Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Condi on Kim (Jong-Il)

Kim's sanity

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday she did not know whether North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was sane, a remark that could anger the North's unpredictable ruler.

Miss Rice was asked whether she thought Mr. Kim was sane during an interview with MSNBC's ?Hardball? with Chris Matthews for airing today.

"I don't know. I've never met the man," she said.

North Korea is acutely sensitive to U.S. officials' words, Reuters news agency reports. On June 3, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman praised President Bush for referring to the North's leader as "Mr." Kim Jong-il and suggested the comment would affect talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

North Korea's propaganda machine has said Mr. Kim shot 11 holes-in-one on the first golf round he ever played and that he can remember the name, age and birthday of everyone he meets.


Interview With Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball

QUESTION: I'm not sure what it is. Do you think Kim Jong-Il is a sane man?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know. I've never met the man.

QUESTION: Is he is a responsible leader?

SECRETARY RICE: I have to say that anyone has to say that the people of North Korea have not prospered under this regime. They've suffered under this regime. You're talking about malnutrition rates that have led to literal height and weight differentials that are dramatic between the South Korean population, which is well-nourished, and North Korean population that is not. The sad thing is that while the North Korean regime seeks nuclear weapons, its population is still totally dependent on food aid to try and deal with its malnutrition. The good thing is that if the North Koreans chose to come back to the six-party talks, they could significantly improve the well-being of their people because there are all of the states of the six-party talks willing and ready to help them on this score. Even without that, the United States has been a huge provider of food assistance to North Korea. So there are ways for North Korea to take advantage of what is being offered, they just have to give up their nuclear weapons program.