By the way, here's the transcript
of the debate.
And here's the exchange on North Korea:
LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran? Take them in any order you would like.
BUSH: North Korea, first, I do. Let me say -- I certainly hope so. Before I was sworn in, the policy of this government was to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea.
And we signed an agreement with North Korea that my administration found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans.
And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us. And in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the nuclear-weapons-free peninsula, Korean Peninsula, was in his interest and our interest and the world's interest.
And so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now China. And China's a got a lot of influence over North Korea, some ways more than we do.
As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one.
And so if Kim Jong Il decides again to not honor an agreement, he's not only doing injustice to America, he'd be doing injustice to China, as well.
And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il. He wants to unravel the six- party talks, or the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear message.
On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing, continue to work with the world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.
We worked very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain, who have been the folks delivering the message to the mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of nations, get rid of your nuclear programs.
The IAEA is involved. There's a special protocol recently been passed that allows for inspections.
I hope we can do it. And we've got a good strategy.
As I've said before, this is sound, sane policy.
Here was Kerry's repsonse:
KERRY: With respect to Iran, the British, French, and Germans were the ones who initiated an effort without the United States, regrettably, to begin to try to move to curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better.
I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together. The president did nothing.
In a later response, Bush points out that we already have sanctions in place.
With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power.
Now this is patently bullshit. We most certainly did not
know the limits on their nuclear power. We knew what they wanted to show us. But we had not negotiated suprise inspections or verification of activity in places other than approved sites, and North Korea was definitely breaking all terms of the agreement by continuing development of nuclear weapons at the sites that weren't being monitored.
This is the problem with a US/NK agreement. We don't have the capacity to keep tabs on everything they do, even through the cooperation of the IAEA. And when they break their promises, they can simply blame it on bad faith with the U.S., or say it's self defense. But if they have a six-way treaty which includes their neighbors, they can't get away with blaming it all on the U.S. If Kerry can't grasp this basic fact, then he's not fit to make decisions on international policy.
LEHRER: I want to make sure -- yes, sir -- but in this one minute, I want to make sure that we understand -- the people watching understand the differences between the two of you on this.
You want to continue the multinational talks, correct?
LEHRER: And you're willing to do it...
KERRY: Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues, from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues and the nuclear issues on the table.
So Kerry wants...both? But basically, if he'd been President, the multilateral talks would never have happened. He would have engaged North Korea directly, and there would have been no incentive for the North Koreans to sit down to multilateral talks. The only way we've gotten them is through negotiations with the other parties, and by holding out against direct talks with the North Koreans.