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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

State Department Noon Briefing, Friday, October 19

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000   12:50 P.M.
Q: Tell us what you can about North Korea, the talks that have been
held there this week, plus anything you can say about press
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's see. I don't know where to start. Let me
tell you as much as I can. We have a group of Americans that arrived
in Pyongyang on Tuesday in order to prepare for the Secretary's
planned trip to Pyongyang. They crossed the Demilitarized Zone from
South Korea into North Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom. We are
pleased with North Korea's cooperation in facilitating this travel.
Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard - that is the Principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs - is leading
our group. The American officials have previously crossed the
Demilitarized Zone to take part in discussions or negotiations with
North Korea, so it is not the first crossing.
But we are discussing with North Korea, as well as government
officials from Republic of Korea and UN Command, what we need to do to
support the Secretary's travel. And it is our understanding that
further crossings may take place as necessary.
As far as the Secretary's trip itself, she will depart very, very
early on Sunday morning, almost late Saturday night, from here for
Pyongyang. She will hold talks in Pyongyang on Monday and Tuesday, and
during her visit she will have a chance to talk with Chairman Kim Jong
The advance team, as we have said, has been working on the
arrangements, including the press arrangements for the trip. Please be
assured we are making every possible effort to get adequate
arrangements for the press to go in, for adequate numbers of you to be
able to go, for you to be able to do your work in Korea. We have said
this is a historic trip, and one that we think is very important to
the foreign relations of the United States. And you can be assured
that we want you there as much as you want to be there.
After the visit Monday and Tuesday in Pyongyang - we will stay
Tuesday night - and then Wednesday morning the Secretary will fly on
to Seoul. In Seoul, she will have discussions with senior South Korean
and Japanese officials. I don't have any details of that, but it is
important for us to have that trilateral consultation as we leave
North Korea, and we will do that in Seoul.
The visit gives us an opportunity, gives the Secretary an opportunity,
to talk with Chairman Kim Jong Il, to continue the discussions that we
held with Vice Marshall Jo and his delegation in Washington on the
broad agenda of regional and bilateral issues that have been the focus
of our dialogue. These issues are reflected in the joint communiqué
where we said we wanted to fundamentally improve the bilateral
relationship; we stated that neither government would have hostile
intent; and we wanted to move - undertake a new direction in our
relations. And that is the point of the Secretary's visit is to pursue
those opportunities further and see what can be accomplished in terms
of her own visit, but also in preparation for a possible visit by the
She noted during her visit she will be exploring the opportunities for
progress on the issues of greatest concern to us. She will be looking
to make some serious progress on the key issues in order to allow a
visit by the President to proceed.
The visit will also give the Secretary an opportunity to probe the
willingness of North Koreans to build on the openings that have been
achieved with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, and in the visit to
us by Vice Marshall Jo. As you all know, the progress and relations
with South Korea has been a very important part of what we see as the
overall progress of opening up and the prospect of reducing tensions
on the Korean Peninsula.
That is a long answer, but you asked sort of everything in your
question, so I tried to answer everything at once. But let's go back.
Q: Is this visit by the President a fait accompli? I mean, are
preparations being made, or are there certain things that need to
happen before such a visit would take place, and what are they?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't describe it as a fait accompli. We have said
it is a possible visit by the President, that the Secretary's visit is
in preparation of a possible visit by the President; and that, second
of all, that we look to keep making progress on the issues of concern
to us and want to make sure that any further steps are part of that
Q: Could you, first of all, be a little more specific about what kind
of progress you need on those issues for the President to go ahead
with his visit?
MR. BOUCHER:  No, I don't think I can at this point.
Q: Okay. The British and the Germans have announced today their
intention to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea. Do you
think the United States is going to follow suit in the near future?
MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at what we are doing, you can predict
it by looking at the Perry Report, and look at the fact that we talked
about a process that would lead to substantial improvement in our
bilateral relationship, but a process that proceeded step by step in
terms of steps that build mutual confidence and that move forward. So
I'm not going to predict the opening of bilateral relationships at any
particular point in time, but I will predict that that is part of the
substantive agenda as we proceed on those substantive steps.
Q: Could you tell us, in a little more detail than we've had so far,
what happened during Vice Marshall Jo's visit on the question of the
liaison offices? This was clearly discussed, but I don't - I think it
wasn't even mentioned in the joint communiqué, which I was reading
this morning. Why not?
MR. BOUCHER: Which I read the first half of this morning, so you're
ahead of me. I'll assume it's not in the back half, and you have read
it more thoroughly than I did.
Again, there area a number of things that will come into play as we
move forward step by step in our relationship. First and foremost,
what we are looking for out of this is steps on the key issues that we
have been concerned about - on missiles, on nuclear weapons, on
terrorism. And obviously there are a variety of other issues that we
have raised.
But these are key issues affecting the security of all of us,
including and especially the people who live on the Peninsula. So as
we make progress on the issues, we will build a better relationship
with the North. It is through that process that we get to bilateral
relationships and issues like that.
Q: The German and the British announcements were suspiciously timed.
What kind of a consultation or collusion, one might say, was there
between the United States and the British and the Germans about this?
Were they waiting for the Secretary to make her announcement before
they said that they were going to take these steps, or is this
something that is purely coincidental?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is purely coincidental as far as timing of
announcements, but obviously we know that a great many of other allies
and friends have been also engaged in this process with North Korea,
and we have consulted with a variety of nations. We consult most
closely, obviously, with the South Koreans and the Japanese, but we do
keep in touch with others as well on this whole overall process, which
we have welcomed, of North Korea opening up to the world. We think it
is good that others are taking steps as well.
Q: Did the Secretary talked to either Foreign Minister Fischer or
Foreign Secretary Cook yesterday before the announcement was made?
Q:  She did not?
Q:  On the same subject --
MR. BOUCHER:  Can we let some others ask questions, too?
Q:  (Inaudible.)
MR. BOUCHER: She talked with Cook - I can't remember - about a week
Q:  Did she discuss this with --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that she has discussed this. I think I can
say she did not discuss this specific announcement with Cook, that
this is not a coordinated announcement. Let's put it that way.
Q: Thank you. You said earlier "looking to make serious progress on
key issues," and then you said "steps on the key issues." So when we
gage in our minds whether you made progress, should we look for
serious progress or --
MR. BOUCHER: I would always encourage you to use the minimum standard
when judging us. (Laughter.) But I think they both amount to the same
thing, that these are major issues of importance to the United States.
We want to make sure that the process of visits contributes to further
progress on these issues, that we can see steps taken forward. So I
think the prospect of serious progress is what will keep moving us
forward in this relationship as we continue to take steps along the
way, if I can phrase it - put both in the same sentence.
Q: A couple of loose ends. Do you expect former Secretary Perry to
accompany Secretary Albright on this trip? That's the first one. And
the second one is, after the meeting --
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check, but I wouldn't automatically
expect it because his duties as the high-level envoy have been
transferred to Wendy Sherman, Ambassador Sherman.
Q: Secondly, you said she'll be going to Seoul for meetings there.
Will she be staying in Seoul on Wednesday, or returning Wednesday or
returning Thursday?
MR. BOUCHER: The prospect at this point is for a daytime visit to
Seoul and then departure sometime during the afternoon or evening once
the business there is done. So then we would arrive in the usual
shoddy condition back in the United States the next day - or the same
day. I can't remember the dateline.
Q:  Maybe the day before.
MR. BOUCHER: The day before, but feeling like it's three days later.
Q: I just want to go back to the British and Germans - you say you
want to see serious progress on these various issues before you
establish relations.
MR. BOUCHER:  No, I didn't say that.
Q:  Yes, you did.
MR. BOUCHER: But I said that part of the process is seeing progress,
and part of progress is establishing relations; this will all come in
a matter of course.
Q: Do you think it would be useful if, in fact, you had coordinated
with the British and Germans and did this in step with them, and keep
up the pressure on North Korea to make these serious steps - progress
on serious issues or whatever phrase you --
MR. BOUCHER: We obviously talk to a number of governments about the
issues that are of concern to us. We know that many, many governments
share those concerns, including our allies, including people in the
region, including people like the Russians. But I think we also, in
general, have expressed very strong support for this attitude, this
idea that North Korea is establishing relationships around the world,
that others are looking for what they can do with North Korea.
We think it is good that North Korea is establishing these
relationships. We think it is particularly good that North Korea has
established a relationship with the South through the summit and other
steps, and that we want to encourage that process to continue.
Q: Is there going to be any kind of a human rights component of this
trip, or is that something that is simply too early to deal with a
country that effectively doesn't even have a human rights record?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not at this point in a position to lay out the full
scope of the agenda during the trip, but I would remind you that
during the visit by Vice Marshall Jo, we discussed a full and complete
range of issues with them at one level or another.
Q: Early on in the process of trying to have an exchange of liaison
offices - this was about three or four years ago - it was being said
that the US was going to move into some sort of German facility in
Pyongyang. Do you know whether that is still true, and what kind of
facility is that, since they don't have diplomatic relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We will have to see if we have been back to
check out the curtains recently. But I would have to see. I will have
to check on that.
Q: If North Korea agrees, State Department is going to arrange to
charter the airplane for press?
MR. BOUCHER: I will deal with specific press arrangements, I think
after the briefing. I am not definitive enough that I want to do this
in the glare of cameras. If I had everything nailed down, I would. But
I can, after the briefing, give you some idea about how things might
work out.
Q: What you said - you're not planning any other trips or stops
besides Pyongyang and Seoul, is that the plan?
MR. BOUCHER:  At this point, that is all that is on the schedule.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)

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