Biden Says U.S. Should Test Pyongyang's Commitment to Peace
TESTING NORTH KOREA'S COMMITMENT TO PEACE (Senate - October 19, 2000) Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today I rise to discuss the momentous changes underway on the Korean Peninsula and to take note of the contributions of one extraordinary American public servant to the cause of peace there. Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry stepped down this month as special adviser to the President on Korea policy, a role he assumed when our relations with North Korea were in crisis and when congressional faith in our approach to the Korean challenge was at a nadir. It was a job no one coveted. North Korea ranks as one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges we face. It was a job fraught with risk. Err too far towards confrontation, and you might send North Korea over the brink and start another war. Err too far towards conciliation, and your initiative might be mistaken for appeasement, emboldening the North and undermining political support at home. Under Bill Perry's leadership, the U.S. launched a hard-headed initiative designed to test North Korea's willingness to abandon the path of confrontation in favor of the road to peace. From its inception, the Perry initiative was predicated on maintenance of a strong military deterrent. But Dr. Perry recognized that deterrence alone was not likely to lure North Korea out of its shell and reduce the threat of war. The Perry initiative was designed and implemented in concert with our South Korean and Japanese allies, and it continues to enjoy their full support. The results of this comprehensive and integrated engagement strategy have stunned even the most optimistic observers. The year began with a mysterious and unprecedented visit by Kim Jong-il to the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang. Over the course of a four-hour dinner, Kim made it plain that the year 2000 would see a shift in the North's approach to reviving its moribund economy and ending its diplomatic isolation. In quick succession, Kim hosted Russian President Putin and then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. The historic Korean summit meeting in Pyongyang was a tremendous victory for South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's `Sunshine Policy' and a validation of Perry's engagement strategy. It is fitting that President Kim Dae-jung was just awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his life-long efforts on behalf of peace and democracy on the Korean peninsula. With the rapid emergence of Kim Jong-il from what he admitted was a `hermit's' existence in North Korea, the prospects for a lasting peace on the peninsula are better today than at any time since the Korean War began more than 50 years ago. Time will tell. If fully implemented, the agreement reached in Pyongyang by President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il promises to reduce tensions in this former war zone and enhance economic, cultural, environmental, and humanitarian cooperation. There are encouraging signs that the summit meeting was not a fluke: Family reunification visits are proceeding, albeit at a pace that is slower than the families divided for 50 years desire or deserve. Ground will be broken soon to restore rail connections across the DMZ, restoring trade and communication links severed for 50 years. A follow-on meeting of the North and South Korean Defense Ministers in September led to an agreement to resume military contacts and to explore confidence building measures along the DMZ, including notification of exercises and creation of a North-South hot-line. Planning is proceeding smoothly for next year's North-South summit meeting in Seoul. There has also been progress in U.S.-North Korean relations. An historic meeting between President Clinton and senior North Korean military officer Cho Myong-nok occurred this month in Washington, setting the stage for next week's first ever visit to the North by an American Secretary of State. Mr. President, this flurry of diplomatic activity has been dismissed by some critics as all form, and no substance. They marvel at our willingness--and that of our South Korean ally--to provide food aid to a despotic regime that continues to spend precious resources on weapons and military training rather than tractors and agricultural production. No one condones the North Korean Government's callous disregard for the suffering of its own people. And obviously, much work remains to be done--especially in the security realm--to realize the hope generated by the summits. The North has not withdrawn any of its heavy artillery poised along the Demilitarized Zone. It has not halted provocative military exercises. It has not yet ended all of its support for terrorist organizations. And, although the North did reaffirm its moratorium on long-range missile testing this month in Washington, it has not stopped its development or export of long-range ballistic missile technology. North Korea's missile program continues to pose a serious threat not only to our allies South Korea and Japan, but also to other nations confronting the odious clients of North Korea's arms merchants. All of these issues must be addressed if we are to forge a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula. Our efforts to engage North Korea must ultimately be matched by reciprocal steps by the North. Engagement is not a one-way street. But the question is not whether North Korea is a desirable partner for peace. Kim Jong-il has all the appeal of Saddam Hussein. The question is how we manage the North Korean threat. I can't imagine how the situation would be improved if we did not offer North Korea a chance to choose peace over truculence. I can't imagine how the situation would be improved in any way if North Korean children were dying in droves from malnutrition and disease as they were prior to the launch of the U.S.-funded World Food Program relief efforts. Mr. President, we should not discount the importance of the recent diplomatic developments on the peninsula. How soon we forget that it was a process called glasnost--openness--combined with maintenance of a strong NATO alliance, which ultimately brought about the demise of the Soviet Union and the reunification of East and West Germany. Information about the outside world is hard to come by in North Korea, just as it was hard to get in the Soviet Union before detente opened the window and let the Soviet people catch the scent of the fresh air of freedom. Perhaps dialog with North Korea and greater openness there will bring about a similar result. If so, we will have Secretary Perry to thank for his role in getting that dialog jump-started after it had stalled amidst mutual suspicions and acrimony during the mid-1990s. Mr. President, in closing I would like to extend my profound thanks to Bill Perry for the way he carried out his responsibilities. He answered the call to public service two years ago, trading the comfort of northern California for the landmine-strewn terrain of Washington and North Korea. He has conducted himself with honor and a strong sense of duty. He will be missed. The stakes on the peninsula are high. Events there will not only shape the security environment of Northeast Asia, but also affect our decision whether to deploy a limited national missile defense, and if so, what kind of defense. From my perspective, it would be a great accomplishment if we could neutralize the North Korean missile threat through diplomacy rather than spend billions of dollars to construct a missile defense system which might do more harm to our national security than good. I wish Secretary Albright and her new Korea policy adviser Wendy Sherman well as they strive to build on the momentum generated over the past few months. It is a tough job, but it is incumbent on us to test North Korea's commitment to peace.
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