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Will North Korea Rhetoric Lead to Missteps and War?

Will North Korea Rhetoric Lead to Missteps and War? Read Transcript


Is this just rhetoric, or is this really

a serious threat of war?

What do you think?

No, I believe that this is a very serious threat of war.

It's a threat of war that could actually happen, I would say,

within the next couple of weeks.

We're in the process of having a number of carriers

out there in the Sea of Japan.

We have the USS Ronald Reagan, along

with a number of destroyers and carriers.

And I believe that a preemptive strike might actually

take place.

Now Trump said fire and fury will be unleashed.

What's he referring to, a nuclear strike, tactical nukes,

something else?

What I'm hearing from the Pentagon, at least from sources

that I'm talking with, we could actually

see a very quick response.

One that would actually involved missiles, Tomahawk missiles

that would be taken off from the different carriers

and destroyers that are out there in the Pacific,

and would hit them and hit them hard.

Because, as you mentioned, they do

have 60 missiles that we know of.

And some of those missiles could actually

be taken off the course.

Many of them would actually go into the South Korea area,

but, of course, some of them might even

hit us here in the mainland.

GARY LANE: Maybe some stealth fighters

there going in over the border to take out

some of the artillery.

ERIK ROSALES: Most definitely.

Most definitely

GARY LANE: Yeah.

Yeah, I think we're going to see that.

Something similar to what we saw possibly even in the Gulf War.

Something like that.

GARY LANE: George, now you've been to the border

between North and South Korea.

How might the UN respond?

North Korea is not that far from Seoul.

GEORGE THOMAS: That's right, Gary.

Less than 35 miles from the DMZ, known

as the demilitarized zone.

One of the most dangerous borders in the entire world.

Let me tell you, Gary.

I was just in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea,

a few weeks ago.

And it's business as usual.

You have to realize that the South Koreans have been dealing

with this bellicose rhetoric from North Korea for decades,

and they are used to it.

And in fact, when I went out on the streets of Seoul

and I would ask people how are they

reacting-- this was shortly after North Korea

tested a ballistic missile several weeks ago.

And they said, ho-hum.

They're used to this.

Whether it was Kim Jong-un or Kim Jong-il, the father,

and previous regimes, they have been used to this.

South Korea has close to about 3,000 bunkers

scattered across the nation.

And most South Koreans don't have a clue where these bunkers

or even if they are supplied with food and water.

So the reality is that South Korea is used to this.

But let me just lay out a scenario.

Say, for example, North Korea has always

said that they will only respond if there

was a preemptive attack.

They would not be the one to start the war.

So in what sort of capacity can the North Koreans respond?

Now, putting aside their ballistic missile capabilities,

most of their conventional artillery

is located right there on the DMZ.

And I said there that's only about 35 miles

to downtown Seoul.

So what you could see is a massive artillery barrage

on the South Korean capital.

And some estimates are-- there was one study done

by "The Atlantic" magazine about in 2005,

and some estimates are about 100,000

South Koreans could lose their lives.

The nature of this artillery--

weapons along the border is very difficult. Because the US--

once you launch a rocket launcher or a cannon,

you immediately expose yourself.

So the North Koreans have to make the calculation

that if they did do an all-out artillery assault,

they make their positions vulnerable to the US, to Japan,

to South Korea.

But listen, let me just sort of say something here.

The North Koreans are masters of bringing the world

to the brink of war.

And Kim Jong-un realizes that there is

a new sheriff in Washington DC.

And he wants to test this new administration 200+ days

into its into its office.

Erik, I understand that Mad Dog Mattis had some words

for Kim Jong-un.

What did he say?

ERIK ROSALES: He did.

He was discussing, in fact, that if North Korea does not

stop its nuclear program, then the country and its people

will face the consequences.

So the very, very strong words from General Mattis.

And this is what we're hearing it.

It was interesting earlier today.

We did hear the Secretary of State talk a little bit

about how this is just the way that Trump is trying to get

the attention of Kim Jong-un.

And that's the only way that he would understand.

But when you're hearing it from the general, the Secretary

of Defense, and you're hearing it

from the president himself a very different rhetoric,

it is alarming.

It is definitely alarming.

I was going to ask you about that.

Are there differences of opinion within this administration?

It seems like the Pentagon's saying one thing,

State Department is saying something else,

and then Trump says whatever he wants.

Yeah, this is not the first time that we've seen this.

We've seen this many times before with the Communications

Department.

But when you're hearing the President of the United States

call out the North Koreans and call them out

and say that they will see everything

from fire to blazes, that really does get your attention.

GEORGE THOMAS: Gary, let me let me just add here,

also some of what's happening is psychological warfare, OK?

Secretary Tillerson said that-- he

made it very explicit to Kim Jong-un that we are not

seeking regime change.

We do not want to overthrow your government.

We don't want any North Koreans to lose their lives.

At the same time, the Defense Department, DOD,

is putting out also, I would say, bellicose rhetoric,

threatening the North Korean regime.

And then obviously President Trump said what he said.

Interestingly, he used the word fury.

Very, very similar tone, similar wording,

to what Kim Jong-un and the North Korean regime has also

said over many, many years.

But what you have here is psychological warfare.

You have this back and forth between two countries

trying to size each other out and to trip each other out.

My concern is that both sides--

just sort of who reacts first, and the potential

of a military mishap.

I have been at that DMZ line of demarcation.

GARY LANE: So have I.

GEORGE THOMAS: And it just takes one or two soldiers

to cross over a shooting between the two sides,

and then you have a full-scale war.

GARY LANE: But of course, Erik, in the meantime,

while we see this going on, this rhetoric

and the psychological warfare, this guy keeps firing missiles.

And they're getting closer and closer.

And now the intelligence that he has actually

a small nuclear device that he can put in one of them.

Yeah, that he can end up putting in one of them.

And then we're also hearing that he also

has an H-bomb, a hydrogen bomb.

That is some of the reports actually coming out of there.

And that is 100 times more explosive than any atomic bomb

that we've seen so far.

Of course, the re-entry of that vehicle might be an issue.

But when you're talking about a situation like this,

President Trump had basically made a point.

He says that North Korea needs to stop its nuclear program.

And yet you had just in the Philippines in Manila,

you had you had the foreign affairs

person for North Korea basically saying

that that is off the table.

That is not one of the considerations

that we're going to do.

So when a line is drawn in the sand, you have to look at it.

And you start to see the rhetoric coming out

of the president.

And you start to see the rhetoric coming

from the Department of Defense.

And then you start to see a little bit of military activity

in the area along the Sea of Japan.

Of course we have the USS Ronald Reagan out there,

and we also have a number of destroyers.

And we also have a number of submarines,

30+ submarines that are out there in that area.

Nuclear subs.

You start to paint a picture that this

could be a very serious situation,

and it's going to boil down of who's going

to cross that line in the sand.

But yet we see, George, word from North Korea that

they've just released Korean-Canadian pastor from

prison after two years.

So why now?

This timing seems interesting.

And my sense is that the two are not related.

As the tensions of the saber rattling has intensified

and the tough talk has increased on both sides the release

of the 62-year-old, as you mentioned,

62-year-old Canadian pastor--

his name is Hyeon Soo Lim.

He is now the longest-serving-- he

was the longest-serving Westerner

to be held by the brutal dictatorship in North Korea.

This is indeed good news coming off

of the tragic death of American student Otto Warmbier

back in June.

The pressure on the regime from the Canadians,

from the Americans, from the Swiss to release this pastor

has intensified since June.

And keep in mind we need to tell your viewers that we

have three Americans who are still

languishing in North Korea.

GARY LANE: And Erik--

Yeah, we certainly do.

Go ahead.

If I could just add to that.

But at the same time, I was reading reports

from the Pentagon officials that he was released

and one of the reasons that he was released

was because he was sick.

And he was starting to show signs that--

possibly they don't want to have another death on their hands

like what happened to our American Warmbier.

So it's going to be interesting.

GARY LANE: Which was a real crime that that happened.

But Erik, what do you think from talking

your sources at the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington?

Is this going to get worse.

Or are we going to see some diplomacy now,

resumption to talks to diffuse this crisis?

Well the ball is definitely in the court of Kim Jong-un.

He actually has to stop with this nuclear program.

If he does not stop in the nuclear program, like I said,

the line has been made.

And we're going to have to act on some of these situations

that Trump is-- actually President

Trump-- is talking about.

GARY LANE: A very decisive red line.

And our president means business, doesn't he?

George--

He certainly does.

Your closing thoughts?

Yeah.

I think I look back to history, and history shows us

that this regime has brought the world to the brink of war

and then has backed off.

And my sense is that Kim Jong-un is testing

this new administration.

Because he knows that the consequences of war

would be devastating.

You have 28,000 troops just across the DMZ

on the South Korean side.

The United States will unleash hell on North Korea,

and the regime will collapse.

It would take some time.

Thousands of people will lose their lives.

Kim Jong-un would be removed, perhaps even killed.

The last thing he wants is that.

And I think my sense is that he's testing this new regime.

Wants to bring them to the brink.

And the reality is that in the middle

of that he continues to develop nuclear capabilities.

And I think what Kim Jong-un is doing and sending

to the rest of the world is you are not going to do to me what

you did to Myanmar Gaddafi, to Saddam Hussein,

and potentially to Bashar Al Assad.

That's not going to happen in Pyongyang while I'm in power.

GARY LANE: Okay, gentlemen.

Well we'll have to wait and see what does happen.

And I know you guys will keep us on top of it.

Erik Rosales, thanks for joining us from Washington.

George Thomas, as always, we appreciate your insights.

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