By Mick Krever, CNN
Is there something in the water?
Suddenly peace, or at least peace talks, are breaking out in the most unlikely places. In Asia, entrenched enemies – China and Taiwan, North and South Korea – have agreed to sit down at the table.
In an effort to decode the surprising developments, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke on Tuesday with Kurt Campbell, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who is widely credited with being the key architect of America’s “Pivot to Asia.”
China and Taiwan are holding their first-ever official face-to-face talks since Mao Zedong’s communists won their civil war in 1949 – a “quite significant” turn of events, Campbell said.
“Over the course of the last 30 years, people thought that the most tense situation in Asia was between China and Taiwan, but in recent years the relationship has improved substantially – commercially, economically, and now politically.”
Christiane Amanpour speaks with Victor Cha, Former Director of Asian Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
By Mick Krever, CNN
A groundbreaking new documentary is using smuggled footage to paint a new and dramatic picture of the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea.
Much of the world sees North Koreans as brainwashed and subservient, bowing down to Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
The Frontline documentary “Secret State of North Korea” from the American public broadcaster PBS shows that for many people in North Korea, just the opposite is true.
“We saw lots of examples of people standing up to authority in ways that we hadn’t expected,” Director James Jones told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
One of the most dramatic pieces of footage was of a woman, who has set up a private bus service using a pickup truck.
“This soldier comes and tells her to stop running this private bus service, which is illegal,” Jones said. “And rather than, as you would expect, saying, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and apologizing, she stands up for it – I mean, literally chases him off down the street, smacking him on the back, calling him every name under the sun.”
The world's most unlikely lone-ranger diplomat, Dennis Rodman, has gone to North Korea for his third visit.
This time, he is there to prepare for "the big bang from Pyongyang" - an upcoming basketball extravaganza between North Koreans and former NBA stars, for leader Kim Jong Un's birthday.
Rodman is clearly undeterred by the shocking news this week.
His "good friend," the increasingly ruthless Kim, ordered his own uncle executed last week.
State media said the husband of Kim Jong Il's sister was "human scum", who "dared to dream different dreams".
How to decipher what’s coming next...?
As the former British ambassador to North Korea, John Everard knows the Hermit Kingdom better than almost any other Westerner.
“They'll all be thinking, if Jang Song Thaek can be removed from power and executed, then nobody is safe,” he told Amanpour.
Click above to see the full interview.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
China has long been North Korea’s strongest ally, but the alliance might be based on nothing more than nostalgia.
That’s according to Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, Campbell said that North Korea will be at the top of the agenda for U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming meeting with China's new President Xi Jinping, along with the issue of cyber security.
Campbell thinks Obama might have success on both fronts, not because of “great goodwill” between the U.S. and China, but mainly because he sees China “poorly positioned” on both fronts.
“People sometimes believe that there's a warm, flourishing relationship between North Korea and China,” Campbell said. “I don't think that's the case. In fact, I think the relationship is based more on a nostalgia for the Korean War and the long association of political parties.” FULL POST
The former head of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral William Fallon, describes the "complex" U.S.-Chinese military relationship to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
A 1998 report looks at how relations between the U.S. and North Korea affected the dreams of the world's tallest man at the time.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
A nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula could make the Chernobyl nuclear accident look like a “child's fairy tale” – that was the warming that came on Monday from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After weeks of nuclear threats from North Korea, there is no evidence that North Korea is planning an imminent nuclear test.
But South Korea and the United States both say they would not be surprised if the North launched a missile later this week.
Whether that would be a hostile act or a test is anybody's guess. That’s the problem; very little is known about the new North Korean leadership and Kim Jong Un's intentions.
Gary Samore was President Obama's top nuclear adviser up until January. He also played a key role in the Clinton administration’s negotiation of an agreement to stop North Korea’s nuclear program.
“The North Koreans may very well launch another missile or conduct another missile test,” Samore told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “But I think most of their threats to take military action are probably just theatrics – designed to intimidate and frighten people.”
In other words, Samore believes the North Korean will do something, but more likely it will be some type of test. He said that has certainly been the pattern in the past.
Samore believes that South Korea and/or the United States have to send North Korea’s young leader a “warning message” for him to know he must not go too far, but send this message without provoking him. At the same time, Samore said the North Koreans must be careful not to alienate China, their ally, which sends essentials supplies across the border.
In the video above you can see Amanpour’s entire interview with Samore.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
After weeks of bellicose rhetoric, North Korea announced Tuesday that it will restart a nuclear reactor it had shut more than five years ago.
Siegfried Hecker, one of the world's most prominent nuclear scientists, was one of the last Western observers to visit the Yongbyon nuclear complex. He believes that the North Koreans could restart the plant within six months to a year.
“They would have to rebuild the cooling tower, they would also have to prepare the fresh fuel to put in, but in my opinion it could be done in six months to a year’s time,” Hecker told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Tuesday.
Hecker is the former director of United States' Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Amanpour reported from Yongbyon in 2008, which North Korean officials made a big show of shutting down – the cooling tower was blown up in front of television cameras.
She asked Hecker if the North Koreans had deceived the world at that time. FULL POST
South Korea’s Ambassador to the U.N. Kim Sook told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that a war with North Korea is “always possible, but at that moment whether it is practically possible: rather negative.”
Ambassador Kim said war is unlikely because South Korea has experienced this very situation many times in the past.
“The high level of rhetoric and this time around invectives – we have seen many times before,” Kim said. Though, the ambassador admitted that the level of this language and “slandering” – as Kim put it –is different this time around.
“But people in Seoul and by and large the South Korean people are not in panic, they don’t expect a war could happen anytime soon,” Kim said.
South Korea just elected a new President, Park Geun-hye, who is also the country’s first female president. Ambassador Kim dismissed the fact that she has been characterized as a largely untested leader, saying that new presidents have been tested before with these types of situations upon taking office in South Korea.
North Korea has made personal attacks against President Park, referencing her gender.
“The female president does not necessarily mean she is weak. She is politically very solid,” Kim said. Adding, “We leave nothing to chance.”
Ambassador Kim also emphasized that talking with their neighbors is still on the table.
“Dialogue is by and large the first and foremost way to engage North Korea,” he said.
By Mick Krever, CNN
North Korea may be "dialing down" its latest provocation just a bit, a spokesman for the American military said on Monday.
"We haven't seen any kind of troop movements on the North Korean side that would indicate imminent military action," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
North Korea's provocations include the release of a photo last week showing leader Kim Jong Un looking at a map with military leaders – a map titled "U.S. Strike Plan," with multiple American cities targeted for attack.
Monday brought news, first, that the United States was sending F-22 fighter jets to the peninsula; then, that the United States is moving at least one warship closer to the North Korean coastline.
Little cautioned against reading too much into that move.
"We have regular ship movements in the Asia-Pacific region, and we use our ship movements for any number of purposes," he said. "So I'd be very careful about connecting this to recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula."