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  • NARRATOR: On March 26, 2018 a passenger train leaves Pyongyang, North Korea.

  • 21 bullet proof cars painted an olive drab lumber across the countryside,

  • then over the Chinese border.

  • Rumors begin throughout the international community.

  • This is the official train of the North Korea leadership.

  • Also used by Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il,

  • the grandfather and father of current leader, Kim Jong-Un.

  • No one outside of the notoriously secretive nation knows who is aboard.

  • Some speculate it is Kim Yo-Jong, Un's younger sister and most trusted advisor.

  • It is not until the train reaches its final destination, Beijing,

  • that it's revealed Kim Jong-Un, the 34-year-old dictator himself,

  • is the passenger.

  • In the months preceding this meeting...

  • What follows in Beijing...

  • And in the months to come...

  • Are the preliminary steps to what may be the most

  • important diplomatic event of our young century.

  • A path to peace on the Korean peninsula and a way to bring the North Koreans

  • into the international fold after 70 years of isolation.

  • But the path to peace will be one of twists and turns as allies and the US

  • jockey for position to protect their interests and maintain security.

  • By the time President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-Un meet face to face

  • in Singapore, it is still unclear what each party wants or will be willing to do.

  • This is the Great Game.

  • ♪ ♪

  • North Korea remains an enigma.

  • -Good Morning, how are you, Mr. Vice President?

  • Very nice to see you.

  • NARRATOR: And only those who have sat across the table with

  • North Korean negotiators understand the challenges.

  • RICHARDSON: I do believe that they're very tough, they're very well prepared.

  • They read everything, especially media.

  • What makes them so tough, it's not just their culture,

  • but the fact that they've been isolated.

  • They've been sanctioned.

  • They hardly any of them, the citizens, leave North Korea.

  • They have television that's programmed every evening,

  • for three hours the government tells you what you're going to see.

  • And inevitably, they hate the United States.

  • HILL: At the end of the day, diplomacy is really trying

  • to get the other side to do something they don't really want to do.

  • in dealing with another country, make it clear that you make the hard choices

  • today and I'm not promising you the end of hard choices,

  • but I'm promising you that in the future you won't have to make them alone.

  • ALBRIGHT: Mostly, I don't see it as a gift.

  • You usually use diplomacy more with your adversaries than with your friends.

  • And so it is this matter of being prepared and putting yourself into the other

  • country's shoes and figuring out what you do in order to solve the problem,

  • and it's not a gift.

  • It is how you talk to those you disagree with.

  • NARRATOR: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK,

  • is anything but democratic.

  • From the ashes of World War II,

  • loomed the first post-war spread of Soviet communism.

  • In August 1945, the Korean peninsula and her people were

  • effectively divided at the 38th parallel.

  • An arbitrary divide.

  • Using a National Geographic map, the future US Secretary of state,

  • Dean Rusk and fellow army staffer Col. Charles "Tic" Bonesteel

  • knew the decision of the 38th parallel made no economic or

  • geographic sense, but with the cold war about to cast a long shadow,

  • the United States wanted Seoul and the democratic leaning south, under their alliance.

  • Kim Il-Sung, the young charismatic rebel famous for his insurrection against the

  • brutal decades old Japanese occupation,

  • vied for power and shaped this new republic in

  • the Stalinist fashion adopting a totalitarian reign of terror.

  • Kim solidified his place in the soviet backed north, then sought to unify the peninsula

  • by invading the south and starting the Korean conflict on June 25th, 1950.

  • Reporter (over TV): In an era of renewed optimism.

  • NARRATOR: Three years later a cease-fire was reached.

  • North Korea, a nation established by warfare,

  • will be perpetuated by self-imposed isolation, bloodshed,

  • and humanitarian horrors.

  • TERRY: It's the most unique country in the world.

  • What other country in the world is Confucian, communist, hereditary, dynasty,

  • there's no country like this.

  • While it also commits human rights violations.

  • United Nations Commission of Inquiries said,

  • "there's no other parallel in contemporary history, except Nazi, Germany"

  • and this is North Korea.

  • I don't think there is another country that is more isolated than North Korea,

  • so truly a unique place.

  • NARRATOR: And they have been challenging American policy, for nearly 70 years.

  • HILL: I think any political question has to start with a map.

  • And if you look at a map of Northeast Asia, it's a pretty compact area.

  • You're seeing Russian far east interest right there.

  • You're seeing Japan right there.

  • China, enormous interest right there, South Korea.

  • And then, in the middle of this,

  • you have this funny little thing called North Korea.

  • How does it affect the countries around it and I would say,

  • it affects them all big time.

  • TERRY: North Korea has figured out how to work the United States.

  • There is usually a provocation of some sort, whether it is a missile test or a nuke test.

  • Then there is international condemnation that follows,

  • and then they sort of up the ante, like a poker game.

  • "Oh yeah? Here's more!"

  • Then, sort of a collective "Oh no!"

  • And then they step back and say, "OK. Here is what we can do."

  • They have some sort of charm offensive, peace offensive.

  • Then we meet with them, we negotiate, we give them aids, some rewards,

  • some time passes, then back to provocation.

  • It's a provoke and get paid cycle.

  • NARRATOR: For generations, the North Korean people have been controlled

  • by a police state that has perfected propaganda to an art.

  • Their belief in the Kim family dynasty,

  • is absolute devotion.

  • Information is tightly controlled by the Korean central news agency,

  • the KCNA, established in 1946.

  • KRISTOF: There've obviously been many other deeply repressive

  • Communist dictators, Stalin, Mao.

  • They didn't have the technology that the Kim family had.

  • They didn't have the degree of social control, so they didn't have speakers on every,

  • in every village, speakers in the wall of every home to control people.

  • They didn't have television in every home.

  • They didn't even have these portraits of the leaders

  • it's kind of a religious cult.

  • RICHARDSON: It's the deity,

  • it's the leaders, the grandfather, the father, and now Kim Jong-Un,

  • that are not just political figures, they're god like religious figures.

  • And what they say determines how North Koreans act.

  • GAUSE: Kim Jong-Un only had a very short amount of time to

  • build his legitimacy within the regime.

  • Kim Jong-Il by comparison had 30 years to create his legitimacy.

  • Kim Jong-Un had none of this, but a lot of things, very interesting things began to

  • happen when Kim Jong-Un came to power.

  • The first thing that happened is they had the missile test,

  • which was a failure.

  • But what does North Korea do?

  • They admit it was a failure, unprecedented.

  • Why did they do that?

  • It gave people pause to think that maybe this was something different.

  • Kim Jong-Un laid down the Rosetta Stone of where he wanted to take this regime.

  • People would no longer have to tighten their belts,

  • this was an important statement by Kim Jong-Un.

  • There was no mention whatsoever of the nuclear program in that speech because

  • that's not where Kim Jong-Un wanted his legacy.

  • That was Kim Jong-Il's legacy was the nuclear program.

  • His legacy was to create the strong and prosperous nation.

  • HILL: He then created a kind of chaotic situation within the worker's party,

  • the North Korean Workers' Party and actually had his uncle Jang Song-Thaek

  • perp-walked out of a party meeting and killed the next day.

  • So, Kim Jong-Un began a series of executions of senior North Korean figures

  • such that it was hard to find a common denominator of why these people had been executed.

  • But certainly, one can speculate that he didn't feel

  • they were sufficiently loyal to him.

  • NARRATOR: He purges over 400 senior military and ministry leaders publicly.

  • And allegedly has his older half-brother murdered in a Malaysian airport,

  • poisoned by unwitting assassins.

  • But he needs something else to secure the Kim dynasty, nuclear weapons that could

  • pose a real and present danger to America and her Asian allies.

  • GAUSE: This would be the launching of the the Kim Jong-Un era.

  • He had to show legitimacy.

  • And if he couldn't show legitimacy on the economic realm,

  • he had to show legitimacy in the security realm.

  • And so he began to move very quickly towards developing the nuclear program so that he

  • would have something to hang his hat on.

  • So, it will give him a much stronger position in which

  • to negotiate with the United States.

  • NARRATOR: Kim Jong-Il moved the nuclear program forward in spite of

  • international outcry and on again off again treaties.

  • Now it is his son who may finish the job,

  • having a strong hand to negotiate a way for his

  • impoverished nation to have an economic revival.

  • ALBRIGHT: I think that he does have a good hand to play.

  • I mean, he has in fact, from his perspective, developed a nuclear potential and missiles

  • to do the delivery on it, and he's managed to scare

  • the whole region into doing something.

  • NARRATOR: Through 2016 to mid-September, 2017, Kim Jong-Un

  • conducts three nuclear tests, including a hydrogen bomb,

  • and 30 short and long-range missile launches;

  • including Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

  • Kim claims that they have nuclear warheads

  • small enough to fit on each ICBM.

  • PRESIDENT TRUMP: In 70 years, in times of war and peace...

  • NARRATOR: In September 2017 president Donald Trump

  • addresses the UN General Assembly.

  • PRESIDENT TRUMP: No one has shown more contempt for other nations,

  • and for the well-being of their people than the depraved regime in North Korea.

  • NARRATOR: He delivers a fiery speech attacking Kim Jong-Un

  • and threatening the destruction of his country.

  • PRESIDENT TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself, and for his regime...

  • NARRATOR: Trump's rhetoric feeds directly into the north's propaganda machine,

  • that America wants to annihilate North Korea.

  • TERRY: I think that was definitely off script, I can't impossibly imagine

  • the administration officials like Mattis or Secretary Tillerson,

  • advocating totally destroying North Korea,

  • I just can't possibly fathom that,

  • so I think that was President Trump speaking.

  • KRISTOF: I think North Korean officials have played a weak hand just brilliantly.

  • While I think the US approach has to some degree backfired.

  • Essentially the US was trying to intimidate North Korea

  • with some of this rhetoric about fire and fury, about complete destruction.

  • And I think what we actually accomplished was that we terrified South Korea into

  • engaging in diplomacy with North Korea.

  • ALBRIGHT: I think that it's very hard to really assess what effect President Trump's

  • language had on Kim Jong-Un.

  • I don't know whether it scared the Japanese, too.

  • NARRATOR: The United Nations Security Council votes for maximum pressure through

  • economic sanctions against the north.

  • HALEY: We have kicked the can down the road long enough.

  • There is no more road left.

  • NARRATOR: A war of words between Pyongyang and President Trump begins.

  • PRESIDENT TRUMP: North Korea bess not make any more threats to the United States.

  • NARRATOR: Kim refers to Trump as a "mentally deranged dotard."

  • Trump insists his red button is bigger than Kim's.

  • Still the DPRK tests another ICBM, this one experts agree,

  • has a range that could hit the continental United States.

  • The US Talked openly about a "bloody nose"

  • military strike that would cripple nuclear testing sites.

  • Only a handful of experts believed this was a viable solution.

  • KRISTOF: Diplomacy is a hugely inefficient toolbox.

  • It doesn't work very well.

  • But in cases like North Korea, it's all we have to resolve this crisis.

  • Ever since 1969, when North Korea shot down a US aircraft

  • and killed a bunch of Americans,

  • the US has looked for ways to shape North Korean behavior.

  • So repeatedly you have very smart officials who, when they're out of power,

  • they talk about military options.

  • And then once in power, and they look at the predictions of perhaps a million-people

  • dying on the very first day of a war with North Korea, then they think well,

  • okay maybe this isn't the best option.

  • And they look at what's left.

  • And what's left is diplomacy.

  • NARRATOR: Adding to the growing anxiety on the peninsula,

  • south Korea was preparing the 2018 Olympic games.

  • And there was precedent to feel insecure; thirty years earlier in 1988,

  • South Korea's first Olympics were being planned.

  • The supreme leader, Kim Il-Sung set out to create a chaotic

  • atmosphere to keep people away from the games.

  • JENNINGS (over TV): Investigators now believe that a bomb,

  • possibly planted by 2 passengers may have caused Sunday's crash

  • of a Korean Airliner.

  • TERRY: They downed a civilian airliner, killed 115 people on board,

  • it was a major terror attack.

  • That was the reason why the United States put North Korea

  • on the states sponsor of terror list,

  • and it also shows you just the brutality and just the insanity because they

  • downed a civilian airliner killing 115 people on board just to disrupt

  • the Olympics that was going to be held in South Korea.