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Thomas Hubbard

Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Thomas Hubbard advises clients on issues pertaining to Korea and other countries in Asia. Before joining Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, he completed a 39-year career in the Foreign Service, where he held several senior State Department positions. He's served in the Dominican Republic, Tokyo, Paris, Washington, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul. Hubbard played a leading role in U.S. policies toward Japan, the Korean Peninsula and the ASEAN nations of Southeast Asia.




Thomas Hubbard

Thomas Hubbard

Tavis: Thomas Hubbard served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic Of Korea from 2001 to 2004. Just one of his many assignments during a stellar 39 year career in foreign service. In 1994, he was the first senior U.S. official to lead a delegation into North Korea, when he was asked by then-President Bill Clinton to secure the release of an American helicopter pilot. He is now a senior advisor at the Washington law firm of Akin Gump. Joins us tonight from the nation's capitol. Ambassador Hubbard, nice to have you on this program, sir.

Thomas Hubbard: It's good to be with you. Thank you very much.

Tavis: Let me start with the words of President Bush, and we will jump into a conversation straight away.

'George Bush': We've created a framework that will be successful. It, it, it, I don't, my, my judgment is you can't be successful if the United States is sitting at the table alone with North Korea. You run out of options very quickly if that's the case. In order to be successful diplomatically, it's best to have other partners at the table.

Tavis: Mr. Ambassador, President Bush right?

Hubbard: I think he's right that the six-party talks, which he deserves credit for launching, are the best way to bring about a solution to the various security problems that North Korea poses for the world. But we need to focus on how to make those talks successful. It's important that China play a, a strong, positive role as chairman, but it's also important that the United States play a very active role in trying to bring out a solution.

I think there've been many cases where this administration has advocated the six-party talks and set them up as the best way to solve the problem, but if they are to work, and we need to focus on making them work, the United States I think needs to play a more active role. We need to be more willing to engage bilaterally with the North Koreans during the course of the talks, and we need to make more clear when we're at the table that we're prepared to negotiate. Prepared to work with the North Koreans in, in bringing out a solution to the problems.

Tavis: You're the expert here, and that's why we're glad to have you on the program, not me. But maybe, and as a result of that, or because of that, I should say, perhaps I've missed the point here. But I seem to be getting mixed signals here. And maybe it's just me. On the one hand, I hear you saying that we've gotta be more active at the table, and President Bush seemed to echo that, or you echoed him, because he feels the same way, that the U.S. can't be at the table with North Korea by themselves.

You gotta have partners if you wanna be successful. On the other hand, the strategy of late, the last few days, hours, is from the Bush White House that we're going to pull back and let China take a more active role here. So, am I missing something, or am I getting mixed signals here?

Hubbard: Well, I think there is a contradiction there. I think in the past, it has seemed that some of the other parties have been willing to engage more seriously in the six-party talks than the United States has. I think we have relied, to a very large degree, on China to lead the process. I think that's appropriate, because China probably has more influence over North Korea than any of the other parties. On the other hand, the party to the six-party talks that the North Koreans are most concerned about is, is the United States.

Rational or not, I think the North Koreans have suspicions that our policy is one of regime change, one of bringing down the current regime in North Korea, rather than one of trying to negotiate a solution with this regime. And like it or not, I think the United States, for the North Koreans, is going to remain a focus of their concern. And unless we're willing to talk directly in that six-party context, I don't think we're gonna find a solution.

Tavis: You know the old adage that perception is reality. Tell me what that statement means juxtaposed against the fact that North Korea, or I shouldn't say juxtaposed, but tell me what that statement means if, in fact, the North Koreans, as apparently they do, Kim Jong-il specifically, believe that.

Hubbard: Well, I think Kim Jong-il found that when the Bush administration came into office that the Bush administration failed to pick up on the ongoing dialogue that we'd had between the DPRK and the United States under the Clinton administration, and very quickly suggested that some of the assurances that we had given under the Clinton administration, that among other things, that we have no hostile intent vis a vis North Korea, seemed to have fallen by the wayside as the Bush administration took office.

And fairly quickly after that, the President made his famous Axis Of Evil statement in his state of the nation address in 2002. I think Kim Jong-il, rightly or wrongly, took those statements as an indication that the U.S. might have hostile intent. In fact, might be seeking regime change in North Korea. The President has subsequently said on many occasions that we do not intend to invade North Korea.

That we have no intention of attacking North Korea. But I think we need more active, direct engagement in the six-party context with the North Koreans to alleviate some of the concerns that they still have. In reality, they should not be concerned, but we have to deal with their perceptions, as well as our own.

Tavis: There are three things that you are on record saying that you believe Kim Jong-il wants. So if the question is what does Kim Jong-il want, Ambassador Hubbard's response is three things. In no particular order, regime change, money, and attention. Regime change, money, and attention. We've just talked a bit now about regime change. One other question on that before I get to attention and money. Tell me how serious he is, and why, I don't mean to show my naiveté here, but why be so serious about regime change? This guy wanna serve for life?

Hubbard: (laughs) That's right, he does. In fact, the only previous leader of New York, his father, Kim Il-sung, did serve for life. He died in office, and I have every expectation that Kim Jong-il wants to do the same thing. So, what he doesn't want is regime change. What he wants is assurances that that's not part of our policy. I think he also wants a broader sense of security, and he also wants some help in economic development.

I think we need, in the course of these six-party talks, to get the point across to North Korea's leader, DPRK's leader, that one, we're not out to bring about a regime change. That secondly, we're willing to provide assurances of that fact. And thirdly, that we're prepared to engage with our other partners in the six-party process to give him some of the economic cooperation that he really needs if his nation is going to make any economic progress.

Tavis: Tell me how you look a guy in the face - it wouldn't be the first time a U.S. President lied. But tell me how you sit across the table from another president of another country, democratically elected or not, and tell the guy squarely, I don't want you out. It's not regime change I'm concerned about. And yet this guy is engaged in every provocation you or I could think of, launching missiles and proving that he can hit Alaska, etcetera, etcetera.

And you're telling me that there is some infrastructure that can, in fact, or ought to, in fact, be created, when we look this guy in the eye and say, we're not trying to get you out of office?

Hubbard: (laughs) Well, for one thing, no current U.S. President has ever looked a North Korean leader in the eye. One former President, Jimmy Carter, did so, and the result of their direct meeting was some significant progress on the nuclear issue that we faced in the early 1990s. I'm not advocating that President Bush actually sit down with him...

Tavis: Now let me jump in, let me jump in there, 'cause I was obviously painting a metaphorical portrait here for you to respond to. But let me leave the metaphorics alone for a second and come to the reality. Why not? Why not have our president sit down with this guy face to face and talk to him?

Hubbard: Well, I think we need to build more mutual confidence before we get to that point. I was in North Korea, in the DPRK, in the year 2000 when Madeline Albright did visit Pyongyang, and was in the process of actually trying to negotiate an agreement over North Korea's missiles that would have paved the way for a visit by President Clinton at that time.

Unfortunately, those talks made a lot of progress, but were not fully successful, and President Clinton did not visit. I don't think now is the time for President Bush to visit North Korea, but I think it is a time for U.S. and North Korean negotiators to seriously look each other in the eye, to put on the table all the issues that concern us, and try to come up with a solution.

Tavis: When you say a guy wants attention, as evidenced by the fact that this program and every other program in this country (laughs) is talking about Kim Jong-il, how much more attention does he want? What do you mean by that?

Hubbard: He got his attention. (laughs)

Tavis: Yeah.

Hubbard: And I think one of the threads that I've been seeing in statements by the U.S. administration over the past few days are partially correct, but perhaps misleading. I think many of the U.S. spokesmen have said that Kim Jong-il is isolated. That no country in the world wants Kim Jong-il to have nuclear weapons or to have missiles, and everyone is as concerned about this.

And we should be. It's a provocative act, and we need to stand together. But in my view, the world needs to stand together not to isolate North Korea, but stand together to try to bring North Korea into the international community, to try to bring about North Korean acceptance of some of the constraints that normally operate in the international community. And one of those constraints is you shouldn't shoot off missiles in international waters without warning.

Tavis: So let me offer this as an exit question. You've shared with us what you think ought to happen to make these six-party talks more effective. What's your sense, right quick, in the coming days, at least, given the news of late that these launching of missiles, what's your sense of what will happen in the coming days from now?

Hubbard: Well, I think that we're doing the right thing now with Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill, our North Korean envoy, out in the region, talking to the various parties from China to South Korea to Japan. I think trying to put together a common approach is exactly the right thing to do. I hope that common approach will be one that leads the North Koreans to come back to the talks.

That leads the North Koreans to recognize that it's far more in their interest to join the international community. There are a lot of benefits that will flow from that. It's more in their interest to join the community than to continue waving these various dangerous weapons from possible nuclear warheads to long-range missiles. It's time for North Korea to sit down with all of us, and come up with a solution that will satisfy their need for security, and some hope of prosperity, as well as our need for avoiding the kinds of situations that we have with a state like North Korea shooting missiles.

Tavis: He's the former ambassador of South Korea, Thomas Hubbard. Mr. Ambassador, nice to have you on the program. Thanks for your insight, I appreciate it.

Hubbard: Thank you very much for having me.

Tavis: It's my pleasure. Up next on this program, Oscar-nominated actress Diane Ladd. Stay with us.

I am pleased to welcome Diane Ladd to this program. The three-time Academy Award-nominated actress has starred in a number of notable films, including 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore,' 'Wild At Heart,' and of course, 'Rambling Rose.' She made history for that film, when both she and her daughter, fine actress Laura Dern, received Oscar nods for their roles.

Her latest project is a new memoir called 'Spiraling Through The School Of Life, A Mental, Physical, And Spiritual Discovery.' I know I ain't got enough time to do justice to this with that title. But Diane Ladd, (laughs) it's an honor to have you on the program.

Diane Ladd: Thank you. My privilege and pleasure.

Tavis: Your son-in-law's one of my favorites.

Ladd: That's what you just told me, he was a guest.

Tavis: Ben Harper's been here a couple times, yeah.

Ladd: Well, he's my favorite, too.

Tavis: Yeah. (laughs) And the grandbabies are doing well?

Ladd: Oh, yeah. They sure are. I got one four and a half, and one almost two. Little boy, and a little girl.

Tavis: I don't wanna hurt Laura's feelings, (laughs) so Laura's doing well, also?

Ladd: She is. (laughs) She is.

Tavis: Okay. This title got me initially, as I suspect you knew it would, which is why you named it this. 'Spiraling Through Life.' Not traveling, not journeying, not walking, not running. Spiraling.

Ladd: Right.

Tavis: Why spiraling?

Ladd: Well, every time I even dare to think that God might be finished with me for a minute, I find myself just going splat, right back down. And I fool myself as I'm going down, 'cause I don't go straight, (laughs) I go, like, in a spiral. It's like, what happened? What happened here? Then I pick myself up like Dumbo, and start all over again. Spiral up. But spiraling, in all religions, a spiral is a symbol of our growth.

Like Kabbalah. I'm not Jewish, but I've studied the Kabbalah, the Tree Of Life is a spiral. And all of science represents all energy and life itself by the spiral. And I actually, when my father died, in our home state, Mississippi...

Tavis: Yes, M-I, crooked letter, crooked letter I...

Ladd: Crooked letter, crooked letter I, humpback, humpback...

Tavis: Crooked letter, crooked letter I, humpback, humpback, no, you got it, you got it.

Ladd: Oh, I'm used to, you got it. Oh.

Tavis: Wanna do it again?

Ladd: Yeah.

Tavis: M-I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, humpback, humpback I.

Ladd: M-I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, humpback, humpback I.

Tavis: I love it. (laughs) There you go. You can't (unintelligible) Mississippi, anyhow. All right, I'm sorry, go ahead. I interrupted you. Yeah.

Ladd: Well, the day that he went on his way, I was very, very shook up. And I, after his funeral, went to the beach, and I'm running down the ocean by myself, and talking to the universe, and crying. And I finally threw myself on the sand, crying. I'm asking the universe for a symbol. An answer. And as I turned to my left, staring me there in my face was the most exquisite nautilus shell I've ever seen in my whole life.

And the nautilus is the oldest living thing on the planet. And it is a spiral. So, I picked it up and I took it home, and I put it on my desk, where I write. And I've almost finished another book. And this book, many doctors asked me, because I've lectured a lot with them, you've got to write this book and share what you lecture about. So I stopped writing the other book because potentially, I thought that this which they said I had to share could help my fellow human being.

So I thought I'd take six months. Tavis, it took me four years.

Tavis: To do this, right.

Ladd: To do this book, to finish it. So there was the shell, and I called it 'Spiraling Through The School Of Life.'

Tavis: What's the value in knowing or accepting that our life spirals as opposed to the other alternatives of how we move that I suggested earlier? What's the value of knowing that life spirals?

Ladd: You know what I think it is? I'll tell you what I think it is.

Tavis: Mm hmm.

Ladd: It's like suppose you have that scotch tonight that you're not supposed to have, or that candy bar. Or you said that curse word today. Or you lost your temper and got emotional. What you say is okay. I'm still can be a winner. God isn't through with me. And spiraling is like a motion, and all energy's motion. And spiraling, instead of going straight (makes noise), gives you kind of a chance at a second breath. (laughs)

Tavis: Mm hmm.

Ladd: And I think that's what we're given in the universe. I'm not trying to be facetious. I really think we are given that second chance every other minute of our life. Constantly.

Tavis: How did you come to be such a person of faith?

Ladd: Well, first of all, I was raised Catholic. As I said, I've studied Kabbalah. My father was Baptist. I've, down south, been around many religions all my life. I had a tragedy in my life. When my first child died in a tragic accident, I was very young, married to actor Bruce Dern. At two years old, she was in a tragic accident. I've talked about this 20 times, and yet (unintelligible).

No matter how spiritual you are, whenever you lose someone, there's a breaking of that umbilical cord that's very hard to get over. And you can go 40 years and be talking about somebody you loved and lost, and (makes noise) all of a sudden. Laura and I were talking about my mother the other day, who died three years ago, and we both started sobbing like babies.

Just for a second, I got emotional. Maybe it's 'cause it's with somebody from my home state, and I feel very relaxed. There's a root, a connection here. But anyhow, after her death, I wanted to get pregnant right away. And I'm praying and I'm begging. And every cell in my body's screaming and crying to get pregnant again. And within three months, I did it. I was pregnant. And I said, you see? God took away, and he gave back.

Sorry. Wrong. Rewrite. Another test coming down the pike. It was a tubular pregnancy, and I almost died from peritonitis. And after that, not one, but five top doctors in this country said, I am sorry, Diane Ladd, you will never have another child. And Tavis, I said, I will. And I went to the library. There were no health books. There was no book like this spiraling book.

There was no alternative doctors for me to find. There were no health food stores. I was alone. Now, I'll deviate and retrieve. I'd had a grandmother named Aunt Prudie, who was called the mother of south Mississippi. And she had been a midwife, and became a medical doctor, and she studied with the Cherokee Indians. And she cured diphtheria, typhoids fever before the drug cures by studying herbology and the healing arts with the Cherokee Indians.

She delivered 3,000 babies. One time, she was thrown in a snowstorm, broke her leg, then went and delivered the baby, then had her leg set. So she was quite a little (unintelligible)...

Tavis: (laughs) Aunt Prudie was serious.

Ladd: Aunt Prudie was serious. And maybe I've got some of her DNA. I hope so. So I spent two and a half years of the next two and a half years every single day in a library studying about the human body. And after those two and a half years, I put myself on a program. Special foods with avocado, special bee pollens. And with the help of my husband, (laughs) I shortly thereafter went to see the doctor and said, make a pregnancy test.

Now, he had lost a child, too, and he couldn't stand telling me that I couldn't have a child anymore. And he said, Diane, I have, he got angry. He said, I've told you that you can't get pregnant again. It's impossible. You've got to go home and cry. (laughs) And I looked at him and said Doctor, oh, I've cried. Oh, have I cried. I said, now you go make that test.

And Tavis, the rabbit died. (laughs) And when Laura Elizabeth Dern was born, they took her and one of those doctors came down to see this for himself, after they brought my treasure into life, I was on that operating table for four solid hours while they removed 16 major adhesions intertwined around the female organs. And I heard him say my God, my God, this is impossible.

This child could not have gotten through. This is a miracle. I was passed out. I wasn't knocked out, I was passed out. And my head (laughs) rose up off the table, while they were in there fooling around, and I said, that's right, it's a miracle. It's a hell of a lot of hard work. (laughs) They said I scared them to death. But this is not just, I share that tragedy to inspire women.

If you want a child, fight for it. Or adopt. There's a saying that those who raise their own children work with God. Those who raise another child live with God. And so, I inspire them. But there's the love story of how I met my wonderful soul mate eight years ago, a love story. There's parenting chapters, how not to be angry. I have, as I said, worked in hospitals for 30 years doing healing, medical intuitive, psychotherapy work, and I'm an ordained minister.

So I make a joke. I can entertain you, and if that makes you sick, I can heal you. (laughs) And if that doesn't work, by God, Tavis, I could bury you. (laughs) So I'm a really good (unintelligible) .

Tavis: You know what? On that note, I can't do no better than that. I got 30 seconds, literally. That story, which I did not know until going through this text about the birth of Laura, that means, right quick, that when the two of you were nominated in '92 together for 'Rambling Rose,' that had to be the absolute most special...

Ladd: You have no idea. When I was on that stage, and people like Jack Nicholson and them all sitting down there, whom I've worked with, and I looked over and saw my daughter, whom at first I'd said, don't be an actress, no. Until I saw the talent. I looked out at all those people, and I thought, my God, they have no idea what this means, to see this treasure with me on this stage.

And it's like spirals. It's another spiral. So I'm sharing this in this book, and doctors are buying this book and giving it to their patients. And Dean Ornish, Dr. Dean Ornish, said this little book might change your life, and may even help save it.

Tavis: Indeed it is.

Ladd: And Stephen King endorsed it, and Whoopie Goldberg endorsed it, Della Reese endorsed it.

Tavis: And I'm endorsing it.

Ladd: And Tavis is endorsing it. (laughs)

Tavis: (laughs) Diane Ladd's book is 'Spiraling Through The School Of Life, A Mental, Physical, And Spiritual Discovery.' I told you I couldn't do justice to it in 15 minutes, but I'm honored to have you here.

Ladd: You can get it at Barnes, Borders, and (laughs)

Tavis: She knows how to do this. That's our show for tonight. Catch me on the weekends on PRI, Public Radio International. Check your local listings. I'll see you back here next time on PBS. Until then, good night from L.A. Thanks for watching. As always, keep the faith.