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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
U.S., North Korea Meet on Missiles; Japan, S. Korea Press on Defense
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LITTLE PROGRESS was reported in the third round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks, held in New York on October 1. As in the previous talks in April 1996 and June 1997, the Clinton administration tried to persuade North Korea to cease the development and export of ballistic missiles and technologies controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in exchange for a substantial loosening of U.S. economic sanctions.

Pyongyang, which has made clear its willingness to accept financial compensation for lost missile export revenues, has resisted the U.S. proposal, claiming that Washington is already obligated to loosen sanctions as part of the 1994 Agreed Framework. The text of that agreement, which froze Korea's nuclear weapons program, calls for the two sides to "move toward full normalization of political and economic relations." But U.S. officials insist that Pyongyang has to meet U.S. concerns on the missile and other issues before progress can be made on the political and economic fronts.

Additionally, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin warned North Korea following the October 1 talks that any future testing or export of long-range missiles, such as the three-stage Taepo Dong-1, which Pyongyang tested on August 31, would have "very negative consequences."

 

Japanese, South Korean Initiatives

North Korea's August 31 missile test has also bolstered initiatives in Japan and South Korea to augment their security with new weapons that are likely, in turn, to concern Russia and China. On September 20, the United States and Japan announced that the two nations would proceed with joint feasibility studies on theater missile defense. On October 23, Japanese Defense Minister Fukushiro Nukaga announced that the Japanese Defense Agency (JDA) will request roughly $8 million for Japan's 1999 fiscal year to fund joint research with the United States. The JDA reportedly plans to spend about $175 million to $250 million on the joint research program over the next five years. Tokyo has expressed interest in the U.S. Navy's Theater Wide Defense system, which would utilize Japan's fleet of Aegis-radar-equipped destroyers.

Additionally, the Kyodo News Service reported on October 23 that the government will propose development of a "'multipurpose' satellite system with reconnaissance capabilities within three years." Since Japan launched its first commercial satellite in 1970, Tokyo has abided by a Diet resolution mandating the exclusively peaceful use of space.

Jarred by North Korea's Taepo Dong-1 missile launch over Japan, however, some Japanese officials have concluded that a reconnaissance or early warning satellite for "defensive" purposes could be considered a peaceful use of space.

 

South Korea and the MTCR

Although the Taepo Dong-1 is unlikely to be used against South Korea—Pyongyang's 500-kilometer-range Scud C missiles can already hit any target in the South—defense officials in Seoul have used the "new" North Korean threat to justify their own missile and space-launch ambitions. In particular, South Korea has been campaigning to end its 1979 agreement with the United States, which prevents Seoul from acquiring ground-to-ground missiles with a range of more than 180 kilometers. (See ACT, August/September, 1998.)

Following U.S.-South Korean missile talks in August, the State Department is reportedly close to consenting to South Korea joining the MTCR and acquiring missiles capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload to a range of 300 kilometers—the regime's threshold for control.

According to Seoul's semiofficial Yonhap news agency, South Korea has accepted the MTCR limits for military systems. Seoul, however, is pushing for the right to build commercial space launch systems without any range or payload limits, which the 1979 agreement with the United States does not permit. The Korea Herald reported that Washington is insisting that Seoul accept U.S. monitoring to ensure that commercial space technology is not misused. In an effort to clarify, a State Department official said on October 27 that U.S. policy on MTCR membership does not preclude states wishing to join the regime from keeping their ground-to-ground missile programs as long as the retained systems fall within the regime's threshold for control.