the reaction of Donald Trump and they worry about

:19:20.:19:24.

it. I am talking about people in the establishment in Washington, like

:19:25.:19:27.

the former director of National counterterrorism Centre. He says it

:19:28.:19:32.

is worrisome for our democracy. We are at risk of breaking the bonds of

:19:33.:19:37.

trust between the public and, for example, our security services. When

:19:38.:19:42.

people loosely used phrases like fake news, the deep state and allude

:19:43.:19:48.

to Nazi Germany, many Americans now believe there is an act of war being

:19:49.:19:53.

fought against the elected representatives, possibly including

:19:54.:19:58.

the president. Is a threat to America's democracy, do you think?

:19:59.:20:02.

No. You have now sighted yet another intelligence officer who worked

:20:03.:20:07.

under my general supervision when I was director of National

:20:08.:20:10.

intelligence. I think getting off into the political realm they don't

:20:11.:20:19.

have as much qualification to talk about... But it is interesting...

:20:20.:20:27.

Interesting that these guys feel so passionately and so alarmed by what

:20:28.:20:30.

they see that they are speaking out in this way, suggests a fundamental

:20:31.:20:35.

breakdown of trust. The founding Fathers wrote this Constitution with

:20:36.:20:42.

the assumption that people who in government are not necessarily

:20:43.:20:49.

Angel. Power has to be restrained. Basically, the people should govern

:20:50.:20:55.

themselves and they are only limited functions that us a central

:20:56.:20:59.

government. We have a system of checks and balances that are

:21:00.:21:04.

designed to compass that. I think we have seen the system of checks and

:21:05.:21:08.

balances working in spades in few months. We have seen the courts

:21:09.:21:14.

challenge the immigration orders that were initially issued.

:21:15.:21:18.

Repudiated them. We have seen Congress that has not changed Obama

:21:19.:21:24.

can. You can cite numerous examples of where the system of checks and

:21:25.:21:31.

balances is at work. One element of institutional Washington that is

:21:32.:21:35.

clearly not functioning is the place, perhaps you know best, the

:21:36.:21:38.

State department. One third of this job is, see new jobs in the State

:21:39.:21:44.

Department have not been filled since Donald Trump came in to power.

:21:45.:21:49.

Has ever been a time when the US was less well equipped to play a

:21:50.:21:54.

leadership role in the world? Well, you make the assumption that by

:21:55.:21:58.

filling those subordinate jobs in the State Department that that will

:21:59.:22:05.

significantly enhance our ability. Call me naive but I assume those

:22:06.:22:08.

posts are there because they have some sort of important function.

:22:09.:22:16.

They do. They do. Not all of them are vital but it is not a good way

:22:17.:22:20.

to run the State Department. I could not agree with you more on that. I

:22:21.:22:24.

do not hold Mr troll responsible for that. I things that Ellison himself

:22:25.:22:29.

has been far too cautious about moving forward with feeling these

:22:30.:22:36.

positions. He has wanted to conduct some kind of study of reorganisation

:22:37.:22:40.

of the State Department and he said until that study is completed and

:22:41.:22:44.

completed the reorganisation, we will not fill a lot of key jobs.

:22:45.:22:48.

That is not the right thing, especially with respect to regional

:22:49.:22:54.

assistant secretary should. My bigger point, that was the detail,

:22:55.:22:58.

my bigger point is what you perhaps conclude that right now there is

:22:59.:23:03.

something of a vacuum in terms of American leadership in the world.

:23:04.:23:08.

Big beneficiaries of that are China and Russia. Something of a vacuum

:23:09.:23:15.

but I still think... First of all, we are blessed to have a good career

:23:16.:23:21.

foreign service and they are filling a lot of these jobs on an acting

:23:22.:23:26.

basis. But the notion that China and Russia are the big beneficiaries of

:23:27.:23:30.

what we see unfold in Washington day by day, would you agree? I would

:23:31.:23:35.

say, I would say it this way. I think China in particular has been

:23:36.:23:38.

the beneficiary of some of the policies we have carried out. I

:23:39.:23:43.

think that is more important. Woodside most specifically with the

:23:44.:23:47.

drum's decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the big

:23:48.:23:51.

economic agreement that would have brought together 12 countries in the

:23:52.:23:57.

East Asia Pacific reason. Withdrawing from that on his first

:23:58.:24:01.

day in office he gave China a huge gift and a huge opportunity to make

:24:02.:24:06.

inroads into the various economies of the East Asian Pacific region.

:24:07.:24:11.

There was a huge mistake. I wish we had more time but we are out of

:24:12.:24:14.

time. Thank you very much for joining me from Washington, DC.

:24:15.:24:19.

Would you invite me back in one year, please? We can talk about

:24:20.:24:21.

this.

:24:22.:24:24.

Stephen Sackur speaks to John Negroponte, a veteran US diplomat and adviser to a host of Republican presidents. Donald Trump embraces disruption and unpredictability, but what does that mean for America's national security and foreign policy? At first glance it seems to herald a new era of confrontation, from the Korean peninsula to the Mexican border, but are there limits to the president's break with convention? Does this presidency mark a permanent shift in America's global role?