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Tony Blair hopes North Korea may be 'saber rattling'

April 9, 2013 at 8:10 AM ET

North Korea may be issuing empty threats about plans to deploy its nuclear arsenal, but the rogue nation’s illogical behavior has made it difficult for South Korea and its U.S. ally to call its bluff, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday.

“I think and I hope that ultimately this is saber rattling,” Blair told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “It’s an attempt to deal with some of the regime’s internal problems by having some external focus. It’s asserting its muscularity, if you like.”

Blair was prime minister in 2006 when North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon. He condemned the action as “completely irresponsible” and later cited the test as a reason why Britain needed to modernize its nuclear deterrent.

Blair said North Korea’s recent escalation of tensions may be the result of its new president asserting his voice, but he acknowledged it was difficult to say that with certainty “when you have a regime that doesn’t really conform to any recognized rules with nuclear weapons capability. It’s a very tough situation.”

Blair also spoke to Lauer about the death of Margaret Thatcher, with whom he had a warm relationship despite being on opposite sides politically. He said Thatcher introduced numerous policies that had huge impact on deregulation, trade unions and taxation.

“Even people on the opposite side of the political fence took some of those lessons and applied them, and not just in the U.K. but around the world,” he said. “She was a controversial figure, but you got to say she also was a towering figure, a huge figure, and her impact was a global one.”

Despite Thatcher’s public image as the “Iron Lady” who unflinchingly ran government with a firm hand, she was well loved by those who knew her personally. Blair said when he first moved into 10 Downing Street, the headquarters of the British government, the staff who ran the place expressed a great amount of fondness for Thatcher.

“They were always very, very generous about her, and regarded her highly,” he said.

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