President Obama shared his thoughts on North Korea in an interview that aired this morning on NBC:
"Let's move to North Korea," said the NBC journalist. "Is Kim Jong-Un unstable?"
"Well, I'm not a psychiatrist, and I don't know the leader of North Korea," said Obama. "What I do know is, is that the actions they've taken, the rhetoric they've engaged in, has been provocative. It has been condemned across the board internationally, and it's unnecessary, because what it's done is ironically isolated North Korea further. If they want to rejoin the community of nations, that path is available to them.
The interviewer asked, "This is a cycle of provocation for them, as you well know. Is there something qualitatively different about this time?"
"Well," the president said, "this is the same kind of pattern that we saw his father engage in and his grandfather before that. Since I came into office the one thing I was clear about was we're not going to reward this kind of provocative behavior. You don't get to bang your spoon on the table and somehow you get your way."
"Is this the closest we've been to war with North Korea, on your watch?"
"You'll recall that North Korea shot down a Korean, South Korean fishing boat, that wasn't just words, that was action, so we've seen this kind of pattern before," Obama responded. "I think all of us would anticipate that North Korea will probably make more provocative moves over the next several weeks, but our hope is that we can contain it, and that we can move into a different phase in which they try to work through diplomatically some of these issues so that they can get back on a path where they're feeding their people."
Finally, on North Korea, Obama was asked, "Does North Korea in your estimation have the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile?"
The president responded, "Based on our current intelligence assessments, we do not think they have that capacity, but we have to make sure that we are dealing with every contingency out there and that's why I've repositioned missile defense systems to guard against any miscalculation on their part."