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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

"United States Policy Toward North Korea"
September 24, 1998
Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I would like to extend
a special thanks to Chairman Gilman, with whom I have enjoyed a close
and valuable dialogue on the issues I plan to address today.
As you know, this Administration, working closely with our allies in
the region, the Republic of Korea and Japan, along with Congress, over
the past five years has hammered out a policy that seeks to address
the perplexing and difficult problems we face with North Korea --
including holding North Korean nuclear activities in check and
curtailing its destabilizing missile program.
We all recognize that North Korea remains a potential threat to peace
and stability in northeast Asia. Its proliferation activities
contribute to instability in other areas as well, particularly South
Asia and the Persian Gulf. Our policy toward North Korea, with the
Agreed Framework as its centerpiece, recognizes that the principal
problems of the Korean Peninsula must be solved by North and South
Korea, that it is in our interest to support them, and that we can
also engage the DPRK through dialogue on issues of key concern. This
is a policy that is not based on trust or confidence in the North
Korean regime. On the contrary, it reflects a sober judgment of how
best to contain the threat of North Korea's nuclear program and other
destabilizing activities such as missile development. Although it is a
difficult task, we are convinced that we can achieve our objectives
best by carefully engaging the North Korean regime, not by isolating
it. This is a view that is also shared by our allies in the region,
including the Republic of Korea.
Through engagement, in 1994 we concluded with the DPRK the Agreed
Framework to deal with the DPRK's nuclear program. The Agreed
Framework also provides a means to engage North Korea on other key
concerns such as terrorism, MIA remains, and missile activities. In
late 1997, we formally began the Four Party Peace Talks, a process
designed to bring North Korea to the table to discuss concrete tension
reduction steps and to replace the 1953 Armistice with a genuine peace
treaty. At this moment, however, results are mixed.
We have briefed concerned members and staff about North Korea's
suspect underground construction, its August 31 launch of a new,
longer-range missile, Pyongyang's implementation of the Agreed
Framework, and the results of our recent talks with the North Koreans.
Congress is aware of the dilemmas that confront us, both with regard
to relations with the DPRK and with regard to funding KEDO: How do we
change North Korean behavior without seeming to "reward" them for
their transgressions? I would like briefly to review our approach.
Working to resolve the nuclear problem with North Korea has never been
easy. After difficult negotiations, the U.S. and North Korea agreed in
1994 that, in exchange for the verified shut-down and eventual
dismantlement of North Korea's graphite-moderated reactors and related
reprocessing facilities, North Korea would be provided with two
proliferation-resistant, light-water reactors. We also agreed to
provide North Korea heavy fuel oil until completion of the first of
the two LWRs. Although we had sought to interest the North Koreans in
conventional power plants as a substitute for their graphite-moderated
reactors, they insisted on nuclear reactors.
When this Administration first approached Congress for HFO funding,
our expectation was that 30 million dollars per year would be enough,
and that the international community would make up any difference
between that amount and the total HFO cost. We are disappointed that,
despite our best efforts, and generous support particularly from the
EU and Australia, we have not been able to persuade enough others to
make substantial contributions. Money is now dangerously short, and we
must find a way for KEDO to deliver on our Agreed Framework
commitments. Otherwise -- putting aside technical legal arguments --
the United States and our allies would lose irretrievably our best
means of ending, however slowly and painfully, North Korea's program
to develop and proliferate weapons of mass destruction. We would
provide Pyongyang with a clear pretext for reneging on its Agreed
Framework commitments, and the resulting collapse of the Agreed
Framework would move us back to the crisis days of 1993-94 -- or
Despite our continued frustration and alarm over North Korean actions
-- which have varied in our view from aggressive and provocative to
puzzling and inconsistent -- we and our allies will always be dealing
with the North from a position of political, economic and military
superiority. As such, we remain convinced that firm and steadfast use
of KEDO and the other channels it has opened to us is the best way to
obtain the results we seek with respect to North Korea both in the
short and long term.
While we are hopeful that the resumption of dialogues with North Korea
on missiles, terrorism, the Four Party talks, and the suspect
underground construction will each result in concrete results, we
firmly believe that the Agreed Framework must continue to be the
centerpiece of U.S. policy toward the DRPK for some time to come.
Though not perfect, the Agreed Framework is still the only viable
alternative we have that has a chance to keep North Korea's nuclear
activities in check and keep the North engaged on other matters.
Without the Agreed Framework, North Korea would already have produced
a sizeable amount of weapons-grade plutonium. We have prevented that
for close to four years, and we are committed to ensuring that this
remains the case for the future. This is without doubt in the interest
of the U.S. and our friends and allies in and beyond the region.
We are clearly better off with the North Korean nuclear facilities at
Yongbyon shut down. To cite specifics: those nuclear facilities are
under IAEA monitoring; Pyongyang has agreed as a result of this past
round of negotiations to can its remaining spent fuel, and there is a
team on its way there now for that purpose; and the DPRK is not
reprocessing nuclear fuel. In other words, a dangerous program at
Yongbyon is frozen and under monitoring. We have made it crystal clear
to the North Koreans that we expect them to continue to live up to
these obligations under the Agreed Framework. In New York, I also made
it clear to them that our suspicions about their underground
construction must be resolved and that access will be essential to
doing so.
Mr. Chairman, what we also seek in our present dealings with the DPRK
is to avoid a return to the circumstances of 1993-94, when tensions
between North Korea, its neighbors, the United States and the
international community were dangerously high. To return to that state
now would be particularly debilitating as Asia seeks to recover from
its financial crisis. We will continue to look for ways to reduce
tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but we will also continue to be firm
and deliberate with the North. Together the Administration and the
Congress can go a long way toward eliminating North Korea's ability to
threaten its neighbors and to export that threat to other parts of the
There is no question that much depends on North Korean intentions and
behavior. I have no illusions about dealing with the North Koreans.
The outcome of any negotiations with such a regime, whether
demonstrably meager or potentially positive, must be viewed with
skepticism until implementation is confirmed. Progress can be achieved
only a step at a time.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, on a parallel but separate track, the U.S.
Government has responded generously in pledging food assistance to
meet an acute humanitarian need in North Korea. On September 21, the
U.S. Government committed to provide an additional 300,000 metric tons
of surplus U.S. wheat in response to the World Food Program's current
appeal for North Korea. Our policy has been, and continues to be, not
to link this assistance to our broader political concerns. By all
accounts, our assistance has had a significant positive effect on the
health and nutrition of those vulnerable groups it targets, especially
North Korean children. I have stressed to the DPRK that adequate
monitoring is a requirement for additional food assistance. While the
current monitoring arrangement is far from ideal, we are confident
that our assistance has reached those for whom it was intended and
that there have been no significant diversions. The monitoring
arrangements have been improving, and we will continue to press for
greater access.
With your support and that of your colleagues, we can make a
difference on the Korean Peninsula and can do our part to limit North
Korea's destabilizing behavior. We must do so with toughness and
integrity -- and with a clear vision of the consequences of failure.
We must keep North Korea in the Agreed Framework. To do that, we must
honor our own commitments undertaken in the Agreed Framework, and
specifically provide heavy fuel oil to the DPRK through KEDO as
promised. The Congress and the Administration must, despite the
frustrations we have encountered, do that together.
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