Interview on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow and Brit Hume
Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC October 20, 2002
(9:05 a.m. EDT)
MR. SNOW: Here with us to discuss these issues is Secretary of State Colin Powell. Also here Brit Hume, Washington
managing editor of Fox News.
First question, based on local developments here in Washington. There have been a series of sniper shootings. Is it
conceivable that al-Qaida could be involved in this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Obviously it's conceivable, but I have seen no evidence to tie this terrible series of attacks in the
Washington area to al-Qaida. I think we're looking for every possible connection, but so far I have not seen anything
that does tie it to al-Qaida.
MR. SNOW: Another big development this week. It was reported in the American press -- and you've known this for some
time -- North Korea is developing a nuclear weapons program. First, do we think they now have nuclear weapons?
SECRETARY POWELL: It has been our best estimate that they may have one or two nuclear weapons, based on earlier
developments, and that's been the considered view of the intelligence community for some time. But what's happened now
is we have discovered that they have started to move in another direction, to enrich uranium, a program that they've
been working on for the last four or five years, back to the previous administration.
We only were able to discover this in recent months and we put the question to them, we put the charge before them when
Assistant Secretary Kelly went to Pyongyang a few weeks ago. And lo and behold, after first denying it, they admitted it
the next day and said that this nullifies the Agreed Framework that they had entered into with us in 1994.
MR. SNOW: They said it nullified the agreement?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
MR. SNOW: Well, so we are now --
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, and their basis of saying that, they are blaming us for what they are doing. And then they said,
well, it was the Bush Administration that put us in the "axis of evil." Assistant Secretary Kelly pointed out to them,
you had begun this enriched uranium program in the Clinton Administration, not the Bush administration. And that kind of
blew their argument away, but they said it nullified the agreement, so an agreement between two parties, one of whom
says it's nullified, makes it sort of a nullified agreement.
Now, what we do in response remains to be seen because it just doesn't affect North Korea and the United States; it
affects Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. So we're working with all of our friends and allies to see how to go
MR. SNOW: Will we suspend oil shipments?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're looking at all of the things that come out of the Agreed Framework -- oil shipments,
light water reactors, the Korean Energy Development Organization. All of these things are now going to be looked at. But
we're going to do it in a deliberate, sensible way, working with our friends and allies in a -- how shall I put this? --
MR. SNOW: So, having done that, at this point we're going to suspect all those things as we think about it?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, we're going to look at all of them and see what makes sense to suspend and what makes sense to
just keep considering awhile. We really want to do it in concern with our friends and allies and not start taking
immediate precipitous steps because there are some very sensitive issues here. For example, we are monitoring their
plutonium stockpiles and we want to keep monitoring those stockpiles and we want the International Atomic Energy
Administration to keep doing it as well.
So we're going to move deliberately, we're going to move carefully and examine all of our options and do it in concert
with our friends and allies.
MR. SNOW: Some Members of Congress have been complaining that they were not consulted on this. Were Members of Congress
briefed on the progress of the development program in North Korea prior to this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. We saw the intelligence in early July. We looked at the intelligence in the course of July,
through August. I started to have some preliminary conversations with some of my overseas colleagues, the Russians and
the Chinese, to warn them that there was something coming. And then beginning in early September, about the 10th of
September, we began congressional consultations, both sides of the aisle, and made sure that Members of Congress were
aware that we had information that the Koreans were now enriching uranium again or getting the technology to enrich
After Assistant Secretary Kelly went to Pyongyang, came back with this blockbuster news that they admitted it, we began
another series of consultations, and those consultations were just starting when the whole story broke open.
The CIA had also been up on the Hill, has also been up on the Hill briefing Members of Congress about these
MR. HUME: Mr. Secretary, the accusation has been made that what you now call the blockbuster news of their
acknowledgment of this was withheld so that it would not come until after the vote on an Iraq war resolution.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, not at all. I mean, why would we have withheld it because of that? I mean, I think if anything it
reinforces our need to respond to these kinds of challenges. So I think it is not an accurate charge.
MR. HUME: Well, did we know it before the Iraq vote and not tell them?
SECRETARY POWELL: It doesn't make any difference whether we knew it or not; we did not use this knowledge in any way to
either assist us with an Iraq vote or not assist us with an Iraq vote. We had no conversation at all during that roughly
ten-day period where we said, "How will this affect the vote in the Congress?" It was a separate issue of enormous
importance and gravity, and no politics were being played with it.
MR. HUME: We appear to be near, at the UN, an agreement on passage of a resolution on Iraq. But the confident signals
that have been coming from Washington and some of diplomats at the UN seem, at least on the surface, to be contradicted
by comments from other diplomats, France and others. What is going on here?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's the UN at work: 15 sovereign nations in the Security Council who are trying to move
forward on a particular issue. We have had very productive conversations over the last several days with some of our
Security Council colleagues, and early this week we will be presenting a resolution that contains all the elements we
believe should be in such a resolution, and as a result of discussions with the French and the British and the Russians
and the Chinese and others, I think it's a resolution that will draw good support from the Security Council.
But there's still a ways to go. Once you put a resolution down, then everybody gets to comment on it, and there will be
some tough debates ahead. But it will be a resolution, I believe, that will clearly lay out the violations of Saddam
Hussein, the fact that we need a very new and tough inspection regime, and the fact that there will have to be
consequences that flow from any continued violation on the part of Saddam Hussein of the inspection regime.
MR. HUME: Do you have the agreement already that you need from the Permanent 5 members of the UN Security Council on
those provisions you just spoke of?
SECRETARY POWELL: They haven't all seen every element of it, and that's what we will do early this week, and then the
discussion will begin.
MR. HUME: Well, let's talk about just for a moment on the -- the issue of inspections seems to be basically
noncontroversial in terms of everybody wants that.
SECRETARY POWELL: Everybody wants that.
MR. HUME: What about the issue of consequences now?
SECRETARY POWELL: The issue of consequences, there are different points of view. The point of view we hold is that
there have to be consequences, and we believe that the President of the United States has all the authority he needs now
and this new resolution will in no way diminish his authority if he feels he has to act with like-minded nations to deal
with continued Iraqi violations.
MR. HUME: What about the issue of one resolution versus two?
SECRETARY POWELL: Initially, there will be one resolution. That is what we are supporting. And we believe that that one
resolution will give the President what he needs and in no way diminishes his authority.
Now, will that one resolution be sufficient to get all other members to join in an effort, if an effort is needed at
this time? That remains to be seen. There is no way to keep other members of the Security Council from going before the
Council and asking for a discussion, asking for a debate and asking for other resolutions. But right now, we are
focusing on this one resolution.
MR. HUME: I'm sorry, just one question. It comes down to this: We believe that the one resolution you now feel
confident you will get, specifying inspections and consequences, would be sufficient for the President to act, and you
have no objection if there are further resolutions?
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't object because I don't know what further resolutions might be. But the resolution I hope will
come out of the Security Council will lay out the indictment, will put in place a new, tough, take-it-or-leave-it
inspection regime for Saddam Hussein, and will make it clear that consequences will flow from continued violation. How
those consequences will flow remains to be seen with respect to the United States and other like-minded nations who, in
the presence of continued violations on the part of the Iraqis, believe they will have all the authority necessary if
they decide to act, whether other members of the body choose to act with us at that time remains to be seen.
MR. SNOW: All right, let's run through this quickly, then. Completely open inspections, no conditions. That's an
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
MR. SNOW: Secondly, there are going to be timetables.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.
MR. SNOW: And how soon must Iraq (a) provide a full accounting of what it has and (b) permit unconditional searches?
SECRETARY POWELL: Tony, I would rather that come out of the negotiation process with the Security Council members this
week, rather than me prejudge what they might decide.
MR. SNOW: Also, is it your view that the UN Charter, if Iraq is found in "material breach" of previous resolutions,
already grants you the authority to use force, and that is the reason why you don't need a second resolution?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that argument can be made, and we'll be making that argument with our friends. In fact, Iraq
has been in violation of these many resolutions for a period of 11 years. And the President, acting in his authority as
Commander-in-Chief, and consistent with the United Nations Charter, and especially empowered by the congressional
resolution last week that says work with the United Nations, try to get a tough resolution, and you can operate within
the United Nations framework if military action is required and it is approved by the United Nations; but, if the United
Nations, the Security Council, in the presence of violations, is not willing to then authorize military force, you, Mr.
President, have the authority you need under our Constitutional and in accordance with our laws, and under self-defense
aspects of the UN Charter, to take military action with like-minded nations.
So if it comes to military action, it could be done one of two ways: the United States, with like-minded nations,
taking it -- and we believe all the authority that is necessary for us to do so -- or with all other nations as part of
a UN resolution.
MR. SNOW: On that thing, let me double back quickly to North Korea. Why is Kim Jong-il less of a threat than Saddam
SECRETARY POWELL: Kim Jong-il is a threat in his own right, and I don't think we have to compare him to Saddam Hussein,
and it's not a good comparison anyway. Saddam Hussein, in recent years, has invaded two of his neighbors. He has used
these kinds of weapons of mass destruction against his own people as well as his neighbors. He has resources available
to him. It's a very wealthy little country. They've misspent their wealth, but it is a very wealthy little country.
And Korea is an isolated country with no wealth, with a broken economy, a broken society, desperately in need, and with
neighbors who are not going to be happy with this new development.
And so there are different ways to approach North Korea, but it is dangerous and Iraq is dangerous.
MR. SNOW: Bill Clinton contemplated using force against North Korea, did not. Is that still an option?
SECRETARY POWELL: It was always an option, but at the moment we don't see that that is something that is really a real
and present problem for us.
MR. HUME: In this meeting with Assistant Secretary Kelly, the North Korean authorities were described as having been
almost belligerent in their acknowledgement and added the acknowledgement about their weapons program the statement that
they had other weapons, other serious weapons. What do we believe those other weapons to be?
SECRETARY POWELL: Don't know what they were talking about. It might --
MR. SNOW: What do you think?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't want to speculate because that's all it would be is pure speculation. They have not
repeated that statement in any other statements that they have made since then. So whether they were talking about some
of their missile programs or whether they were talking about other weapons of mass destruction or whether they were just
making bold statements remains to be seen. But we take them seriously and we will watch carefully and watch their
And what's interesting in this instance is that immediately the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Russians and the
Chinese are communicating to North Korea about the seriousness of this matter. There's a South Korean delegation in
Pyongyang now. There will be meetings between the Japanese and the North Koreans in Kuala Lumpur at the end of next
week. And the Japanese have said, you know, this matter has to be resolved; we cannot go forward with the kind of
normalization talks we were thinking of in the presence of this kind of situation. And the idea that there are pots of
money waiting for you to improve your economy or help you rescue this dying society in the presence of this kind of
situation or this kind of weapon technology is out of the question.
MR. SNOW: Sir, very quickly, I'd like to get your reaction to two quotes. One is from our next guest, Senate Majority
Leader Tom Daschle. He is talking about the Bush Administration foreign policy. He says, "I don't know if we've ever
seen a more precipitous drop in international stature and public opinion with regard to this country as we have in the
last two years."
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I would disagree with Senator Daschle. I think the United States is seen as a nation that
believes in principles, that we will act on our principles, we will work in concern with our friends and allies around
the world, and where there is a particular issue where we can't get consensus but it is in our interest to act, we will
act. And I think that we are showing leadership in this world, we are showing the principled use of our economic
strength, our moral strength, as well as our military strength.
MR. SNOW: Secondly, a man you have described as your friend, Harry Belafonte, has said a series of things about you.
I'm not going to put up all the quotes, but at one point he compared you to a house slave. Then he said he didn't really
mean that, merely that you were serving the master. And then later on, here it is: "There's an old saying in the days of
slavery. There are those slaves who lived on the plantation and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got
the privilege of living in the house if you served the master, and Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of
He later has said that he doesn't think that you've comported yourself properly. You say he's a friend, but isn't he
acting a bit like an idiot?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's unfortunate that Harry found it necessary to use that kind of a reference. I don't know
what reference he would use to white cabinet officers who were in the house of the master. I'm serving my nation and I'm
serving this President, my President, our President, and I'm very happy to do so.
Harry has every right to attack my politics, attack my policies. He can attack the administration's policies. But we
have advanced in this nation where you shouldn't have to rest it on this kind of reference. That should have been left
in the past. It isn't appropriate and it's an unfortunate situation that Harry chose to use this kind of
MR. SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.