TODAY   |  April 07, 2013

Gregory: Kerry will try to ‘cool things off’ in N. Korea

John Kerry is heading to the Korean peninsula to present a diplomatic front after threats from North Korea. David Gregory, moderator of “Meet the Press,” said uncertainly over who leader Kim Jong-un is complicates the situation. TODAY’s Lester Holt interviews David Gregory.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> morning in the standoff with north korea . south korea 's top military officer is delaying a trip to washington and the u.s. has postponed a ballistic missile test that had been planned for next week, fearing that it might be seen by the north as a provocation. david gregory is moderator of "meet the press." david, good morning. good to see you.

>> good morning, lester.

>> what's the diplomatic solution? obviously, the u.s. trying to ratchet down some of the military tension. does secretary kerry have a diplomatic option here that he's willing to play?

>> i think that first one you said is important, which is to try to cool things off. secondly, secretary kerry, others in the administration, want to get china to play a bigger role here. china is the big actor here that can have real influence on north korea and get them to step down, step back into some negotiations over the future of their nuclear program . kim jong un has said it's not something he'll do now. somebody has to change that course.

>> do you get a sense that the administration is worried about north korea ? obviously, you know, anybody talking about nuclear weapons . but in the past, there's been a sense of, well, they talk a lot. they're boisterous, but they don't follow through. is there a tone different?

>> there's several things different. first of all, kim jong un is a young leader, unknown, not a lot of intelligence there. we haven't seen these kinds of threats before, even though there have been similar threats coming from his father in the north's regime. the nuclear element is there. the risk of proliferation around the region out of fear is another real threat for the administration. more than anything else, though, as i talked to administration figures, the fear of some kind of miscalculation. you just don't have open communication with the north. somebody could simply make a mistake in a standoff like this.

>> i want to turn to domestic politics very quickly right now. the president a bit under fire from even the left of his own party over suggestions of making changes to social security . trying to come up with a compromise with republicans. how real is this offer from the president?

>> i think it's real. i think the president knows that he's got to do something on entitlements that's meaningful to republicans to get them to agree to more tax revenue. without that, there's not going to be any deal. he knows he's also going to hear it from the left when you start talking about reducing benefits on social security . the republicans say this is not enough. this is now an attempt to get back to the idea of a grand compromise. the president committing to this in an actual budget, as opposed to back-room conversations with speaker boehner. so perhaps it's got a better shot.

>> david gregory , thanks very much. we'll get a preview of "meet the press" in just a bit later on.