Recent Developments in North Korea
Senator Thomas, the last time I appeared before you was to seek confirmation as
the U.S. Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Process. Subsequently, the
Secretary also appointed me the U.S. Representative to the Korean Peninsula
Energy Development Organization, more commonly known as KEDO.
I want to thank you again for your and the committee's support. And, I
reiterate to you my intention to consult regularly with you as we proceed with
It has been a busy month since I assumed my duties. As you know, I returned
from New York September 5, following two weeks of intensive negotiations with
the North Koreans.
Those negotiations resulted in commitments from the D.P.R.K. to take a number of
steps toward resolving key U.S. concerns about North Korea's suspect underground
construction; its August 31 launch of a new, longer-range missile; and its
implementation of the Agreed Framework.
Let me make clear that, in these as in past negotiations, the U.S. approach was
one of seriousness with respect to the security risks at stake, coupled with
deep skepticism. Let me be clear--we do not trust North Korean intentions. It
remains indisputable that North Korea represents a major threat to peace and
stability not only in northeast Asia, but also in other volatile areas in the
We have no illusions about our dealings with North Korea. There are no assured
outcomes. But, I must underscore the significance of the commitments we just
obtained in New York. They will facilitate our ability to deal squarely with
the issues of great and immediate concern--suspect underground construction and
the North Korean missile program. It will also lead to the quick conclusion of
the spent fuel canning--thus dealing with an otherwise serious proliferation
risk. The understanding we have reached also will lead to a resumption of Four
Party talks in the near future.
We made clear in New York that the North Koreans need to satisfy our concerns
about suspect construction in the D.P.R.K.. This is essential for the Agreed
Framework. Reaching an agreement to deal with our concerns in this area is a
top priority. Further talks on this issue, which we intend to continue in the
coming weeks, will get into the details of clarifying D.P.R.K. activities to our
satisfaction; clarification will have to include access to the site. We made it
quite plain to the North Koreans that verbal assurances will not suffice.
During our recent talks, in close consultation with our South Korean and
Japanese allies, we put the North's missile program and alleged nuclear
activities front and center, insisting that the D.P.R.K. address U.S. concerns
in these areas. As a result, North Korea has agreed to resume missile talks
October 1. During these upcoming negotiations, we will seek to curtail North
Korea's efforts to develop, deploy, and sell long-range missiles.
But, if there is anything more dangerous than a long-range missile, it is a
long-range missile with a nuclear warhead. That is why we sought and obtained
in New York a North Korean commitment to resume by mid-September, and to
complete quickly and without interruption, the canning of their remaining spent
nuclear fuel. This will put an end to their threat of recent months to
reprocess this spent fuel.
Finally, the North Koreans have agreed to convene a third round of Four Party
peace talks by October. It is understood by all, including the North Koreans,
that the participants must move on to practical business such as tension
We remain convinced that firm and steadfast use of available channels is the
best way to achieve the results we seek with respect to North Korea. This is
the basic approach we used in New York, and it is one that proved to be of value
during our negotiations of the Agreed Framework in Geneva.
While we are hopeful that the resumption of the various talks agreed to in New
York will result in concrete benefits, we also firmly believe that the Agreed
Framework must continue to be the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward the D.P.R.K.
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 have produced a sizeable arsenal
of weapons-grade plutonium by now. We have prevented that for close to 4 years,
and we are committed to ensuring that the D.P.R.K. nuclear program remains
frozen 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
frozen. To cite specifics: the nuclear facilities are under IAEA inspection;
Pyongyong has agreed, as a result of this past round of negotiations, to can its
remaining spent fuel; the D.P.R.K. is not reprocessing nuclear fuel. In other
words, the compliance record for the existing facilities is good, and a
dangerous program at Yongbyon is frozen and under inspection. 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 conclusion, what we seek in our present dealings with the D.P.R.K. 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. 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. With the proper support, we 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 world.
There is no question that much depends on North Korean intentions. But, with
the limited tools we have, I can assure you that we will press the North to take
substantive steps to comply fully with its obligations; we will push to resolve
questions about suspect underground construction; and we will persist in our
efforts to eliminate the destabilizing nature of the North's missile program,
including testing, deployment, and exports of missiles.
As we have explained on many occasions, however, this strategy will be best
served if we are honoring our own commitments undertaken in the Agreed
Framework, and, specifically, the provision of heavy fuel oil to the D.P.R.K.
Mr. Chairman, this Administration has worked closely with Congress as a partner
in our broader policy toward the North, and will continue to do so. Together,
along with our allies and friends, we can make a difference and do what we can
to ensure that Koreans in both the North and South can live on a peaceful and
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