REMNICK: Ronald Reagan called the former Soviet Union the Evil Empire, and a year later he was at a summit in Moscow, celebrating what in essence was the end of the Cold War. It's different, is what you're suggesting. It's radically different.
RICHARDSON: I just believe my point there, David, is you've got to talk to them directly. You're not losing much by talking to them directly. You actually get more done.
REMNICK: How do you see the future of the North Korean regime? Obviously the Chinese, especially in the wake of 1989 and even before but certainly more radically afterward, made a range of political and economic calculations about reform to keep themselves in power yet reform the country. The Soviet Union had its Gorbachev moment and its transformation of a very different kind, throughout Eastern Europe and all the rest. How do you see the future of North Korea—is it going to go from deity to deity and maintain this very strange set of strengths and its isolation? How can that possibly continue? If it can't, and if it's in the interest of China that it not dissolve because of the mass migration that would occur into China, what is as it were the end-game for North Korea? Where does this go?
RICHARDSON: Well, my view is that they've made the strategic decision to join the world. Now, they're going to do that on their own terms, and they're going to use the nuclear card to secure as much heavy oil and food as possible, and to get as many sanctions lifted as possible. I believe they've made the decision that they want to join the 21st century. That's my view. Others believe that's not the case.
REMNICK: You can't join it just a little bit, as Gorbachev found out. You can't just have a little bit of the 21st century, and have a little bit of the Internet, et cetera.
RICHARDSON: My guess is that they're going to follow the Chinese model, which is to slowly allow freedoms to come in, but retaining a very strong, hierarchical, upper-political system. I think that's what they're thinking. One of the issues with North Korea is that they've had very little exposure to the outside world. North Koreans don't travel. They watch television that is mandated by the state. It's on for three hours a day and is all about deity issues and how they won the Korean war. It's novels that the state picks. They have no outward view. People say, don't North Koreans miss capitalism? Don't they know how South Korea lives? The answer is no, because they don't go out. When some individuals don't have much, there's little they feel they are losing. This is generational.
REMNICK: But that's hardly the Chinese model. The Chinese have restrictions and limits, but the world has more than seeped into Chinese society, even in the interior.
RICHARDSON: That's where I think they eventually want to be, the North Koreas.
REMNICK: What to do about Iran? It is one thing to negotiate with Iran, and it's another to make distinctions about who is in charge in Iran. But the fact of the matter remains, that by all evidence, defiance on the nuclear issue in Iran continues apace. The rhetoric from the president about Israel, the United States and the rest continues with abating. How would you proceed if you were in the White House?