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June 24, 2013

Transcript of VOA Interview with Secretary of State John Kerry

by Scott Stearns

VOA STATE DEPARTMENT CORESPONDENT SCOTT STEARNS: Mr. Secretary thank you for being with us.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Happy to be with you.
 
QUESTION:  What’s wrong with other countries helping Edward Snowden if they believe, as to quote the Chinese news agency, that the United States is the greatest villain of our time when it comes to cyber-attacks?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, the law is the law, and international law is particularly important in a world as interconnected as ours.  There is a Hong Kong-U.S. surrender treaty, and that treaty should be upheld.
 
QUESTION:  Is Mr. Snowden a whistleblower or a traitor?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  I believe that he has betrayed his country, because he took an oath.  He swore that he would uphold the secrecy.  He was given access to documents based on that trust and he violated that trust.  And he hasn’t violated it in any way similar – nothing similar – to Daniel Ellsberg or somebody who was revealing a government that was actually lying or that had a completely distorted view of something going on.  This man just took real information and put it out there because he happens to believe something that is not, in fact, justified by the facts. 
 
And so I think he has put counterterrorism at risk, he has put individuals at risk, and it may well be that lives will be lost in the United States because terrorists now have knowledge of something that they need to avoid, that they didn’t have knowledge of before he did this.
 
QUESTION:  What are your hopes for following the election of a new president in Iran?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, I hope, obviously, like everybody, that Iran will find a measure of reasonableness here with respect to the nuclear program and recognize that they really need to come to the table with proposals and to meet the opportunity that is there to rejoin the community of nations by proving that their nuclear program is, in fact, a peaceful program.  This is not complicated.  If you have a peaceful program – other nations have them, they prove it. 
 
This is a very clear obligation that the Iranians have, and the Chinese, the Russians, all of the United Nations are united in their requirement that Iran needs to do this.  This is not a U.S. demand; this is a global demand.
 
QUESTION:  You said in Doha that a stronger armed opposition in Syria would provide a counterweight to President Assad’s enlistment of Iran and Hezbollah in this fight, but mightn't also mean, at least in the short term, an increase in the fighting in Syria?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  No.  The simple reason for that is that whether the United States is engaged or not, there will be people who will fund extremists who will continue this fight.  And if we want to leave it to the extremists, we then run the risk of much greater damage conceivably to Jordan, to Israel, to Lebanon, and in the long run to the region, and particularly if they were to secure chemical weapons.
 
QUESTION:  There’s an agreement for elections in Mali.  The French would like to withdraw, having pushed these rebels out of the major towns, but how does the international community make sure that what will be a young democracy in Mali is not threatened by a broader Sahelian terrorist movement that challenges elected governments already in Nigeria and Niger?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  By being involved in a way that helps and supports that new and younger government.  We are involved in Mali.  The French are involved, others are helping, and I think we need to recognize that Mali has become an attractive magnet for al-Qaida in the Maghreb.  And so this is important to our security, because we know they are targeting not just Malians, not just people in that region, but they’re prepared to link up with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; they’re ready to link up with terrorists anywhere and everywhere to try to do harm to almost anybody else who doesn’t agree with their point of view.
 
QUESTION:  You close this trip in Brunei at the ASEAN ARF.  There are people in Southeast Asia who have concerns that your focus, this second term Obama Administration focus, on the Middle East peace process and increasingly on Syria diminishes the so-called Asia pivot and concern that China’s increasingly aggressive claims over the South China Sea may not be pursued.  What will you say to your allies in Southeast Asia about the South China Sea?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  That I’m there, that I’m here in Brunei, and I’m there for a reason.  And that I was in Japan and in South Korea and in China for a reason, and then I will shortly thereafter be coming back to go to Indonesia, Vietnam, to other countries, because we are paying attention to that pivot.  What people need to understand is a country like the United States of America has the ability – and I think we’re pretty good at it – of dealing with more than one crisis in more than one part of the planet at the same time.  We’ve always done that. 
So this is not different.  People should not think that because we are trying to bring peace to an area that has been struggling for 30 years now under the yoke of conflict and dissention that that means we can’t also pay attention to these other issues. 
 
We just had a major meeting in California with the President of China.  The Vice President has been to the region.  He’s going to go; I’m going to go again.  The President has been engaged.  So I think people need to understand that we are committed to the pivot, we remain committed to the pivot, there’s nothing that we’ve done that has moved away from it.  But we are also capable of and intend to pay attention to other parts of the world that likewise need some focus.
 
QUESTION:  Finally, on North Korea, what do you say to the argument that, given that the North Koreans already have nuclear weapons, why not recognize them as a nuclear power and move on?
 
SECRETARY KERRY:  Because the policy of the United States and of the entire Six Parties that are involved in talks with them, as well as most other countries in the world, is that they should denuclearize.  We will not recognize them as a nuclear power; we will not rest until they have denuclearized.  That is the policy of China, I might add.  China believes they must denuclearize. 
 
Now, yes, they’ve had the nuclear tests; yes, they’ve fired some missiles.  But there is a nothing that suggests they have the kind of deliverable nuclear weapons system that makes them a nuclear power today in the real sense of the word.  And the fact is, where they are today can be undone and should be undone, because if it isn’t, then South Korea and Japan will follow, and you will have a much more volatile and dangerous region that you have today.  That’s why China is so focused on this, and we have high hopes that the Chinese, as they indicated to us in the talks at the Annenberg home in California, that those talks will in fact have an impact on Kim Jong-un, and he will choose a better path.
 
QUESTION:  Thank you, sir.