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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
North Korea

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's Visit to North Korea

ACA Press Briefing, October 20, 2000

One week after Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, the second most senior official in North Korea, concluded an unprecedented visit to Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to Pyongyang as the highest-level U.S. official ever to visit North Korea. On October 20, two days before Albright departed, the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the purpose of the secretary's trip, the potential for progress on nuclear and missile issues, and the possibility of a future visit by President Bill Clinton. (For news coverage of Jo's visit and Albright's subsequent trip, see news story)

Conference panelists were Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., president and executive director of the Arms Control Association; Alan Romberg, a former State Department official, now a senior fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center; David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and editor of Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle; Joel Wit, former State Department coordinator for the 1994 Agreed Framework, now a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution; and Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The following is an edited version of their remarks and the question-and-answer session that followed.

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

Welcome to today's press briefing, sponsored by the Arms Control Association, on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. This meeting, which has largely been ignored by U.S. media, operating under the shadow of the presidential campaign, signals a potential major breakthrough in U.S.-North Korean stormy relations.

Ten days ago, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, second in command to Chairman Kim, had a meeting with President Clinton that ended in a communiqué, which struck a very optimistic note and emphasized efforts to assure a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and to solve the ballistic missile problem. The communiqué concluded with a statement that the secretary of state would be visiting North Korea shortly to meet with Chairman Kim to directly relay the president's views on how to proceed with the North Korean issue. It went on to say that she would also make preparations for a possible presidential visit to North Korea in the near future.

This was indeed a major and largely unexpected development. When they said the secretary would visit "in the near future," I did not anticipate it would be within 10 days, and I think that even though the president's visit was described as a "possible visit," the tone suggests that the visit will probably take place, which is indeed remarkable. When you consider that the two countries have been facing each other for the last 47 years across the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] as serious adversaries since the end of the Korean War, without a peace agreement, the decision of the president to make a visit is indeed a major development.

The last 10 years of the relationship have been quite stormy, with the focus of attention at the end of the Cold War on the problem of North Korea's apparent intention to develop a relatively substantial nuclear weapons capability. While I think, all things considered, that substantial progress has been made in containing this threat, the problem is far from resolved. In more recent years, the major issue has been the North Korean ballistic missile program—both its development and its export of ballistic missiles and technology to other countries that have all been classified as "rogues," and now "of concern."

Last year, in his review of U.S.-North Korean policy, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry came up with a proposed plan of action for future relations. In it, he emphasized the centrality of resolving the problem of North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, which he believed had to be essentially eliminated. I think the Perry plan of action has played a central role in the discussions that are ongoing with North Korea and will be pursued at the highest level in the immediate future.

The success of this current effort, which of course cannot be guaranteed, will prove to be extremely important. It not only would be a major step toward achieving stability and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia in general, it would also be a tremendous accomplishment in strengthening the nuclear and ballistic missile non-proliferation regimes. And finally, it would be a major contribution in eliminating the rationale for a U.S. national missile defense. In the version that the Clinton administration is pursuing, national missile defense would be a $60 billion investment, and the version that appears to be advocated by George W. Bush would cost a couple hundred billion dollars. But I think the even greater cost would be the negative impact this would have on our relations with Russia, China, and other countries. So resolution of these problems with North Korea could largely eliminate the need or rationale for a national missile defense.

Finally, I would add that when the Arms Control Association asked presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush a dozen questions on arms control this summer, they differed on many things, but while expressing appropriate caution, both indicated support and encouragement for improvement in U.S.-North Korean relations. Those of you who are interested in what they said about this question and the other 11 questions can pick up copies of the September issue of Arms Control Today, which features the candidates' responses.

Alan Romberg

I want to talk a little bit about the context of Secretary Albright's visit—about why it is happening, why it is happening now, and what we can expect to get out of it.

Taken simplistically perhaps, one might say that the North Koreans are doing this because they took a lesson from the Clinton campaign book of 1992—that is, it's the economy, stupid.

Obviously, the North Koreans have received a lot of emergency food aid and other assistance, and their domestic economic situation is reportedly somewhat better than it was. But it's painfully obvious that they need deeper economic relations and trade and investment if they're going to move ahead. I think it would be a mistake to assume that North Korea's recent diplomatic initiatives, which are quite striking, somehow reflect a decision to reform the domestic economic system, much less the political system. Nonetheless, if North Korea really is to gain the benefits of involvement with the outside world—that is, trade and investment—it will have to create a more conducive regulatory and legal environment and make it attractive for foreign firms to come and participate in the North.

Now, some would dismiss the recent diplomatic moves as therefore meaningless, maintaining that if you're not going to change the society, you're not really doing anything that's worthwhile. I join Spurgeon in saying I don't agree with that. Not everything has been nailed down yet—indeed, I think the purpose of the secretary's trip is to do that as much as possible—but I don't think the North can have any illusions about its need to alter its positions on some key defense and foreign policy issues if it is going to maintain a high level of engagement with the United States or others. I note that when the Germans recently indicated that they are considering establishing relations with Pyongyang, they identified North Korea's defense posture as one of the benchmarks that they would be looking at when deciding whether, in fact, to normalize relations.

While the United States would obviously welcome a transformation of North Korean society to an open, humane, democratic, free-market society, deciding to act only if that were possible would be both unrealistic and, in a very real sense, self-defeating. We would forego opportunities to achieve things that are important, particularly from a national security point of view. What we care about right now is the North's external behavior, the threat that it presents to peace and stability.

It is not realistic to expect a rapid pullback of North Korean forces from their forward-deployed positions near the DMZ, nor is it realistic to expect rapid changes in deployments of U.S. and R.O.K. forces. But there may be some realistic steps that could address our concerns—and those of South Korea and Japan—on other programs, such as North Korea's longer-range missile program. We'll have to see, but it seems to me that if the North can feel satisfied that it has received some assurances, as Vice Marshal Jo put it during his visit, regarding the D.P.R.K.'s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, then there may be a willingness within North Korea to accept and move ahead on some of the changes that we're looking for.

A key factor in all of this has been the policy of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and the success he has achieved to date, most spectacularly, of course, the North-South summit in June in Pyongyang. President Kim has given active encouragement to the United States and others to move ahead with the North because he understands and accepts that such progress is in the South's fundamental interests. Frankly, if it were not for that policy and, I would argue, for the achievements of that policy so far, we would not be in a position to take the kind of initiatives we're talking about today.

As those of you who follow Korean events well know, there's a certain amount of nervousness in South Korea about whether the North will once again seek to bypass the South in dealing with the United States. I understand that concern, and based on history, one can't simply dismiss it. We're going to need to make clear to the North that that isn't going to work. We took some tentative steps in our relations with North Korea as long ago as 1988, but they didn't go very far, in part because the North limited its engagement with the South.

Even though we did take the lead for a time, particularly on the nuclear issue in the early 1990s, progress on the larger agenda that was identified in the Agreed Framework of October 1994 has been slow, in part because of the lack of balance regarding progress on the North-South front. Among other things, support in this country for movement with North Korea is related to how South Korea views it. If South Korea is reluctant and unhappy and feels that it is threatened, the support in this country wanes. If South Korea, as it is currently doing, encourages us in that respect, it certainly contributes to support here. Without encouragement, it would be extremely difficult for us to maintain progress on the larger agenda with Pyongyang.

A related lesson of the last year is the critical nature of the close cooperation and consultation we've had trilaterally among the United States, the R.O.K., and Japan. I think this model has shown its value as an essential element under the so-called Perry process. I'm quite confident it will continue, and without it, in fact, I would argue we would lack the necessary cohesion to move ahead. Keep in mind also—if I'm right that economics are an important part of the motivation for North Korea's new posture—that Pyongyang needs to remain engaged with the South and perhaps with Japan as well because, as Willie Sutton would say, that's where the money is.

Now, is all of this reversible? In one sense, sure it's reversible. Kim Jong-Il could wake up tomorrow morning and issue an order to stop or reverse the process. But in a very real sense, I would argue, Kim Jong-Il personally and his regime generally are increasingly invested in this new involvement in the world. Having welcomed Kim Dae Jung in a very public manner to Pyongyang and now having Secretary Albright, probably President Clinton, and doubtless other leaders as well come to North Korea, it becomes increasingly costly for him to say, "Well, this was all a mistake, and we're going to go back to the old ways."

That doesn't mean that this is a "gimme," that it's just an easy thing that we can assume will happen. There are doubtless those in the North Korean system who are very skeptical of all of this. But I would argue the dynamics are working in favor of a continuation. Again, it isn't going to lead, in the short term at least, to a change in the system—in fact, one might argue that the whole idea of this is to preserve the system—and what happens over the longer term is a matter of speculation and highly debated.

Finally, I'd like to make a couple of points about the "why now." As you're all aware, the United States had been looking to a high-level visit from North Korea for some time. It had been on hold because the North had not chosen to follow through, but now it has in a very dramatic way, by sending a man of the rank of Vice Marshal Jo—the second- or third-, depending on your estimate, most powerful leader in North Korea. Some people have suggested that the United States should play a little harder to get, that we shouldn't just run back with a return visit by the secretary and by the president. They argue that we should demand more on domestic development and change in North Korea as a price for such visits, or that we should make sure before the secretary even goes that there are agreements to do this, that, or the other thing.

Frankly, I think that letting the momentum die, as that would do, would be a mistake, and I don't see a lot of risk to what we're about to undertake. Making it not a risk, however, involves an essential point, which is that it should be clear to everybody that the U.S. commitment to the R.O.K., as well as to Japan, is firm and unchanging. But within that context, and given the strong backing of President Kim Dae Jung, I think these next steps are logical and sensible.

David Albright

Trying to ensure that North Korea is free of nuclear weapons has been a long and difficult road, and the end of the road, I must say, is not yet in sight. Uncertainty about what North Korea has achieved with regard to nuclear weapons and their delivery systems has plagued this journey. One sobering lesson is that peace on the Korean Peninsula can't be achieved without verified assurance that North Korea is free of nuclear weapons.

I would like to quickly review some of the history of the nuclear issues. In the late 1980s, North Korea had already signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], and people were somewhat confident that North Korea was not pursuing nuclear weapons. However, in 1987, evidence emerged that North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons when satellite surveillance of North Korea's nuclear site at Yongbyon indicated that the North Koreans were building a facility to separate plutonium. However, as is the case with many satellite images, there was a great deal of controversy about what was actually going on, and there was no consensus about what North Korea had planned. There was therefore a great deal of relief when the North Koreans agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] come in and inspect their facilities in 1992. The NPT requires states-parties to submit to IAEA inspections, but North Korea had stalled for years on allowing this to happen.

However, the first visit by Hans Blix, then the director-general of the IAEA, in May 1992 was quite reassuring. North Korea was open. The inspectors asked to go to places that they had not been invited to, and North Korea let them in. The North Koreans admitted that they had built a large reprocessing facility, and they also admitted that they had separated some plutonium. And they allowed their nuclear facilities to be placed under inspections.

But as the inspection effort proceeded through the summer and fall and as the IAEA deployed more sophisticated inspection methods than it had ever deployed in such a state, discrepancies began to appear about what North Korea had said. Unfortunately, the evidence was not sufficient to resolve the questions the IAEA had—namely how much plutonium North Korea had actually produced and separated—but the IAEA did conclude that North Korea had certainly produced more than it had declared. To this day, we do not know how much more. The CIA, for example, has consistently argued that North Korea has enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons. Many others have argued that it is not enough for a single nuclear weapon, but the bottom line remains that there's not enough evidence to decide definitely either way.

This confrontation between the IAEA and North Korea reached a climax in February 1993 when the agency called for special inspections to help clear up the inconsistencies in North Korea's statements and official declarations. But North Korea adamantly refused to allow these inspections to take place. From that point on, the situation only hardened. The crisis escalated dramatically in the spring of 1994 when North Korea started to unload its small gas-graphite reactor. The spent fuel that the North Koreans were unloading contained enough plutonium for five or six nuclear weapons, and they refused to allow the IAEA to inspect that unloading. During this period, many people felt that we were stampeding to war—that negotiations were not working (in fact they had ended after North Korea moved to unload the reactor) and that there was no way to resolve this crisis.

I think it was the growing realization of the cost of a war that led people to re-evaluate. There had to be a shift in mindset from a focus on the past production of plutonium and its potential use in nuclear weapons to how many nuclear weapons North Korea could make in the future. And so what developed was a view that it was more important to prevent North Korea from making five or six nuclear weapons than to try to understand whether it had made one or two earlier.

In this process, former President Carter's visit in June 1994 to North Korea was extremely important because, in a sense, it burst the balloon of those marching toward war. After his visit, negotiations resumed, and within a few months, the United States and North Korea negotiated the Agreed Framework, which froze plutonium production and therefore prevented more nuclear weapons from being built. In exchange, North Korea would receive two light-water reactors.

Again, I want to emphasize that North Korea had a large nuclear weapons program. It was building two additional gas-graphite reactors that were well suited to make weapons-grade plutonium in large quantities. Had the North Koreans continued, by now they could have had enough plutonium separated for 60 to 80 nuclear weapons. And if all three of North Korea's reactors had been dedicated to making weapons-grade plutonium, then North Korea would have been able to produce about 40 to 50 nuclear weapons per year. Even if only the two smaller reactors were dedicated to making weapons-grade plutonium, North Korea still would have been able to make about 10 nuclear weapons per year.

Trying to prevent this from happening was the right policy. However, it doesn't mean we can turn our back on what happened in the past. A single nuclear weapon could cause tremendous havoc to Seoul or to any of our diplomatic efforts to try to resolve the situation or achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. So it was right that the Agreed Framework required North Korea to come clean in the future and permit the IAEA to verify that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons or unsafeguarded plutonium. Of all the tasks in the Agreed Framework, however, this is the one that, from our point of view, has the least certainty of success.

So far, North Korea has not cooperated sufficiently with the International Atomic Energy Agency—for example, on the key question of preserving essential information. The IAEA will have a very hard job in the future. Not only will it have to establish what happened in the past in terms of plutonium production, but because of the requirements of the NPT, it also is going to have to ensure that North Korea is free of undeclared nuclear activities. And as you all know, there have been many reports of undeclared enrichment activities and undeclared reprocessing activities at places other than Yongbyon. Those reports will have to be investigated, and the IAEA will have to establish sufficient confidence that there are no undeclared activities in North Korea.

If this effort is to succeed, North Korea must concretely demonstrate its commitment to transparency—the sooner the better. It's often very time-consuming to do these kinds of inspections, particularly in a country with a large nuclear program. In South Africa, it took about two years to go through this exercise, and South Africa was fully cooperating. It produced people in the bomb program to talk to the inspectors and showed them its main nuclear weapons facilities. Plus, whenever inspectors asked to see other facilities that they had learned about through intelligence information given to them by member states, the South Africans took them there immediately.

So far, the United States and South Korea have been reluctant to encumber their direct negotiations with North Korea by raising verification issues. I think continued delay is risky. These issues need to be put on the agenda as soon as possible. And again, I believe that the most important thing is for North Korea to take concrete steps to show it intends to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Joel Wit

I'd like to first give a quick overview of the situation and then discuss the nuclear component and my personal experiences with that working at the State Department over the past seven years.

A few months ago, all the experts were saying that there was not going to be any more progress in U.S.-North Korean relations. Everyone thought it was over for this administration, and now, all of a sudden, we have this sudden spurt of progress. So the issue is, what happened in the past few months?

The sudden spurt is not the result of any changes in U.S. policy. It's a result of changes in North Korean policy. It is very clear that North Korea has made a conscious decision to move forward now, even though it is the end of the Clinton administration. There were signs during the summer that this might happen. For example, Kim Jong-Il gave an interview with a Korean-American journalist and said he was going to send a high-level emissary to the United States if the United States stopped treating North Korea like an abnormal country. And that's what happened. Vice Marshal Jo's visit was, I think, a surprise to most people in the U.S. government. The administration itself has been leaning forward, and as I said, it's positioned to take advantage of a possible opening, but it really hasn't been the initiator of the events of the past few months. It continues to lean forward now by holding out the prospect of a visit by President Clinton. I say "holding out" because I don't think that's a done deal yet.

The theory behind all of this, on both sides, is that establishing the proper political foundation in the relationship between the United States and North Korea will make it a lot easier to move forward on some of the tougher issues confronting the two countries, such as security issues. This is a very typical way for the North Koreans to operate: they first establish this kind of broad construct, in this case a better political relationship, which then makes it a lot easier in theory to move forward on some of the tougher security issues.

I think Secretary Albright's visit is an attempt to test this approach. There's already been some substantive progress on issues such as removing North Korea from the terrorism list. There may be some progress on establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. It is unclear, at least to me, what's going on concerning security issues, and I would go so far as to say that the administration isn't yet in a position to move forward rapidly on security issues even if the North Koreans said they wanted to do so tomorrow. The administration would, of course, turn around and try to move forward quickly, but these are very complicated issues. For example, on the missile issue, even if Kim Jong-Il said tomorrow, "Yes, my offer to President Putin was serious, I do want to stop long-range missile tests if you can get me foreign space-launch rights," the administration would have to put together a multilateral effort, and I am not sure that's been done yet. On conventional forces also, the United States is just starting to study what the future of its conventional force posture on the peninsula should be. Any conventional arms control progress would have to be built around the results of that kind of study, which has not been completed yet.

The last overview point I would like to make is with regard to the Clinton visit, which I don't think is a done deal yet. The Clinton administration is trying to use the possibility of the visit as leverage over the North Koreans because the North Koreans really do want the visit to happen. So part of what Secretary Albright will be doing during her visit is to see how far she can push the envelope in terms of making some substantive progress, and based on the results of her visit, I think the administration will make a final decision about whether President Clinton should go.

Let me say a few words on the nuclear component of this equation. I've had a lot of experience dealing with this, but I don't want to get into a lot of detail about the Agreed Framework or problems with implementation of the Agreed Framework because I think most people are pretty familiar with that. The main point is that implementation is behind schedule. The reactor project is, I think, about five years behind schedule, and it is the central part of the Agreed Framework. The tradeoff was the North Koreans get reactors and we get an end to their nuclear program. Their nuclear program is frozen now, but it hasn't been dismantled. That's important, and the IAEA examination of North Korea is probably the only way we have of learning what North Korea did in the past.

But I would like to make a comment here about the North's nuclear weapons program based on my experience. There are a number of scenarios out there about what North Korea may be doing in terms of its nuclear weapons program. One scenario, which we saw play out in 1999 with the whole experience of the suspect nuclear site at Kumchang-ni, was that there are people in the U.S. government and in other places who think that North Korea is churning out nuclear weapons in some mountain somewhere. That's what Kumchang-ni was all about. People thought there was a reactor and a reprocessing plant buried in a hill in northwest North Korea. Well, it turns out there was nothing there. I went there, I saw it. There was nothing there. Our best experts looked at it, and we were wrong. So although we don't know for sure, this scenario is probably the least likely.

In my mind, the most likely scenario is that North Korea is probably continuing to do research and development on nuclear weapons-related issues. It may have enough material for a few weapons. David has already talked a little about that, and there are uncertainties in U.S. estimates on how much material it may have. But, if you are a prudent decision-maker in the U.S. government, you have to assume that North Korea has enough for one or two nuclear weapons. In my mind, it is still unclear whether it can actually build a nuclear weapon or not. I don't know whether it has a design, and I would venture to say there's probably no one who knows whether it does, except maybe a few people in North Korea. So I think we have to keep it in that perspective. Getting the IAEA examination is very important, but if I had to rank the security issues I am most concerned about, I would actually put conventional weapons in front of nuclear weapons, and I think missiles would be at the top of the list.

One last point I'd like to make concerns a debate that periodically crops up, and I think it has started to crop up again—that is, whether it makes any sense for the Agreed Framework to provide North Korea with nuclear reactors. There are a lot of arguments on both sides of this issue that have been going on for a while, but I think what makes it more interesting recently is that the changes in U.S.-North Korean relations and in the relationship between South Korea and North Korea are bringing out these arguments again. People are saying that building conventional power plants makes more economic sense because the D.P.R.K. needs energy and the improving political relationship makes it possible to renegotiate the Agreed Framework.

So, all of these things have led to some discussion inside the governments involved, and certainly outside of the governments, about what we can do—should we change this or shouldn't we change this? But there are some important points here, and I think they have to do more with the practical issues involved. Granted, all of the arguments the advocates of changing the Agreed Framework are making may make sense, but the fact is that there are already millions of dollars of costs sunk into the reactor project. Also, it takes a long time to build the plants that might be substituted for the nuclear reactors, so you wouldn't save much time. The fact is that doing business with North Korea is very difficult. Even when the North Koreans are cooperating, it is very difficult. So if tomorrow I said, "Hey let's get rid of these nuclear reactors, we are going to build you 10 thermal power plants around your country," drawing up the plans for the project and drawing up the contracts would take time. The best calculation, according to some South Koreans I know, is that you might shave a year off building nuclear reactors. So it is very unclear whether it's worth making this major switch or not.

Just one last point: if you get past all the noise and the arguments about all the technical details, about whether the Agreed Framework was the right thing to do, and about whether the Clinton administration is doing the right thing, the bottom line is that we are much better off today with that agreement than we would have been without it. That really needs to be emphasized: if there had not been an agreement, North Korea would have a large nuclear weapons stockpile with an active ballistic missile program, including maybe some long-range missiles. And on top of that, there have been concerns about the stability of North Korea, so you would have had a nightmare in Northeast Asia. Today, we don't have that nightmare. We have the prospect of ending the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula, we have this rapprochement between the North and the South, and we have the prospect of better North Korean relations with the United States and maybe even Japan. So, the bottom line is that we are better off in Northeast Asia today with the Agreed Framework than we would have been without it.

Joseph Cirincione

I think that it is extremely important at this point to emphasize how far we have come and how critical the 1994 Agreed Framework was in bringing us to this point. I am proud to be up here with the other members of the panel and proud to be joining them in support of that agreement despite the withering criticism that Congress has leveled against the Agreed Framework over the past six years. The Agreed Framework has stood the test of time and has proven to be the correct path.

Let me just say a few words about missiles. I believe that Secretary Albright's visit to North Korea may be the most historic and important trip of her tenure. If the Clinton administration can resolve the North Korean missile program, it will largely, though not completely, solve the missile proliferation problem globally. The end of North Korean testing and export of missiles will dry up the major well feeding several key national missile programs and eliminate the major justification for a national missile defense system here in the United States. North Korea has exported Scud missiles to such "states of concern" as Iran and Syria, and also to Egypt, Pakistan, and possibly Libya.

Let us look at why this visit could be so important and why the North Korean missile program is so central to the global proliferation problem. There are 33 nations in the world, outside of the five nuclear-weapon states, that possess ballistic missiles. However, 27 of those 33 nations have only short-range ballistic missiles, missiles that fly less than 1,000 kilometers. That leaves six nations that we are concerned about with medium- or longer-range ballistic missiles that could potentially threaten U.S. allies, troops, or the United States itself. Those six nations are Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia—which are not considered threats to the United States—Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. Those last three are all tied together. Pakistan's Ghauri missile, a medium-range missile over 1,000 kilometers—various versions are estimated to have gone from 1,300 to over 2,000 kilometers—is a Nodong missile, a North Korean missile shipped to Pakistan. Iran has tested a medium-range missile three times that it calls the Shahab-3. The missile has succeeded in one of those flight tests. It has an estimated range of 1,300 kilometers. That too is a Nodong missile.

If North Korea can be convinced to stop its exports, not only does the North Korean program end, but also the Iranian program significantly slows down. It does not end because Iran has two other sources of assistance—Russia and China. If Russia and China can be convinced to end all of their assistance to Iran, that essentially will strangle the Iranian missile program. This is not an indigenous program. Iran cannot build missiles by itself.

So follow the chain here: if you eliminate the North Korean missile program, you eliminate the immediate justification for a rush to deploy a national missile defense system. We have heard administration officials say that they have to deploy the system by 2005 because the National Intelligence Estimate said that North Korea possibly could have a missile that could reach the United States by 2005. If you eliminate the North Korean program, then you eliminate that timeline, and you eliminate the rush.

If you also eliminate the North Korean exports, you eliminate the second justification for a national missile defense program. The National Intelligence Estimate is that Iran might be able to have a long-range ballistic missile that could hit the United States by 2010. If we also eliminated Russian and Chinese assistance, along with North Korean assistance, that would certainly curtail, if not completely eliminate, the Iranian program. What that would mean globally for the United States is that the pressure would be off on the development of a national missile defense system. Theater missile programs could proceed. But without a national missile defense system as an irritant in the U.S.-Russian relationship or the U.S.-Chinese relationship, those relationships could enjoy continued progress. We could also improve our relationship with the U.S. allies disturbed by the U.S. national missile defense effort. So this small, impoverished country actually plays a key role in U.S. global relations, primarily because of its missile program.

We do not know if Secretary Albright is expecting to make any kind of progress on the missile program. We do not know if President Clinton's visit is contingent on a deal on the missile program. But these visits can certainly help resolve some of the most thorny issues the United States has confronted over the past few years.

Questions and Answers

 

Question:

Could you explain a little more about why people are second-guessing the decision to make light-water reactors available to the North Koreans?

 

Albright:

There are a couple of reasons people raise questions about the light-water reactors. One is just a practical issue: can North Korea, a backward society, build and operate modern nuclear reactors safely? We do not want a Chernobyl in North Korea, and there is a lot of work that has to be done to create a proper safety, environmental, and regulatory environment in North Korea. That is a formidable challenge and, I think, a real obstacle.

Some members of Congress have also raised concerns that these light-water reactors are going to be a new bomb factory, and they have even charged that somehow they would make more plutonium than the reactors being replaced. I do not want to go into detail, but the arguments are pretty weak. The main point is that we are worried about North Korea's ability to separate plutonium. You cannot make a nuclear weapon when the plutonium is locked in the spent fuel. So if you focus on that issue, then it is going to be very difficult for North Korea to reprocess the fuel from the light-water reactors.

The other reason I think this is coming up is that North Korea has periodically threatened to undo the Agreed Framework unless progress on the light-water reactors happens quicker. It is a natural response given that this project can only move so fast, but let us think of alternatives. Thermal conventional plants are what most people consider a reasonable alternative. I think this needs to be looked at, but it might not save any time. There are always reasons to look again at this issue, but for me the principal reason would be that North Korea has not demonstrated that it can operate a reactor safely. And that is going to be a very tough problem to solve.

 

Keeny:

I would just add that from North Korea's perspective you can argue that a number of smaller conventional fossil fuel plants, which I believe could be brought on-line quicker, are advantageous. First, when a small country has a 1,000-megawatt electric power plant and it goes down for technical reasons or refueling, it is a shock to the country's entire system. In addition, there is a question as to whether North Korea really has the distribution system to handle the output of one very large plant. And the answer is that it doesn't. That is another major financial problem that is going to have to be faced by the world or North Korea if the electricity from this plant is to be used. Smaller conventional plants can be more easily integrated.

 

Question:

What must Secretary Albright do or the North Koreans say to warrant the president going to North Korea, and, beyond symbolism, what would the significance of a Clinton trip be?

 

Wit:

That is a tough question. I do not know how high or how low the administration is going to set the barrier. I have trouble seeing a lot of progress coming out of the Albright visit on security issues. There may be some kind of broad agreement that we need to redouble our efforts dealing with the missile issue, or the two sides might agree, and I am just speculating here of course, that Chairman Kim's idea about stopping a long-range missile test in return for foreign space-launch rights is a good idea. I think the discussion on those issues is going to be more general than specific. There may be more specificity on the other issues that are kind of being discussed: removing North Korea from the terrorism list, normalizing relations, setting up liaison offices. But those issues are a lot easier, I think, to deal with than some of these tough security issues. And the problem is that those issues are not seen by most Americans or Westerners as issues we really want progress on.

In terms of the Clinton visit, I have had some discussion in the past few days with colleagues and others, and they are asking, "Why is President Clinton going to go to North Korea? There is no reason for this. It is really hasty and premature." My reaction is that I do not see a downside to him going to North Korea. There is a lot of hand-wringing going on about it, but my personal experience has been that sometimes these kinds of visits really do get real results. The prime example is former President Carter's visit to North Korea in 1994. At that time, there were lots of people saying, "Why is President Carter going to North Korea? What is the purpose? There is no reason for him to do this." And yet something useful did come out of it. So I do not really see much of a downside on the Clinton visit, and there is a potential for an upside. Even if the upside is not obvious right away, even if Clinton does not come home with an agreement ending their missile program, we have to wait and see what happens because, once again, the improving political relationship may establish the foundation for progress over time on these other security issues.

 

Keeny:

In response to the question of positive results coming from high-level visits, I would like to underscore the significance of former President Carter's visit to North Korea in 1994. It is hard to imagine today, but the situation was so tense at that time that otherwise sensible people were seriously, publicly proposing that we should consider a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea. I think, after President Carter's visit, the whole situation changed, and we launched into the long negotiations leading to the Agreed Framework.

 

Question:

Clearly, if North Korea curtailed its missile program in exchange for space-launch assistance, it wouldn't use U.S. launchers; it would probably use Russian launchers. So what is the role of the U.S. government in making that deal happen? And secondly, what is the concern that the North Koreans would get a lot of data on their payload—this is what the payload needs to look like, this is the vibration it needs to withstand, this is the environment it has to be able to live in—that could be used in missile design?

 

Keeny:

First of all, it was an interesting proposal, and it was initially treated as a joke in the U.S. press. However, it was apparently a serious proposal, and the U.S. government has stated it is looking into it. If you could get North Korea to agree to discontinue permanently its development program of longer-range missiles or all military ballistic missiles, agreeing to launch any space payloads North Korea will have for peaceful purposes would be a very small price to pay. I can't imagine that North Korea is going to have a great many payloads or that, in the absence of a ballistic missile program, it is going to get any technical details on accelerations and vibrations that would be of any great importance to them.

 

Cirincione:

I agree with what Spurgeon just said, but let us just go through it quickly. First, the possible space-launch countries would be Russia, China, or the European Union states. So there are a number of possibilities. Second, as Spurgeon mentioned, it is unlikely that North Korea would have many payloads. What are we talking about here? The satellite it attempted to launch on the Taepo Dong in August 1998 was a Sputnik, just a simple radio transmitter. And that failed. Third, there would be a data concern. You would be concerned about North Korea gathering some information on stress factors, vibration, acceleration, et cetera that could aid it in designing not launch vehicles, but warheads. And that is the data that you would be collecting. That would have to be negotiated out. There clearly would have to be some restrictions on the data that was transmitted to the North Koreans in exchange for launching their payloads. That is not an unsolvable problem though. Presumably, what they are most interested in is getting the payload up there, not in also buying all the data associated or all the technical specifications associated with the launch itself.

 

Question:

So is the U.S. government's role really to help on the financing issue?

 

Cirincione:

The U.S. government would be a facilitator, much as it was in the Agreed Framework. The U.S. government is not paying much for the Agreed Framework. Japan, South Korea, and the European Union are paying for the Agreed Framework with only a small percentage being paid for by the United States. The United States was the facilitator. It was the great power making the deal, and that would be the case here.

 

Wit:

What Joe said is exactly right about the U.S. role. It would be like what we did with the reactor project for the Agreed Framework—that is, negotiating the parameters of the deal with the North Koreans and then setting up whatever multilateral arrangement is necessary to provide the North Koreans with what they need. Another possibility is that the North Koreans are also interested in some scientific cooperation, maybe in terms of some space sciences, that would not directly have to do with building satellites or launching satellites but other things related to that.

The final point on what the North Koreans are really interested in is that I think what we have seen is basically the opening trial balloon in what may be a negotiating strategy that will unfold over the next year or two. I am not sure that the North Koreans really know the parameters of the deal they are trying to get, but I would be very skeptical that they would be willing to do anything beyond ending long-range missile tests in return for foreign space-launch rights, which means there are a number of other missile issues wrapped up in this that will need to be dealt with.

I am assuming that if we want solutions on things like missile exports or maybe even some of the deployments of shorter-range missiles like the Nodong that threaten Japan, we are going to need to have a bigger package than just foreign space-launch assistance. The Japanese angle here is critical because I think everyone assumes that Japan has financial resources that it may be willing to commit to this whole effort. But it is not going to do that unless the issues that concern it the most are addressed. And the issue that concerns it the most is not the missiles that can strike the United States or the missiles that are exported to the Middle East, but rather the missiles that are deployed in North Korea that can hit Japan.

 

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's Visit to North Korea

Prospects for a North Korean Breakthrough

November 2000

By Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's unprecedented meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-Il appears to signal a likely breakthrough in the often dangerously strained U.S.-North Korean relationship. Prospects are encouraging that necessary groundwork can be completed in time for President Bill Clinton to meet with Chairman Kim in Pyongyang to complete agreements constraining North Korea's ballistic missile program and normalizing North Korea's relationship with the outside world. While success cannot be assured, both sides appear committed at the highest level to seize the opportunity to take a major step in improving their relationship.

Improvements in North Korean external relations, capped by Albright's recent trip to North Korea, dramatically demonstrate how much has changed since North Korea appeared to be on the verge of launching a major nuclear weapons program seven years ago. Fortunately, ex-President Jimmy Carter's timely private mission to Pyongyang defused the situation and set the stage for the 1994 Agreed Framework, which froze the North Korean nuclear program and began the long process of rolling back its nuclear weapons program. Some still question the wisdom and cost of the Agreed Framework; but, when compared with costs of a conventional war on the Korean peninsula or the threat of a North Korea armed with tens and eventually hundreds of nuclear weapons, the program has been an immense success.

As the perceived North Korean nuclear threat receded, concern grew as to the direct threat from its ballistic missile program and the impact of its export of short-range ballistic missiles to other "states of concern," including Iran, Syria, and Libya. The launch in 1998 of a Taepo Dong-1 missile that overflew Japan in an unsuccessful attempt to put a small satellite in orbit escalated this concern into a new crisis in U.S.-North Korean relations.

Whatever North Korea's intent in launching the Taepo Dong-1, it certainly got Washington's attention. Widely heralded as presaging a direct threat to the United States, it became the principal rationale for a national missile defense (NMD) program. Under intense Congressional political pressure, Clinton might well have decided this fall to authorize deployment of a limited NMD system had it not been for the test failures of the proposed system and strong international opposition.

Concurrently, in a more rational response, ex-Secretary of Defense William Perry, in a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea for the president, recommended a year ago that the United States pursue a two-path negotiating strategy toward Pyongyang. One path should be directed at limiting North Korea's ballistic missile development and export programs as well as reinforcing limits on its nuclear activities, while a second parallel path should be directed at meeting North Korea's legitimate interests in improving relations with its neighbors and the United States. This strategy has been facilitated by South Korea's new president, Kim Dae Jung, who has actively sought engagement and reconciliation with North Korea and held a successful first-ever summit with Chairman Kim in Pyongyang this summer. Moreover, during his unprecedented visit in July to Pyongyang, Russian President Vladimir Putin was told by Chairman Kim that North Korea would end its long-range ballistic missile program if other countries would launch its satellites.

In this encouraging new environment, the stage appears set for a major step forward in North Korea's accommodation of the outside world. With a forthcoming U.S. approach, one can envisage agreements that would advance the security interests of all the countries involved. North Korea stands to break out of its devastating economic and political isolation as a member of the international community. Peace and stability would be strengthened on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia in general. Constraints on North Korean ballistic missile developments would end this perceived emerging ballistic missile threat to the United States and thereby eliminate the principal current rationale for a national missile defense, costing $60 billion in the Clinton administration's apparent proposal and much more in a Bush administration's approach. It would also avoid the even more costly effects of NMD's adverse impact on U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese relations. To the world at large, it would be seen as a major triumph for the nuclear and missile non-proliferation regimes at the very heart of the problem.

While the final resolution of the North Korean problem is not yet in sight, the prospects for substantial progress have never been better. President Clinton should certainly go to Pyongyang if his presence will serve as the catalyst to pin down constraints on North Korean ballistic missile activities and reinforce progress on the Agreed Framework. By seizing the moment, Clinton can do the nation and his successor a great favor by removing this long-standing, complex security issue from the immediate agenda.

Prospects for a North Korean Breakthrough

Chronology of U.S.–North Korean Missle Diplomacy


For years, the United States has tried to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology. In 1994, the two countries signed the Agreed Framework, which froze North Korea's nuclear weapons program and served as a springboard for a discussion of missile issues. However, despite conducting negotiations since April 1996, the United States and North Korea have not yet reached an agreement on Pyongyang's missile development or exports. The recent visit to Washington by a senior North Korean official and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's reciprocal visit to Pyongyang signal a warming of bilateral relations that could have far-reaching implications for this and other topics.

The following is a chronology included in the November 2000 issue of Arms Control Today of U.S.-North Korean negotiations on nuclear and missile issues and major events that impacted those discussions from 1985 through November 2000. For more recent events, please see our continuously updated North Korea chronology factsheet.

For more information, contact ACA.

 

1985

December 12, 1985: North Korea accedes to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but does not complete a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under Article III of the NPT, North Korea has 18 months to conclude such an arrangement. In coming years, North Korea links adherence to this provision of the treaty to the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from South Korea.

 

1991

September 27, 1991: President George Bush announces the unilateral withdrawal of all naval and land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad. Approximately 100 U.S. nuclear weapons had been based in South Korea. Eight days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocates.

November 8, 1991: In response to President Bush's unilateral move, President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea announces the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, under which South Korea promises not to produce, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons. In addition, the declaration unilaterally prohibits South Korea from possessing nuclear reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities. These promises, if enacted, would satisfy all of North Korea's conditions for allowing IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.

December 31, 1991: The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under the declaration, both countries agree not to "test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons" or to "possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities." They also agree to mutual inspections for verification.

 

1992

January 30, 1992: More than six years after signing the NPT, North Korea concludes a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

March 6, 1992: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea's Lyongaksan Machineries and Equipment Export Corporation and Changgwang Sinyong Corporation for missile-proliferation activities.*

April 9, 1992: North Korea ratifies the safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

May 4, 1992: North Korea submits its nuclear material declarations to the IAEA, declaring seven sites and some 90 grams of plutonium that could be subject to IAEA inspection. Pyongyang claims that the nuclear material was the result of reprocessing 89 defective fuel rods in 1989. The IAEA conducted inspections to verify the completeness of this declaration from mid-1992 to early 1993.

June 23, 1992: The United States imposes "missile sanctions" on the North Korean entities sanctioned in March.*

September 1992: IAEA inspectors discover discrepancies in North Korea's "initial report" on its nuclear program and ask for clarification on several issues, including the amount of reprocessed plutonium in North Korea.

 

1993

February 9, 1993: The IAEA demands special inspections of two sites that are believed to store nuclear waste. The request is based on strong evidence that North Korea has been cheating on its commitments under the NPT. North Korea refuses the IAEA's request.

March 12, 1993: Amid demands for special inspections, North Korea announces its intention to withdraw from the NPT in three months, citing Article X provisions that allow withdrawal for supreme national security considerations.

April 1, 1993: The IAEA declares that North Korea is not adhering to its safeguards agreement and that it can not guarantee that North Korean nuclear material is not being diverted for nonpeaceful uses.

June 11, 1993: Following talks with the United States in New York, North Korea suspends its decision to pull out of the NPT just before the withdrawal would have become legally effective. North Korea also agrees to the full and impartial application of IAEA safeguards.

For its part, the United States grants assurances against the threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons. Washington also promises not to interfere with North Korea's internal affairs.

July 19, 1993: After a second round of talks with the United States, North Korea announces in a joint statement that it is "prepared to begin consultations with the IAEA on outstanding safeguards and other issues" and that it is ready to negotiate IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities. The joint statement also indicates that Pyongyang might consider a deal with the United States to replace its graphite nuclear reactors with light-water reactors (LWRs), which are proliferation resistant.

Late 1993: The Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea had separated about 12 kilograms of plutonium. This amount is enough for at least one or two nuclear weapons.

 

1994

January 1994: The director of the Central Intelligence Agency estimates that North Korea may have produced one or two nuclear weapons.

February 15, 1994: North Korea finalizes an agreement with the IAEA to allow inspections of all seven of its declared nuclear facilities, averting sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

March 1, 1994: IAEA inspectors arrive in North Korea for the first inspections since 1993.

March 21, 1994: Responding to North Korea's refusal to allow the inspection team to inspect a plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon, the IAEA Board of Governors approves a resolution calling on North Korea to "immediately allow the IAEA to complete all requested inspection activities and to comply fully with its safeguards agreements."

May 19, 1994: The IAEA confirms that North Korea has begun removing spent fuel from its 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor even though international monitors were not present. The United States and the IAEA had insisted that inspectors be present for any such action because spent fuel can potentially be reprocessed for use in nuclear weapons.

June 13, 1994: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the IAEA. This is distinct from pulling out of the NPT—North Korea is still required to undergo IAEA inspections as part of its NPT obligations. The IAEA contends that North Korea's safeguards agreement remains in force. However, North Korea no longer participates in IAEA functions as a member state.

June 15, 1994: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiates a deal with North Korea in which Pyongyang confirms its willingness to "freeze" its nuclear weapons program and resume high-level talks with the United States. Bilateral talks are expected to begin provided that North Korea allows the IAEA safeguards to remain in place, does not refuel its 5-megawatt nuclear reactor, and does not reprocess any spent nuclear fuel.

July 9, 1994: North Korean President Kim Il Sung dies and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Il.

August 12, 1994: An "agreed statement" is signed that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant light-water reactors to replace North Korea's graphite-moderated reactors.

October 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the "Agreed Framework" in Geneva. To resolve U.S. concerns about Pyongyang's plutonium-producing reactors and the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, the agreement calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors, two of which are still under construction. North Korea also allows the IAEA to verify compliance through "special inspections," and it agrees to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country.

In exchange, Pyongyang will receive two light-water reactors and annual shipments of heavy fuel oil during construction of the LWRs. The LWRs will be financed and constructed through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a multinational consortium.

Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang's development and export of ballistic missiles, as well as other issues of bilateral concern.

November 28, 1994: The IAEA announces that it had confirmed that construction has been halted at North Korea's Nyongbyon and Taochon nuclear facilities and that these facilities are not operational.

 

1995

March 9, 1995: KEDO is formed in New York with the United States, South Korea, and Japan as the organization's original members.

 

1996

January 1996: North Korea agrees in principle to a meeting on missile proliferation issues, which had been requested in a letter by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Hubbard. However, Pyongyang contends that the United States would have to ease economic sanctions before it could agree on a date and venue for the talks.

In testimony before a House International Relations Committee subcommittee on March 19, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord says that Washington is willing to ease economic sanctions if progress is made on the missile export issue.

April 21-22, 1996: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for their first round of bilateral missile talks. The United States reportedly suggests that North Korea should adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary international agreement aimed at controlling sales of ballistic missile systems, components, and technology. North Korea allegedly demands that the United States provide compensation for lost missile-related revenue.

May 24, 1996: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Iran for missile technology-related transfers. The sanctions prohibit any imports or exports to sanctioned firms and to those sectors of the North Korean economy that are considered missile-related. The pre-existing general ban on trade with both countries makes the sanctions largely symbolic. *

October 16, 1996: After detecting North Korean preparations for a test of its medium-range Nodong missile, the United States deploys a reconnaissance ship and aircraft to Japan. Following several meetings in New York between U.S. and North Korean diplomats, the State Department confirms on November 8 that the missile test has been canceled.

 

1997

June 11-13, 1997: The second round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks takes place in New York, with U.S. negotiators pressing North Korea not to deploy the Nodong missile and to end sales of Scud missiles and their components. The parties reach no agreement but reportedly lay the foundation for future talks.

August 6, 1997: The United States imposes new sanctions on two additional North Korean entities for unspecified missile-proliferation activities.*

 

1998

February 25, 1998: At his inaugural speech, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung announces his "sunshine policy," which strives to improve inter-Korean relations through peace, reconciliation, and cooperation.

April 17, 1998: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Pakistan in response to Pyongyang's transfer of missile technology and components to Pakistan's Khan Research Laboratory.*

June 16, 1998: The official Korean Central News Agency reports that Pyongyang will only end its missile technology exports if it is suitably compensated for financial losses.

July 15, 1998: The bipartisan Rumsfeld Commission concludes that the United States may have "little or no warning" before facing a long-range ballistic missile threat from "rogue states," such as North Korea and Iran.

August 31, 1998: North Korea launches a three-stage Taepo Dong-1 rocket with a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers that flies over Japan. Pyongyang announces that the rocket successfully placed a small satellite into orbit, a claim contested by U.S. Space Command. Japan suspends signature of a cost-sharing agreement for the Agreed Framework's LWR project until November 1998. The U.S. intelligence community admits to being surprised by North Korea's advances in missile-staging technology and its use of a solid-rocket motor for the missile's third stage.

October 1, 1998: The third round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks begins in New York but makes little progress. The United States repeats its request for Pyongyang to terminate its missile programs in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. North Korea rejects the U.S. proposal on the grounds that the lifting of sanctions is implicit in the 1994 Agreed Framework.

November 12, 1998: President Bill Clinton appoints former Secretary of Defense William Perry to serve as North Korea policy coordinator—a post established by the 1999 Defense Authorization Act. Perry immediately undertakes an interagency review of U.S. policy toward North Korea and begins consultations with South Korea and Japan aimed at forming a unified approach to dealing with Pyongyang.

December 4-11, 1998: The United States and North Korea hold talks to address U.S. concerns about a suspected underground nuclear facility at Kumchang-ni. Pyongyang reportedly accepts in principle the idea of a U.S. inspection of the site but is unable to agree with U.S. proposals for "appropriate compensation."

 

1999

February 2, 1999: CIA Director George Tenet testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that with some technical improvements, North Korea would be able to use the Taepo Dong-1 to deliver small payloads to parts of Alaska and Hawaii. Tenet also says that Pyongyang's Taepo Dong-2, if it had a third stage like the Taepo Dong-1, would be able to deliver large payloads to the continental United States, albeit with poor accuracy.

March 29-31, 1999: U.S. and North Korean officials hold a fourth round of missile talks in Pyongyang. The United States again expresses concern over North Korea's missile development and proliferation activities and proposes a deal exchanging North Korean restraint for U.S. sanctions relief. U.S. officials describe the talks as "serious and intensive" but succeed only in reaching agreement to meet again at an unspecified date.

April 25, 1999: The United States, South Korea, and Japan establish the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group to institutionalize close consultation and policy coordination in dealing with North Korea.

May 20-24, 1999: A U.S. inspection team visits the North Korean suspected nuclear site in Kumchang-ni. According to the State Department, the team finds no evidence of nuclear activity or violation of the Agreed Framework.

May 25-28, 1999: Traveling to Pyongyang as a presidential envoy, William Perry meets with senior North Korean political, diplomatic, and military officials to discuss a major expansion in bilateral relations if Pyongyang is willing to address U.S. security concerns. Perry delivers a letter from President Clinton to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, but the two do not meet. Perry reportedly calls on North Korea to satisfy U.S. concerns about ongoing nuclear weapons-related activities that are beyond the scope of the Agreed Framework and ballistic missile development and proliferation in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, normalization of diplomatic relations, and potentially some form of security guarantee.

September 7-12, 1999: During talks in Berlin, North Korea agrees to a moratorium on testing any long-range missiles for the duration of talks with the United States. The United States agrees to a partial lifting of economic sanctions on North Korea. The two parties agree to continue high-level discussions. (Sanctions are not actually lifted until June 2000.)

September 9, 1999: A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate reports that North Korea will "most likely" develop an ICBM capable of delivering a 200-kilogram warhead to the U.S. mainland by 2015.

September 15, 1999: North Korean policy coordinator William Perry submits his review of U.S. policy toward North Korea to Congress and releases an unclassified version of the report on October 12. The report recommends "a new, comprehensive and integrated approach to…negotiations with the DPRK," which would involve a coordinated reduction in isolation by the United States and its allies in a "step-by-step and reciprocal fashion." Potential engagement mechanisms could include the normalization of diplomatic relations and the relaxation of trade sanctions.

November 19, 1999: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for talks on bilateral relations and preparations for a North Korean high-level visit to the United States.

December 15, 1999: Five years after the Agreed Framework was signed, KEDO officials sign a turn-key contract with the Korea Electric Power Corporation to begin construction on the two light-water reactors in Kumho, North Korea. KEDO officials attribute the delay in signing the contract to complex legal and financial challenges and the tense political climate generated by the North Korean Taepo Dong-1 test in August 1998.

 

2000

April 6, 2000: The United States imposes sanctions on a North Korean firm, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, for proliferating MTCR Category I items, possibly to Iran. Category I items include complete missile systems with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers and payloads over 500 kilograms, major subsystems, rocket stages or guidance systems, production facilities for MTCR-class missiles, or technology associated with such missiles.*

May 25-27, 2000: The United States conducts its second inspection of the Kumchang-ni site. The inspection team found that conditions had not changed since the first inspection in May 1999.

June 15, 2000: Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have "agreed to resolve" the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement includes promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.

June 19, 2000: Apparently encouraged by the North-South summit, the United States relaxes sanctions on North Korea, allowing a "wide range" of trade in commercial and consumer goods, easing restrictions on investment, and eliminating prohibitions on direct personal and commercial financial transactions. Sanctions related to terrorism and missile proliferation remain in place. The next day, North Korea reaffirms its moratorium on missile tests.

July 12, 2000: The fifth round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks in Kuala Lumpur end without resolution. During the meeting, North Korea repeats its demand for compensation, stated as $1 billion per year, in return for halting missile exports. The United States rejects this proposal but says that it is willing to move toward "economic normalization" in return for addressing U.S. concerns.

July 19, 2000: During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Il reportedly promises to end his country's missile program in exchange for assistance with satellite launches from countries that have expressed concern about North Korea's missile program.

July 28, 2000: At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright engages in a "substantively modest" meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, the highest level of exchange to date. Paek gives no additional details about North Korea's purported offer to end its missile program in return for space-launch assistance.

August 13, 2000: Kim Jong-Il tells a meeting of 46 South Korean media executives in Pyongyang that his missile proposal was meant "in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies," according to the Korea Times. The report of the event is widely interpreted as undercutting the seriousness of Kim's offer; however, English-language excerpts of Kim's speech seem to confirm the offer: "I told…Putin that we would stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites."

August 28, 2000: U.S. Ambassador Wendy Sherman travels to Moscow to confirm the details of Kim Jong-Il's apparent missile proposal with her Russian counterparts. At a September 8 briefing, a senior State Department official says the United States is taking the North Korean offer "very seriously."

September 27, 2000: U.S.-North Korean talks resume in New York on nuclear issues, missiles, and terrorism. The two countries issue a joint statement on terrorism, a move that indicates progress toward removing North Korea from the State Department's terrorism list.

October 9-12, 2000: Kim Jong-Il's second-in-command, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, visits Washington as a special envoy. He delivers a letter to President Clinton and meets with the secretaries of state and defense. The move is seen as an affirmation of Kim's commitment to improving U.S.-North Korean ties.

October 12, 2000: The United States and North Korea issue a joint statement noting that resolution of the missile issue would "make an essential contribution to fundamentally improved relations" and reiterating the two countries' commitment to implementation of the Agreed Framework. The statement also says that Secretary Albright will visit North Korea in the near future to prepare for a possible visit by President Clinton.

October 24, 2000: Secretary Albright concludes a two-day visit to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong-Il. During the visit, Kim says that North Korea would not further test the Taepo Dong-1 missile. In addition to discussing Pyongyang's indigenous missile program, the talks cover North Korean missile technology exports, nuclear transparency, the normalization of relations, and a possible trip by President Clinton to Pyongyang.

*Entry dates for the imposition of sanctions indicate the dates the sanctions took effect.

 

Albright Visits North Korea; Progress Made on Missile Front

November 2000

By Alex Wagner

Concluding an unprecedented visit to Pyongyang on October 24, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had apparently signaled a willingness to end testing of the Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile. Albright and Kim met for two days of discussions covering North Korea's missile program, nuclear transparency, normalization of relations, and a possible trip to Pyongyang by President Bill Clinton. Albright is the highest-level U.S. official ever to travel to North Korea and the first U.S. government representative to meet with Kim.

During an October 24 press conference, Albright said she and Kim "discussed the full range of concerns on missiles," including North Korea's indigenous program, its exports to states like Pakistan and Iran, and Kim's reported proposal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease missile testing in exchange for foreign launch of North Korean satellites. (See ACT, September 2000.) The United States had cited North Korea's advances in missile technology as the primary rationale for a national missile defense and Pyongyang as the principal exporter of missiles to so-called states of concern.

According to Albright, while attending a celebration of the 55th anniversary of North Korea's communist party, Kim said there would be no more tests of the Taepo Dong-1 missile. When an image of the missile flashed across the stadium, Kim "immediately" turned to her and "quipped that [the 1998 test of the Taepo Dong-1] was the first satellite launch and it would be the last." When asked whether the statement was "an unqualified pledge…not to test missiles," Albright said, "I take what he said on these issues as serious in terms of his desire and ours to move forward to resolve the various questions that continue to exist on the whole range of missile issues."

Albright described her talks with Kim as "serious, constructive, and in-depth" and said that Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn will follow up on missile issues with the North Koreans November 1-3 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Since September 1999, North Korea has voluntarily foregone missile testing while talks with the United States proceed, a moratorium that Pyongyang reaffirmed after the United States eased economic sanctions in July. North Korea conducted its only test of the Taepo Dong-1 medium-range ballistic missile in August 1998 in an attempt to put a satellite into orbit. U.S. government officials maintain that the satellite launch was a failure and that the launch was intended to test missile guidance and booster capability.

The groundwork for Albright's trip was laid during an October 9-12 visit to the United States of Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, North Korea's second-highest ranking military and civilian official. While in Washington, Jo met with Clinton, Albright, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen. When asked at an October 12 press briefing if Jo had discussed Kim's reported offer to Putin to stop missile launches in exchange for foreign satellite-launch assistance, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, policy coordinator for North Korea, said, "We believe, based on the discussions that we had, that there is validity to this idea."

The Jo visit concluded with the release of an October 12 joint communiqué, which noted that resolution of the missile issue would "make an essential contribution to fundamentally improved relations" and reiterated the two countries' commitment to implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, which halted Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The statement was also the first announcement that Albright would visit North Korea in order to prepare for a possible visit by Clinton.

Previously, North Korea had made sending a high-level envoy to the United States contingent upon being removed from the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism. However, in an apparent concession, North Korean delegates at a September 27-October 2 bilateral meeting in New York proposed that Jo visit the United States, according to Sherman.

During periodic discussions since 1996, the United States has tried to persuade North Korea to end its ballistic missile exports and terminate its indigenous missile development program. The last round of missile talks ended in stalemate in July in Kuala Lumpur, when North Korea demanded $1 billion per year in compensation to make up for lost revenue from exports and reiterated its position that missile development was a sovereign right. (See ACT, September 2000.)

Albright Visits North Korea; Progress Made on Missile Front

Secretary Albright's Visit to North Korea

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ACA Press Conference

Background Information:

One week after Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, the second most senior official in North Korea, concluded an unprecedented visit to Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to Pyongyang as the highest-level U.S. official ever to visit North Korea. On October 20, two days before Albright departed, the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the purpose of the secretary's trip, the potential for progress on nuclear and missile issues, and the possibility of a future visit by President Bill Clinton. (For news coverage of Jo's visit and Albright's subsequent trip, see news story)

Conference panelists were Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., president and executive director of the Arms Control Association; Alan Romberg, a former State Department official, now a senior fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center; David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and editor of Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle; Joel Wit, former State Department coordinator for the 1994 Agreed Framework, now a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution; and Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The following is an edited version of their remarks and the question-and-answer session that followed.

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

Welcome to today's press briefing, sponsored by the Arms Control Association, on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. This meeting, which has largely been ignored by U.S. media, operating under the shadow of the presidential campaign, signals a potential major breakthrough in U.S.-North Korean stormy relations.

Ten days ago, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, second in command to Chairman Kim, had a meeting with President Clinton that ended in a communiqué, which struck a very optimistic note and emphasized efforts to assure a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and to solve the ballistic missile problem. The communiqué concluded with a statement that the secretary of state would be visiting North Korea shortly to meet with Chairman Kim to directly relay the president's views on how to proceed with the North Korean issue. It went on to say that she would also make preparations for a possible presidential visit to North Korea in the near future.

This was indeed a major and largely unexpected development. When they said the secretary would visit "in the near future," I did not anticipate it would be within 10 days, and I think that even though the president's visit was described as a "possible visit," the tone suggests that the visit will probably take place, which is indeed remarkable. When you consider that the two countries have been facing each other for the last 47 years across the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] as serious adversaries since the end of the Korean War, without a peace agreement, the decision of the president to make a visit is indeed a major development.

The last 10 years of the relationship have been quite stormy, with the focus of attention at the end of the Cold War on the problem of North Korea's apparent intention to develop a relatively substantial nuclear weapons capability. While I think, all things considered, that substantial progress has been made in containing this threat, the problem is far from resolved. In more recent years, the major issue has been the North Korean ballistic missile program—both its development and its export of ballistic missiles and technology to other countries that have all been classified as "rogues," and now "of concern."

Last year, in his review of U.S.-North Korean policy, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry came up with a proposed plan of action for future relations. In it, he emphasized the centrality of resolving the problem of North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, which he believed had to be essentially eliminated. I think the Perry plan of action has played a central role in the discussions that are ongoing with North Korea and will be pursued at the highest level in the immediate future.

The success of this current effort, which of course cannot be guaranteed, will prove to be extremely important. It not only would be a major step toward achieving stability and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia in general, it would also be a tremendous accomplishment in strengthening the nuclear and ballistic missile non-proliferation regimes. And finally, it would be a major contribution in eliminating the rationale for a U.S. national missile defense. In the version that the Clinton administration is pursuing, national missile defense would be a $60 billion investment, and the version that appears to be advocated by George W. Bush would cost a couple hundred billion dollars. But I think the even greater cost would be the negative impact this would have on our relations with Russia, China, and other countries. So resolution of these problems with North Korea could largely eliminate the need or rationale for a national missile defense.

Finally, I would add that when the Arms Control Association asked presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush a dozen questions on arms control this summer, they differed on many things, but while expressing appropriate caution, both indicated support and encouragement for improvement in U.S.-North Korean relations. Those of you who are interested in what they said about this question and the other 11 questions can pick up copies of the September issue of Arms Control Today, which features the candidates' responses.

Alan Romberg

I want to talk a little bit about the context of Secretary Albright's visit—about why it is happening, why it is happening now, and what we can expect to get out of it.

Taken simplistically perhaps, one might say that the North Koreans are doing this because they took a lesson from the Clinton campaign book of 1992—that is, it's the economy, stupid.

Obviously, the North Koreans have received a lot of emergency food aid and other assistance, and their domestic economic situation is reportedly somewhat better than it was. But it's painfully obvious that they need deeper economic relations and trade and investment if they're going to move ahead. I think it would be a mistake to assume that North Korea's recent diplomatic initiatives, which are quite striking, somehow reflect a decision to reform the domestic economic system, much less the political system. Nonetheless, if North Korea really is to gain the benefits of involvement with the outside world—that is, trade and investment—it will have to create a more conducive regulatory and legal environment and make it attractive for foreign firms to come and participate in the North.

Now, some would dismiss the recent diplomatic moves as therefore meaningless, maintaining that if you're not going to change the society, you're not really doing anything that's worthwhile. I join Spurgeon in saying I don't agree with that. Not everything has been nailed down yet—indeed, I think the purpose of the secretary's trip is to do that as much as possible—but I don't think the North can have any illusions about its need to alter its positions on some key defense and foreign policy issues if it is going to maintain a high level of engagement with the United States or others. I note that when the Germans recently indicated that they are considering establishing relations with Pyongyang, they identified North Korea's defense posture as one of the benchmarks that they would be looking at when deciding whether, in fact, to normalize relations.

While the United States would obviously welcome a transformation of North Korean society to an open, humane, democratic, free-market society, deciding to act only if that were possible would be both unrealistic and, in a very real sense, self-defeating. We would forego opportunities to achieve things that are important, particularly from a national security point of view. What we care about right now is the North's external behavior, the threat that it presents to peace and stability.

It is not realistic to expect a rapid pullback of North Korean forces from their forward-deployed positions near the DMZ, nor is it realistic to expect rapid changes in deployments of U.S. and R.O.K. forces. But there may be some realistic steps that could address our concerns—and those of South Korea and Japan—on other programs, such as North Korea's longer-range missile program. We'll have to see, but it seems to me that if the North can feel satisfied that it has received some assurances, as Vice Marshal Jo put it during his visit, regarding the D.P.R.K.'s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, then there may be a willingness within North Korea to accept and move ahead on some of the changes that we're looking for.

A key factor in all of this has been the policy of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and the success he has achieved to date, most spectacularly, of course, the North-South summit in June in Pyongyang. President Kim has given active encouragement to the United States and others to move ahead with the North because he understands and accepts that such progress is in the South's fundamental interests. Frankly, if it were not for that policy and, I would argue, for the achievements of that policy so far, we would not be in a position to take the kind of initiatives we're talking about today.

As those of you who follow Korean events well know, there's a certain amount of nervousness in South Korea about whether the North will once again seek to bypass the South in dealing with the United States. I understand that concern, and based on history, one can't simply dismiss it. We're going to need to make clear to the North that that isn't going to work. We took some tentative steps in our relations with North Korea as long ago as 1988, but they didn't go very far, in part because the North limited its engagement with the South.

Even though we did take the lead for a time, particularly on the nuclear issue in the early 1990s, progress on the larger agenda that was identified in the Agreed Framework of October 1994 has been slow, in part because of the lack of balance regarding progress on the North-South front. Among other things, support in this country for movement with North Korea is related to how South Korea views it. If South Korea is reluctant and unhappy and feels that it is threatened, the support in this country wanes. If South Korea, as it is currently doing, encourages us in that respect, it certainly contributes to support here. Without encouragement, it would be extremely difficult for us to maintain progress on the larger agenda with Pyongyang.

A related lesson of the last year is the critical nature of the close cooperation and consultation we've had trilaterally among the United States, the R.O.K., and Japan. I think this model has shown its value as an essential element under the so-called Perry process. I'm quite confident it will continue, and without it, in fact, I would argue we would lack the necessary cohesion to move ahead. Keep in mind also—if I'm right that economics are an important part of the motivation for North Korea's new posture—that Pyongyang needs to remain engaged with the South and perhaps with Japan as well because, as Willie Sutton would say, that's where the money is.

Now, is all of this reversible? In one sense, sure it's reversible. Kim Jong-Il could wake up tomorrow morning and issue an order to stop or reverse the process. But in a very real sense, I would argue, Kim Jong-Il personally and his regime generally are increasingly invested in this new involvement in the world. Having welcomed Kim Dae Jung in a very public manner to Pyongyang and now having Secretary Albright, probably President Clinton, and doubtless other leaders as well come to North Korea, it becomes increasingly costly for him to say, "Well, this was all a mistake, and we're going to go back to the old ways."

That doesn't mean that this is a "gimme," that it's just an easy thing that we can assume will happen. There are doubtless those in the North Korean system who are very skeptical of all of this. But I would argue the dynamics are working in favor of a continuation. Again, it isn't going to lead, in the short term at least, to a change in the system—in fact, one might argue that the whole idea of this is to preserve the system—and what happens over the longer term is a matter of speculation and highly debated.

Finally, I'd like to make a couple of points about the "why now." As you're all aware, the United States had been looking to a high-level visit from North Korea for some time. It had been on hold because the North had not chosen to follow through, but now it has in a very dramatic way, by sending a man of the rank of Vice Marshal Jo—the second- or third-, depending on your estimate, most powerful leader in North Korea. Some people have suggested that the United States should play a little harder to get, that we shouldn't just run back with a return visit by the secretary and by the president. They argue that we should demand more on domestic development and change in North Korea as a price for such visits, or that we should make sure before the secretary even goes that there are agreements to do this, that, or the other thing.

Frankly, I think that letting the momentum die, as that would do, would be a mistake, and I don't see a lot of risk to what we're about to undertake. Making it not a risk, however, involves an essential point, which is that it should be clear to everybody that the U.S. commitment to the R.O.K., as well as to Japan, is firm and unchanging. But within that context, and given the strong backing of President Kim Dae Jung, I think these next steps are logical and sensible.

David Albright

Trying to ensure that North Korea is free of nuclear weapons has been a long and difficult road, and the end of the road, I must say, is not yet in sight. Uncertainty about what North Korea has achieved with regard to nuclear weapons and their delivery systems has plagued this journey. One sobering lesson is that peace on the Korean Peninsula can't be achieved without verified assurance that North Korea is free of nuclear weapons.

I would like to quickly review some of the history of the nuclear issues. In the late 1980s, North Korea had already signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], and people were somewhat confident that North Korea was not pursuing nuclear weapons. However, in 1987, evidence emerged that North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons when satellite surveillance of North Korea's nuclear site at Yongbyon indicated that the North Koreans were building a facility to separate plutonium. However, as is the case with many satellite images, there was a great deal of controversy about what was actually going on, and there was no consensus about what North Korea had planned. There was therefore a great deal of relief when the North Koreans agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] come in and inspect their facilities in 1992. The NPT requires states-parties to submit to IAEA inspections, but North Korea had stalled for years on allowing this to happen.

However, the first visit by Hans Blix, then the director-general of the IAEA, in May 1992 was quite reassuring. North Korea was open. The inspectors asked to go to places that they had not been invited to, and North Korea let them in. The North Koreans admitted that they had built a large reprocessing facility, and they also admitted that they had separated some plutonium. And they allowed their nuclear facilities to be placed under inspections.

But as the inspection effort proceeded through the summer and fall and as the IAEA deployed more sophisticated inspection methods than it had ever deployed in such a state, discrepancies began to appear about what North Korea had said. Unfortunately, the evidence was not sufficient to resolve the questions the IAEA had—namely how much plutonium North Korea had actually produced and separated—but the IAEA did conclude that North Korea had certainly produced more than it had declared. To this day, we do not know how much more. The CIA, for example, has consistently argued that North Korea has enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons. Many others have argued that it is not enough for a single nuclear weapon, but the bottom line remains that there's not enough evidence to decide definitely either way.

This confrontation between the IAEA and North Korea reached a climax in February 1993 when the agency called for special inspections to help clear up the inconsistencies in North Korea's statements and official declarations. But North Korea adamantly refused to allow these inspections to take place. From that point on, the situation only hardened. The crisis escalated dramatically in the spring of 1994 when North Korea started to unload its small gas-graphite reactor. The spent fuel that the North Koreans were unloading contained enough plutonium for five or six nuclear weapons, and they refused to allow the IAEA to inspect that unloading. During this period, many people felt that we were stampeding to war—that negotiations were not working (in fact they had ended after North Korea moved to unload the reactor) and that there was no way to resolve this crisis.

I think it was the growing realization of the cost of a war that led people to re-evaluate. There had to be a shift in mindset from a focus on the past production of plutonium and its potential use in nuclear weapons to how many nuclear weapons North Korea could make in the future. And so what developed was a view that it was more important to prevent North Korea from making five or six nuclear weapons than to try to understand whether it had made one or two earlier.

In this process, former President Carter's visit in June 1994 to North Korea was extremely important because, in a sense, it burst the balloon of those marching toward war. After his visit, negotiations resumed, and within a few months, the United States and North Korea negotiated the Agreed Framework, which froze plutonium production and therefore prevented more nuclear weapons from being built. In exchange, North Korea would receive two light-water reactors.

Again, I want to emphasize that North Korea had a large nuclear weapons program. It was building two additional gas-graphite reactors that were well suited to make weapons-grade plutonium in large quantities. Had the North Koreans continued, by now they could have had enough plutonium separated for 60 to 80 nuclear weapons. And if all three of North Korea's reactors had been dedicated to making weapons-grade plutonium, then North Korea would have been able to produce about 40 to 50 nuclear weapons per year. Even if only the two smaller reactors were dedicated to making weapons-grade plutonium, North Korea still would have been able to make about 10 nuclear weapons per year.

Trying to prevent this from happening was the right policy. However, it doesn't mean we can turn our back on what happened in the past. A single nuclear weapon could cause tremendous havoc to Seoul or to any of our diplomatic efforts to try to resolve the situation or achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. So it was right that the Agreed Framework required North Korea to come clean in the future and permit the IAEA to verify that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons or unsafeguarded plutonium. Of all the tasks in the Agreed Framework, however, this is the one that, from our point of view, has the least certainty of success.

So far, North Korea has not cooperated sufficiently with the International Atomic Energy Agency—for example, on the key question of preserving essential information. The IAEA will have a very hard job in the future. Not only will it have to establish what happened in the past in terms of plutonium production, but because of the requirements of the NPT, it also is going to have to ensure that North Korea is free of undeclared nuclear activities. And as you all know, there have been many reports of undeclared enrichment activities and undeclared reprocessing activities at places other than Yongbyon. Those reports will have to be investigated, and the IAEA will have to establish sufficient confidence that there are no undeclared activities in North Korea.

If this effort is to succeed, North Korea must concretely demonstrate its commitment to transparency—the sooner the better. It's often very time-consuming to do these kinds of inspections, particularly in a country with a large nuclear program. In South Africa, it took about two years to go through this exercise, and South Africa was fully cooperating. It produced people in the bomb program to talk to the inspectors and showed them its main nuclear weapons facilities. Plus, whenever inspectors asked to see other facilities that they had learned about through intelligence information given to them by member states, the South Africans took them there immediately.

So far, the United States and South Korea have been reluctant to encumber their direct negotiations with North Korea by raising verification issues. I think continued delay is risky. These issues need to be put on the agenda as soon as possible. And again, I believe that the most important thing is for North Korea to take concrete steps to show it intends to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Joel Wit

I'd like to first give a quick overview of the situation and then discuss the nuclear component and my personal experiences with that working at the State Department over the past seven years.

A few months ago, all the experts were saying that there was not going to be any more progress in U.S.-North Korean relations. Everyone thought it was over for this administration, and now, all of a sudden, we have this sudden spurt of progress. So the issue is, what happened in the past few months?

The sudden spurt is not the result of any changes in U.S. policy. It's a result of changes in North Korean policy. It is very clear that North Korea has made a conscious decision to move forward now, even though it is the end of the Clinton administration. There were signs during the summer that this might happen. For example, Kim Jong-Il gave an interview with a Korean-American journalist and said he was going to send a high-level emissary to the United States if the United States stopped treating North Korea like an abnormal country. And that's what happened. Vice Marshal Jo's visit was, I think, a surprise to most people in the U.S. government. The administration itself has been leaning forward, and as I said, it's positioned to take advantage of a possible opening, but it really hasn't been the initiator of the events of the past few months. It continues to lean forward now by holding out the prospect of a visit by President Clinton. I say "holding out" because I don't think that's a done deal yet.

The theory behind all of this, on both sides, is that establishing the proper political foundation in the relationship between the United States and North Korea will make it a lot easier to move forward on some of the tougher issues confronting the two countries, such as security issues. This is a very typical way for the North Koreans to operate: they first establish this kind of broad construct, in this case a better political relationship, which then makes it a lot easier in theory to move forward on some of the tougher security issues.

I think Secretary Albright's visit is an attempt to test this approach. There's already been some substantive progress on issues such as removing North Korea from the terrorism list. There may be some progress on establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. It is unclear, at least to me, what's going on concerning security issues, and I would go so far as to say that the administration isn't yet in a position to move forward rapidly on security issues even if the North Koreans said they wanted to do so tomorrow. The administration would, of course, turn around and try to move forward quickly, but these are very complicated issues. For example, on the missile issue, even if Kim Jong-Il said tomorrow, "Yes, my offer to President Putin was serious, I do want to stop long-range missile tests if you can get me foreign space-launch rights," the administration would have to put together a multilateral effort, and I am not sure that's been done yet. On conventional forces also, the United States is just starting to study what the future of its conventional force posture on the peninsula should be. Any conventional arms control progress would have to be built around the results of that kind of study, which has not been completed yet.

The last overview point I would like to make is with regard to the Clinton visit, which I don't think is a done deal yet. The Clinton administration is trying to use the possibility of the visit as leverage over the North Koreans because the North Koreans really do want the visit to happen. So part of what Secretary Albright will be doing during her visit is to see how far she can push the envelope in terms of making some substantive progress, and based on the results of her visit, I think the administration will make a final decision about whether President Clinton should go.

Let me say a few words on the nuclear component of this equation. I've had a lot of experience dealing with this, but I don't want to get into a lot of detail about the Agreed Framework or problems with implementation of the Agreed Framework because I think most people are pretty familiar with that. The main point is that implementation is behind schedule. The reactor project is, I think, about five years behind schedule, and it is the central part of the Agreed Framework. The tradeoff was the North Koreans get reactors and we get an end to their nuclear program. Their nuclear program is frozen now, but it hasn't been dismantled. That's important, and the IAEA examination of North Korea is probably the only way we have of learning what North Korea did in the past.

But I would like to make a comment here about the North's nuclear weapons program based on my experience. There are a number of scenarios out there about what North Korea may be doing in terms of its nuclear weapons program. One scenario, which we saw play out in 1999 with the whole experience of the suspect nuclear site at Kumchang-ni, was that there are people in the U.S. government and in other places who think that North Korea is churning out nuclear weapons in some mountain somewhere. That's what Kumchang-ni was all about. People thought there was a reactor and a reprocessing plant buried in a hill in northwest North Korea. Well, it turns out there was nothing there. I went there, I saw it. There was nothing there. Our best experts looked at it, and we were wrong. So although we don't know for sure, this scenario is probably the least likely.

In my mind, the most likely scenario is that North Korea is probably continuing to do research and development on nuclear weapons-related issues. It may have enough material for a few weapons. David has already talked a little about that, and there are uncertainties in U.S. estimates on how much material it may have. But, if you are a prudent decision-maker in the U.S. government, you have to assume that North Korea has enough for one or two nuclear weapons. In my mind, it is still unclear whether it can actually build a nuclear weapon or not. I don't know whether it has a design, and I would venture to say there's probably no one who knows whether it does, except maybe a few people in North Korea. So I think we have to keep it in that perspective. Getting the IAEA examination is very important, but if I had to rank the security issues I am most concerned about, I would actually put conventional weapons in front of nuclear weapons, and I think missiles would be at the top of the list.

One last point I'd like to make concerns a debate that periodically crops up, and I think it has started to crop up again—that is, whether it makes any sense for the Agreed Framework to provide North Korea with nuclear reactors. There are a lot of arguments on both sides of this issue that have been going on for a while, but I think what makes it more interesting recently is that the changes in U.S.-North Korean relations and in the relationship between South Korea and North Korea are bringing out these arguments again. People are saying that building conventional power plants makes more economic sense because the D.P.R.K. needs energy and the improving political relationship makes it possible to renegotiate the Agreed Framework.

So, all of these things have led to some discussion inside the governments involved, and certainly outside of the governments, about what we can do—should we change this or shouldn't we change this? But there are some important points here, and I think they have to do more with the practical issues involved. Granted, all of the arguments the advocates of changing the Agreed Framework are making may make sense, but the fact is that there are already millions of dollars of costs sunk into the reactor project. Also, it takes a long time to build the plants that might be substituted for the nuclear reactors, so you wouldn't save much time. The fact is that doing business with North Korea is very difficult. Even when the North Koreans are cooperating, it is very difficult. So if tomorrow I said, "Hey let's get rid of these nuclear reactors, we are going to build you 10 thermal power plants around your country," drawing up the plans for the project and drawing up the contracts would take time. The best calculation, according to some South Koreans I know, is that you might shave a year off building nuclear reactors. So it is very unclear whether it's worth making this major switch or not.

Just one last point: if you get past all the noise and the arguments about all the technical details, about whether the Agreed Framework was the right thing to do, and about whether the Clinton administration is doing the right thing, the bottom line is that we are much better off today with that agreement than we would have been without it. That really needs to be emphasized: if there had not been an agreement, North Korea would have a large nuclear weapons stockpile with an active ballistic missile program, including maybe some long-range missiles. And on top of that, there have been concerns about the stability of North Korea, so you would have had a nightmare in Northeast Asia. Today, we don't have that nightmare. We have the prospect of ending the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula, we have this rapprochement between the North and the South, and we have the prospect of better North Korean relations with the United States and maybe even Japan. So, the bottom line is that we are better off in Northeast Asia today with the Agreed Framework than we would have been without it.

Joseph Cirincione

I think that it is extremely important at this point to emphasize how far we have come and how critical the 1994 Agreed Framework was in bringing us to this point. I am proud to be up here with the other members of the panel and proud to be joining them in support of that agreement despite the withering criticism that Congress has leveled against the Agreed Framework over the past six years. The Agreed Framework has stood the test of time and has proven to be the correct path.

Let me just say a few words about missiles. I believe that Secretary Albright's visit to North Korea may be the most historic and important trip of her tenure. If the Clinton administration can resolve the North Korean missile program, it will largely, though not completely, solve the missile proliferation problem globally. The end of North Korean testing and export of missiles will dry up the major well feeding several key national missile programs and eliminate the major justification for a national missile defense system here in the United States. North Korea has exported Scud missiles to such "states of concern" as Iran and Syria, and also to Egypt, Pakistan, and possibly Libya.

Let us look at why this visit could be so important and why the North Korean missile program is so central to the global proliferation problem. There are 33 nations in the world, outside of the five nuclear-weapon states, that possess ballistic missiles. However, 27 of those 33 nations have only short-range ballistic missiles, missiles that fly less than 1,000 kilometers. That leaves six nations that we are concerned about with medium- or longer-range ballistic missiles that could potentially threaten U.S. allies, troops, or the United States itself. Those six nations are Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia—which are not considered threats to the United States—Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. Those last three are all tied together. Pakistan's Ghauri missile, a medium-range missile over 1,000 kilometers—various versions are estimated to have gone from 1,300 to over 2,000 kilometers—is a Nodong missile, a North Korean missile shipped to Pakistan. Iran has tested a medium-range missile three times that it calls the Shahab-3. The missile has succeeded in one of those flight tests. It has an estimated range of 1,300 kilometers. That too is a Nodong missile.

If North Korea can be convinced to stop its exports, not only does the North Korean program end, but also the Iranian program significantly slows down. It does not end because Iran has two other sources of assistance—Russia and China. If Russia and China can be convinced to end all of their assistance to Iran, that essentially will strangle the Iranian missile program. This is not an indigenous program. Iran cannot build missiles by itself.

So follow the chain here: if you eliminate the North Korean missile program, you eliminate the immediate justification for a rush to deploy a national missile defense system. We have heard administration officials say that they have to deploy the system by 2005 because the National Intelligence Estimate said that North Korea possibly could have a missile that could reach the United States by 2005. If you eliminate the North Korean program, then you eliminate that timeline, and you eliminate the rush.

If you also eliminate the North Korean exports, you eliminate the second justification for a national missile defense program. The National Intelligence Estimate is that Iran might be able to have a long-range ballistic missile that could hit the United States by 2010. If we also eliminated Russian and Chinese assistance, along with North Korean assistance, that would certainly curtail, if not completely eliminate, the Iranian program. What that would mean globally for the United States is that the pressure would be off on the development of a national missile defense system. Theater missile programs could proceed. But without a national missile defense system as an irritant in the U.S.-Russian relationship or the U.S.-Chinese relationship, those relationships could enjoy continued progress. We could also improve our relationship with the U.S. allies disturbed by the U.S. national missile defense effort. So this small, impoverished country actually plays a key role in U.S. global relations, primarily because of its missile program.

We do not know if Secretary Albright is expecting to make any kind of progress on the missile program. We do not know if President Clinton's visit is contingent on a deal on the missile program. But these visits can certainly help resolve some of the most thorny issues the United States has confronted over the past few years.

Questions and Answers

 

Question:

Could you explain a little more about why people are second-guessing the decision to make light-water reactors available to the North Koreans?

 

Albright:

There are a couple of reasons people raise questions about the light-water reactors. One is just a practical issue: can North Korea, a backward society, build and operate modern nuclear reactors safely? We do not want a Chernobyl in North Korea, and there is a lot of work that has to be done to create a proper safety, environmental, and regulatory environment in North Korea. That is a formidable challenge and, I think, a real obstacle.

Some members of Congress have also raised concerns that these light-water reactors are going to be a new bomb factory, and they have even charged that somehow they would make more plutonium than the reactors being replaced. I do not want to go into detail, but the arguments are pretty weak. The main point is that we are worried about North Korea's ability to separate plutonium. You cannot make a nuclear weapon when the plutonium is locked in the spent fuel. So if you focus on that issue, then it is going to be very difficult for North Korea to reprocess the fuel from the light-water reactors.

The other reason I think this is coming up is that North Korea has periodically threatened to undo the Agreed Framework unless progress on the light-water reactors happens quicker. It is a natural response given that this project can only move so fast, but let us think of alternatives. Thermal conventional plants are what most people consider a reasonable alternative. I think this needs to be looked at, but it might not save any time. There are always reasons to look again at this issue, but for me the principal reason would be that North Korea has not demonstrated that it can operate a reactor safely. And that is going to be a very tough problem to solve.

 

Keeny:

I would just add that from North Korea's perspective you can argue that a number of smaller conventional fossil fuel plants, which I believe could be brought on-line quicker, are advantageous. First, when a small country has a 1,000-megawatt electric power plant and it goes down for technical reasons or refueling, it is a shock to the country's entire system. In addition, there is a question as to whether North Korea really has the distribution system to handle the output of one very large plant. And the answer is that it doesn't. That is another major financial problem that is going to have to be faced by the world or North Korea if the electricity from this plant is to be used. Smaller conventional plants can be more easily integrated.

 

Question:

What must Secretary Albright do or the North Koreans say to warrant the president going to North Korea, and, beyond symbolism, what would the significance of a Clinton trip be?

 

Wit:

That is a tough question. I do not know how high or how low the administration is going to set the barrier. I have trouble seeing a lot of progress coming out of the Albright visit on security issues. There may be some kind of broad agreement that we need to redouble our efforts dealing with the missile issue, or the two sides might agree, and I am just speculating here of course, that Chairman Kim's idea about stopping a long-range missile test in return for foreign space-launch rights is a good idea. I think the discussion on those issues is going to be more general than specific. There may be more specificity on the other issues that are kind of being discussed: removing North Korea from the terrorism list, normalizing relations, setting up liaison offices. But those issues are a lot easier, I think, to deal with than some of these tough security issues. And the problem is that those issues are not seen by most Americans or Westerners as issues we really want progress on.

In terms of the Clinton visit, I have had some discussion in the past few days with colleagues and others, and they are asking, "Why is President Clinton going to go to North Korea? There is no reason for this. It is really hasty and premature." My reaction is that I do not see a downside to him going to North Korea. There is a lot of hand-wringing going on about it, but my personal experience has been that sometimes these kinds of visits really do get real results. The prime example is former President Carter's visit to North Korea in 1994. At that time, there were lots of people saying, "Why is President Carter going to North Korea? What is the purpose? There is no reason for him to do this." And yet something useful did come out of it. So I do not really see much of a downside on the Clinton visit, and there is a potential for an upside. Even if the upside is not obvious right away, even if Clinton does not come home with an agreement ending their missile program, we have to wait and see what happens because, once again, the improving political relationship may establish the foundation for progress over time on these other security issues.

 

Keeny:

In response to the question of positive results coming from high-level visits, I would like to underscore the significance of former President Carter's visit to North Korea in 1994. It is hard to imagine today, but the situation was so tense at that time that otherwise sensible people were seriously, publicly proposing that we should consider a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea. I think, after President Carter's visit, the whole situation changed, and we launched into the long negotiations leading to the Agreed Framework.

 

Question:

Clearly, if North Korea curtailed its missile program in exchange for space-launch assistance, it wouldn't use U.S. launchers; it would probably use Russian launchers. So what is the role of the U.S. government in making that deal happen? And secondly, what is the concern that the North Koreans would get a lot of data on their payload—this is what the payload needs to look like, this is the vibration it needs to withstand, this is the environment it has to be able to live in—that could be used in missile design?

 

Keeny:

First of all, it was an interesting proposal, and it was initially treated as a joke in the U.S. press. However, it was apparently a serious proposal, and the U.S. government has stated it is looking into it. If you could get North Korea to agree to discontinue permanently its development program of longer-range missiles or all military ballistic missiles, agreeing to launch any space payloads North Korea will have for peaceful purposes would be a very small price to pay. I can't imagine that North Korea is going to have a great many payloads or that, in the absence of a ballistic missile program, it is going to get any technical details on accelerations and vibrations that would be of any great importance to them.

 

Cirincione:

I agree with what Spurgeon just said, but let us just go through it quickly. First, the possible space-launch countries would be Russia, China, or the European Union states. So there are a number of possibilities. Second, as Spurgeon mentioned, it is unlikely that North Korea would have many payloads. What are we talking about here? The satellite it attempted to launch on the Taepo Dong in August 1998 was a Sputnik, just a simple radio transmitter. And that failed. Third, there would be a data concern. You would be concerned about North Korea gathering some information on stress factors, vibration, acceleration, et cetera that could aid it in designing not launch vehicles, but warheads. And that is the data that you would be collecting. That would have to be negotiated out. There clearly would have to be some restrictions on the data that was transmitted to the North Koreans in exchange for launching their payloads. That is not an unsolvable problem though. Presumably, what they are most interested in is getting the payload up there, not in also buying all the data associated or all the technical specifications associated with the launch itself.

 

Question:

So is the U.S. government's role really to help on the financing issue?

 

Cirincione:

The U.S. government would be a facilitator, much as it was in the Agreed Framework. The U.S. government is not paying much for the Agreed Framework. Japan, South Korea, and the European Union are paying for the Agreed Framework with only a small percentage being paid for by the United States. The United States was the facilitator. It was the great power making the deal, and that would be the case here.

 

Wit:

What Joe said is exactly right about the U.S. role. It would be like what we did with the reactor project for the Agreed Framework—that is, negotiating the parameters of the deal with the North Koreans and then setting up whatever multilateral arrangement is necessary to provide the North Koreans with what they need. Another possibility is that the North Koreans are also interested in some scientific cooperation, maybe in terms of some space sciences, that would not directly have to do with building satellites or launching satellites but other things related to that.

The final point on what the North Koreans are really interested in is that I think what we have seen is basically the opening trial balloon in what may be a negotiating strategy that will unfold over the next year or two. I am not sure that the North Koreans really know the parameters of the deal they are trying to get, but I would be very skeptical that they would be willing to do anything beyond ending long-range missile tests in return for foreign space-launch rights, which means there are a number of other missile issues wrapped up in this that will need to be dealt with.

I am assuming that if we want solutions on things like missile exports or maybe even some of the deployments of shorter-range missiles like the Nodong that threaten Japan, we are going to need to have a bigger package than just foreign space-launch assistance. The Japanese angle here is critical because I think everyone assumes that Japan has financial resources that it may be willing to commit to this whole effort. But it is not going to do that unless the issues that concern it the most are addressed. And the issue that concerns it the most is not the missiles that can strike the United States or the missiles that are exported to the Middle East, but rather the missiles that are deployed in North Korea that can hit Japan.

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U.S. Explores North Korean Offer to Terminate Missile Program In Exchange for Satellite-Launch Aid

Alex Wagner

Washington and Moscow are taking seriously an offer North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il made to Russian President Vladimir Putin in July to terminate Pyongyang's testing, development, and production of long-range ballistic missiles in exchange for international assistance with satellite launches. There has been confusion as to whether Kim made the offer in good faith since August 14, when South Korean media reported that Kim said he had been joking when he made the suggestion to Putin.

The United States sent Ambassador Wendy Sherman to Moscow August 28 to discuss North Korea's missile program and Kim's apparent offer. Sherman met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov. A State Department official said that the two sides had "good discussions." The United States and Russia agree that it is "important to explore" North Korea's offer, and for now, Washington is "taking it seriously," according to the official.

Putin had made the first-ever visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Pyongyang on July 19, stopping en route to Okinawa, Japan, for a meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations. After a two-hour meeting, Putin told the Russian news agency Interfax that "North Korea on the whole is ready to use exclusively other nations' rocket technologies if it receives rocket boosters for peaceful space exploration."

Initially, the precise conditions of the proposal were unclear, and U.S. officials were concerned that North Korea wanted to import a booster-rocket capability, which could be used to launch weapons as well as satellites. The potential threat of North Korean ICBMs is one of Washington's primary justifications for pursuing deployment of a limited national missile defense system. Russia has vehemently opposed the deployment of such a system, which would require amending the 1972 ABM Treaty, and has rejected the idea that North Korea presents a threat.

State Department spokesmen Adam Ereli told reporters July 20 that the United States was "very interested" in North Korea's reported proposal, as long as it was done by "other countries, using launch services from existing launch providers under strict technology safeguards."

On July 22, Putin presented an extensive account of his discussions with Kim Jong-Il to the heads of state at the G-8 summit. In a press conference later that day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov specified that the missile deal was "not a matter of launching from North Korean territory, but from the territory of other countries."

The following week, at the July 28 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attempted to clarify the details of the Putin announcement with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun—the highest level U.S.-North Korean meeting to date. In describing her talks with Paek as "a substantively modest but symbolically historic step away from the sterility and hostility of the past," Albright admitted that she was "not able to glean" any further details about the missile offer from her North Korean counterpart.

The Washington Post reported in an August 3 article that in an exchange of "confidential letters" following the Putin-Kim meeting, North Korea had reaffirmed its offer to end its missile program and suggested that "concerned countries" pay for two or three satellite launches per year.

However, at an August 13 luncheon in Pyongyang, Kim reportedly informed an audience of 46 South Korean publishers and broadcasters that his missile proposal to Putin was merely meant "in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies," according to the Korea Times. English excerpts from the lunch published in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo quoted Kim as saying, "I told Russian President Putin that we will stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites."

Sherman will discuss the issue further with South Korea and Japan when she represents the United States in Seoul at a September 1 meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, which was set up for the three countries to coordinate policy on North Korea.

U.S. Explores North Korean Offer to Terminate Missile Program

In Exchange for Satellite Launch Aid

Alex Wagner

Washington and Moscow are taking seriously an offer North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il made to Russian President Vladimir Putin in July to terminate Pyongyang’s testing, development, and production of long-range ballistic missiles in exchange for international assistance with satellite launches. There has been confusion as to whether Kim made the offer in good faith since August 14, when South Korean media reported that Kim said he had been joking when he made the suggestion to Putin.

The United States sent Ambassador Wendy Sherman to Moscow August 28 to discuss North Korea’s missile program and Kim’s apparent offer. Sherman met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov. A State Department official said that the two sides had “good discussions.” The United States and Russia agree that it is “important to explore” North Korea’s offer, and for now, Washington is “taking it seriously,” according to the official.

Putin had made the first-ever visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Pyongyang on July 19, stopping en route to Okinawa, Japan, for a meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations. After a two-hour meeting, Putin told the Russian news agency Interfax that “North Korea on the whole is ready to use exclusively other nations’ rocket technologies if it receives rocket boosters for peaceful space exploration.”

Initially, the precise conditions of the proposal were unclear, and U.S. officials were concerned that North Korea wanted to import a booster-rocket capability, which could be used to launch weapons as well as satellites. The potential threat of North Korean ICBMs is one of Washington’s primary justifications for pursuing deployment of a limited national missile defense system. Russia has vehemently opposed the deployment of such a system, which would require amending the 1972 ABM Treaty, and has rejected the idea that North Korea presents a threat.

State Department spokesmen Adam Ereli told reporters July 20 that the United States was “very interested” in North Korea’s reported proposal, as long as it was done by “other countries, using launch services from existing launch providers under strict technology safeguards.”

On July 22, Putin presented an extensive account of his discussions with Kim Jong-Il to the heads of state at the G-8 summit. In a press conference later that day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov specified that the missile deal was “not a matter of launching from North Korean territory, but from the territory of other countries.”

The following week, at the July 28 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attempted to clarify the details of the Putin announcement with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun—the highest level U.S.-North Korean meeting to date. In describing her talks with Paek as “a substantively modest but symbolically historic step away from the sterility and hostility of the past,” Albright admitted that she was “not able to glean” any further details about the missile offer from her North Korean counterpart.

The Washington Post reported in an August 3 article that in an exchange of “confidential letters” following the Putin-Kim meeting, North Korea had reaffirmed its offer to end its missile program and suggested that “concerned countries” pay for two or three satellite launches per year.

However, at an August 13 luncheon in Pyongyang, Kim reportedly informed an audience of 46 South Korean publishers and broadcasters that his missile proposal to Putin was merely meant “in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies,” according to the Korea Times. English excerpts from the lunch published in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo quoted Kim as saying, “I told Russian President Putin that we will stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites.”

Sherman will discuss the issue further with South Korea and Japan when she represents the United States in Seoul at a September 1 meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, which was set up for the three countries to coordinate policy on North Korea.

Chronology of U.S.–North Korean Missile Diplomacy

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Chronology of U.S.–North Korean

Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy

For years, the United States has tried to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology. In 1994, the two countries signed the Agreed Framework, which froze North Korea's nuclear weapons program and served as a springboard for a discussion of missile issues. However, despite conducting negotiations since April 1996, the United States and North Korea have not yet reached an agreement on Pyongyang's missile development or exports. The recent visit to Washington by a senior North Korean official and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's reciprocal visit to Pyongyang signal a warming of bilateral relations that could have far-reaching implications for this and other topics.

The following is a chronology from 1985 to the present of U.S.-North Korean negotiations on nuclear and missile issues and major events that impacted those discussions.

For more information, contact ACA.

 

1985

December 12, 1985: North Korea accedes to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but does not complete a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under Article III of the NPT, North Korea has 18 months to conclude such an arrangement. In coming years, North Korea links adherence to this provision of the treaty to the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from South Korea.

 

1991

September 27, 1991: President George Bush announces the unilateral withdrawal of all naval and land-based tactical nuclear weapons deployed abroad. Approximately 100 U.S. nuclear weapons had been based in South Korea. Eight days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocates.

November 8, 1991: In response to President Bush's unilateral move, President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea announces the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, under which South Korea promises not to produce, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons. In addition, the declaration unilaterally prohibits South Korea from possessing nuclear reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities. These promises, if enacted, would satisfy all of North Korea's conditions for allowing IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.

December 31, 1991: The two Koreas sign the South-North Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under the declaration, both countries agree not to "test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons" or to "possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities." They also agree to mutual inspections for verification.

 

1992

January 30, 1992: More than six years after signing the NPT, North Korea concludes a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

March 6, 1992: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea's Lyongaksan Machineries and Equipment Export Corporation and Changgwang Sinyong Corporation for missile-proliferation activities.*

April 9, 1992: North Korea ratifies the safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

May 4, 1992: North Korea submits its nuclear material declarations to the IAEA, declaring seven sites and some 90 grams of plutonium that could be subject to IAEA inspection. Pyongyang claims that the nuclear material was the result of reprocessing 89 defective fuel rods in 1989. The IAEA conducted inspections to verify the completeness of this declaration from mid-1992 to early 1993.

June 23, 1992: The United States imposes "missile sanctions" on the North Korean entities sanctioned in March.*

September 1992: IAEA inspectors discover discrepancies in North Korea's "initial report" on its nuclear program and ask for clarification on several issues, including the amount of reprocessed plutonium in North Korea.

 

1993

February 9, 1993: The IAEA demands special inspections of two sites that are believed to store nuclear waste. The request is based on strong evidence that North Korea has been cheating on its commitments under the NPT. North Korea refuses the IAEA's request.

March 12, 1993: Amid demands for special inspections, North Korea announces its intention to withdraw from the NPT in three months, citing Article X provisions that allow withdrawal for supreme national security considerations.

April 1, 1993: The IAEA declares that North Korea is not adhering to its safeguards agreement and that it can not guarantee that North Korean nuclear material is not being diverted for nonpeaceful uses.

June 11, 1993: Following talks with the United States in New York, North Korea suspends its decision to pull out of the NPT just before the withdrawal would have become legally effective. North Korea also agrees to the full and impartial application of IAEA safeguards.

For its part, the United States grants assurances against the threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons. Washington also promises not to interfere with North Korea's internal affairs.

July 19, 1993: After a second round of talks with the United States, North Korea announces in a joint statement that it is "prepared to begin consultations with the IAEA on outstanding safeguards and other issues" and that it is ready to negotiate IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities. The joint statement also indicates that Pyongyang might consider a deal with the United States to replace its graphite nuclear reactors with light-water reactors (LWRs), which are proliferation resistant.

Late 1993: The Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea had separated about 12 kilograms of plutonium. This amount is enough for at least one or two nuclear weapons.

 

1994

January 1994: The director of the Central Intelligence Agency estimates that North Korea may have produced one or two nuclear weapons.

February 15, 1994: North Korea finalizes an agreement with the IAEA to allow inspections of all seven of its declared nuclear facilities, averting sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

March 1, 1994: IAEA inspectors arrive in North Korea for the first inspections since 1993.

March 21, 1994: Responding to North Korea's refusal to allow the inspection team to inspect a plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon, the IAEA Board of Governors approves a resolution calling on North Korea to "immediately allow the IAEA to complete all requested inspection activities and to comply fully with its safeguards agreements."

May 19, 1994: The IAEA confirms that North Korea has begun removing spent fuel from its 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor even though international monitors were not present. The United States and the IAEA had insisted that inspectors be present for any such action because spent fuel can potentially be reprocessed for use in nuclear weapons.

June 13, 1994: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the IAEA. This is distinct from pulling out of the NPT—North Korea is still required to undergo IAEA inspections as part of its NPT obligations. The IAEA contends that North Korea's safeguards agreement remains in force. However, North Korea no longer participates in IAEA functions as a member state.

June 15, 1994: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiates a deal with North Korea in which Pyongyang confirms its willingness to "freeze" its nuclear weapons program and resume high-level talks with the United States. Bilateral talks are expected to begin provided that North Korea allows the IAEA safeguards to remain in place, does not refuel its 5-megawatt nuclear reactor, and does not reprocess any spent nuclear fuel.

July 9, 1994: North Korean President Kim Il Sung dies and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Il.

August 12, 1994: An "agreed statement" is signed that establishes a three-stage process for the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. In return, the United States promises to move toward normalized economic and diplomatic relations and assures North Korea that it will provide assistance with the construction of proliferation-resistant light-water reactors to replace North Korea's graphite-moderated reactors.

October 21, 1994: The United States and North Korea conclude four months of negotiations by adopting the "Agreed Framework" in Geneva. To resolve U.S. concerns about Pyongyang's plutonium-producing reactors and the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, the agreement calls for North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear facilities, a process that will require dismantling three nuclear reactors, two of which are still under construction. North Korea also allows the IAEA to verify compliance through "special inspections," and it agrees to allow 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel elements to be removed to a third country.

In exchange, Pyongyang will receive two light-water reactors and annual shipments of heavy fuel oil during construction of the LWRs. The LWRs will be financed and constructed through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a multinational consortium.

Calling for movement toward full normalization of political and economic relations, the accord also serves as a jumping-off point for U.S.-North Korean dialogue on Pyongyang's development and export of ballistic missiles, as well as other issues of bilateral concern.

November 28, 1994: The IAEA announces that it had confirmed that construction has been halted at North Korea's Nyongbyon and Taochon nuclear facilities and that these facilities are not operational.

 

1995

March 9, 1995: KEDO is formed in New York with the United States, South Korea, and Japan as the organization's original members.

 

1996

January 1996: North Korea agrees in principle to a meeting on missile proliferation issues, which had been requested in a letter by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Hubbard. However, Pyongyang contends that the United States would have to ease economic sanctions before it could agree on a date and venue for the talks.

In testimony before a House International Relations Committee subcommittee on March 19, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord says that Washington is willing to ease economic sanctions if progress is made on the missile export issue.

April 21-22, 1996: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for their first round of bilateral missile talks. The United States reportedly suggests that North Korea should adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary international agreement aimed at controlling sales of ballistic missile systems, components, and technology. North Korea allegedly demands that the United States provide compensation for lost missile-related revenue.

May 24, 1996: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Iran for missile technology-related transfers. The sanctions prohibit any imports or exports to sanctioned firms and to those sectors of the North Korean economy that are considered missile-related. The pre-existing general ban on trade with both countries makes the sanctions largely symbolic. *

October 16, 1996: After detecting North Korean preparations for a test of its medium-range Nodong missile, the United States deploys a reconnaissance ship and aircraft to Japan. Following several meetings in New York between U.S. and North Korean diplomats, the State Department confirms on November 8 that the missile test has been canceled.

 

1997

June 11-13, 1997: The second round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks takes place in New York, with U.S. negotiators pressing North Korea not to deploy the Nodong missile and to end sales of Scud missiles and their components. The parties reach no agreement but reportedly lay the foundation for future talks.

August 6, 1997: The United States imposes new sanctions on two additional North Korean entities for unspecified missile-proliferation activities.*

 

1998

February 25, 1998: At his inaugural speech, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung announces his "sunshine policy," which strives to improve inter-Korean relations through peace, reconciliation, and cooperation.

April 17, 1998: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Pakistan in response to Pyongyang's transfer of missile technology and components to Pakistan's Khan Research Laboratory.*

June 16, 1998: The official Korean Central News Agency reports that Pyongyang will only end its missile technology exports if it is suitably compensated for financial losses.

July 15, 1998: The bipartisan Rumsfeld Commission concludes that the United States may have "little or no warning" before facing a long-range ballistic missile threat from "rogue states," such as North Korea and Iran.

August 31, 1998: North Korea launches a three-stage Taepo Dong-1 rocket with a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers that flies over Japan. Pyongyang announces that the rocket successfully placed a small satellite into orbit, a claim contested by U.S. Space Command. Japan suspends signature of a cost-sharing agreement for the Agreed Framework's LWR project until November 1998. The U.S. intelligence community admits to being surprised by North Korea's advances in missile-staging technology and its use of a solid-rocket motor for the missile's third stage.

October 1, 1998: The third round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks begins in New York but makes little progress. The United States repeats its request for Pyongyang to terminate its missile programs in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. North Korea rejects the U.S. proposal on the grounds that the lifting of sanctions is implicit in the 1994 Agreed Framework.

November 12, 1998: President Bill Clinton appoints former Secretary of Defense William Perry to serve as North Korea policy coordinator—a post established by the 1999 Defense Authorization Act. Perry immediately undertakes an interagency review of U.S. policy toward North Korea and begins consultations with South Korea and Japan aimed at forming a unified approach to dealing with Pyongyang.

December 4-11, 1998: The United States and North Korea hold talks to address U.S. concerns about a suspected underground nuclear facility at Kumchang-ni. Pyongyang reportedly accepts in principle the idea of a U.S. inspection of the site but is unable to agree with U.S. proposals for "appropriate compensation."

 

1999

February 2, 1999: CIA Director George Tenet testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that with some technical improvements, North Korea would be able to use the Taepo Dong-1 to deliver small payloads to parts of Alaska and Hawaii. Tenet also says that Pyongyang's Taepo Dong-2, if it had a third stage like the Taepo Dong-1, would be able to deliver large payloads to the continental United States, albeit with poor accuracy.

March 29-31, 1999: U.S. and North Korean officials hold a fourth round of missile talks in Pyongyang. The United States again expresses concern over North Korea's missile development and proliferation activities and proposes a deal exchanging North Korean restraint for U.S. sanctions relief. U.S. officials describe the talks as "serious and intensive" but succeed only in reaching agreement to meet again at an unspecified date.

April 25, 1999: The United States, South Korea, and Japan establish the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group to institutionalize close consultation and policy coordination in dealing with North Korea.

May 20-24, 1999: A U.S. inspection team visits the North Korean suspected nuclear site in Kumchang-ni. According to the State Department, the team finds no evidence of nuclear activity or violation of the Agreed Framework.

May 25-28, 1999: Traveling to Pyongyang as a presidential envoy, William Perry meets with senior North Korean political, diplomatic, and military officials to discuss a major expansion in bilateral relations if Pyongyang is willing to address U.S. security concerns. Perry delivers a letter from President Clinton to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, but the two do not meet. Perry reportedly calls on North Korea to satisfy U.S. concerns about ongoing nuclear weapons-related activities that are beyond the scope of the Agreed Framework and ballistic missile development and proliferation in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, normalization of diplomatic relations, and potentially some form of security guarantee.

September 7-12, 1999: During talks in Berlin, North Korea agrees to a moratorium on testing any long-range missiles for the duration of talks with the United States. The United States agrees to a partial lifting of economic sanctions on North Korea. The two parties agree to continue high-level discussions. (Sanctions are not actually lifted until June 2000.)

September 9, 1999: A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate reports that North Korea will "most likely" develop an ICBM capable of delivering a 200-kilogram warhead to the U.S. mainland by 2015.

September 15, 1999: North Korean policy coordinator William Perry submits his review of U.S. policy toward North Korea to Congress and releases an unclassified version of the report on October 12. The report recommends "a new, comprehensive and integrated approach to…negotiations with the DPRK," which would involve a coordinated reduction in isolation by the United States and its allies in a "step-by-step and reciprocal fashion." Potential engagement mechanisms could include the normalization of diplomatic relations and the relaxation of trade sanctions.

November 19, 1999: The United States and North Korea meet in Berlin for talks on bilateral relations and preparations for a North Korean high-level visit to the United States.

December 15, 1999: Five years after the Agreed Framework was signed, KEDO officials sign a turn-key contract with the Korea Electric Power Corporation to begin construction on the two light-water reactors in Kumho, North Korea. KEDO officials attribute the delay in signing the contract to complex legal and financial challenges and the tense political climate generated by the North Korean Taepo Dong-1 test in August 1998.

 

2000

April 6, 2000: The United States imposes sanctions on a North Korean firm, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, for proliferating MTCR Category I items, possibly to Iran. Category I items include complete missile systems with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers and payloads over 500 kilograms, major subsystems, rocket stages or guidance systems, production facilities for MTCR-class missiles, or technology associated with such missiles.*

May 25-27, 2000: The United States conducts its second inspection of the Kumchang-ni site. The inspection team found that conditions had not changed since the first inspection in May 1999.

June 15, 2000: Following a historic summit, North and South Korea sign a joint declaration stating they have "agreed to resolve" the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement includes promises to reunite families divided by the Korean War and to pursue other economic and cultural exchanges. No commitments are made regarding nuclear weapons or missile programs or military deployments in the Demilitarized Zone.

June 19, 2000: Apparently encouraged by the North-South summit, the United States relaxes sanctions on North Korea, allowing a "wide range" of trade in commercial and consumer goods, easing restrictions on investment, and eliminating prohibitions on direct personal and commercial financial transactions. Sanctions related to terrorism and missile proliferation remain in place. The next day, North Korea reaffirms its moratorium on missile tests.

July 12, 2000: The fifth round of U.S.-North Korean missile talks in Kuala Lumpur end without resolution. During the meeting, North Korea repeats its demand for compensation, stated as $1 billion per year, in return for halting missile exports. The United States rejects this proposal but says that it is willing to move toward "economic normalization" in return for addressing U.S. concerns.

July 19, 2000: During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Il reportedly promises to end his country's missile program in exchange for assistance with satellite launches from countries that have expressed concern about North Korea's missile program.

July 28, 2000: At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright engages in a "substantively modest" meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, the highest level of exchange to date. Paek gives no additional details about North Korea's purported offer to end its missile program in return for space-launch assistance.

August 13, 2000: Kim Jong-Il tells a meeting of 46 South Korean media executives in Pyongyang that his missile proposal was meant "in humor, while talking about science and state-of-the-art technologies," according to the Korea Times. The report of the event is widely interpreted as undercutting the seriousness of Kim's offer; however, English-language excerpts of Kim's speech seem to confirm the offer: "I told…Putin that we would stop developing rockets when the United States comes forward and launches our satellites."

August 28, 2000: U.S. Ambassador Wendy Sherman travels to Moscow to confirm the details of Kim Jong-Il's apparent missile proposal with her Russian counterparts. At a September 8 briefing, a senior State Department official says the United States is taking the North Korean offer "very seriously."

September 27, 2000: U.S.-North Korean talks resume in New York on nuclear issues, missiles, and terrorism. The two countries issue a joint statement on terrorism, a move that indicates progress toward removing North Korea from the State Department's terrorism list.

October 9-12, 2000: Kim Jong-Il's second-in-command, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, visits Washington as a special envoy. He delivers a letter to President Clinton and meets with the secretaries of state and defense. The move is seen as an affirmation of Kim's commitment to improving U.S.-North Korean ties.

October 12, 2000: The United States and North Korea issue a joint statement noting that resolution of the missile issue would "make an essential contribution to fundamentally improved relations" and reiterating the two countries' commitment to implementation of the Agreed Framework. The statement also says that Secretary Albright will visit North Korea in the near future to prepare for a possible visit by President Clinton.

October 24, 2000: Secretary Albright concludes a two-day visit to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong-Il. During the visit, Kim says that North Korea would not further test the Taepo Dong-1 missile. In addition to discussing Pyongyang's indigenous missile program, the talks cover North Korean missile technology exports, nuclear transparency, the normalization of relations, and a possible trip by President Clinton to Pyongyang.

*Entry dates for the imposition of sanctions indicate the dates the sanctions took effect.

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U.S.-North Korea Missile, Terrorism Talks Resume; North Korea Admits to Exporting Rocket Technology

Alex Wagner

The United States and North Korea resumed missile negotiations in July and terrorism talks in August as legislation was introduced in Congress to reimpose sanctions on Pyongyang. Following the talks—neither of which made any breakthroughs—North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il reportedly said that his country has been exporting missiles abroad, underlining assertions made by U.S. intelligence.

Kim's remarks were made during an August 13 luncheon with South Korean media executives at which he acknowledged that his country exports missiles to Iran and Syria in return for hard currency, according to South Korean press reports. A recent CIA report to Congress highlighted North Korea as the principal exporter of missile equipment and assistance to Syria and as one of the most active suppliers of ballistic missile-related goods, technology, and expertise to Iran.

North Korean export activities were taken up July 10-12 by Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn and Jang Chang Chon, head of North Korea's bureau on U.S. affairs. Their meeting, held in Kuala Lumpur, marked the fifth round of bilateral missile talks. At a July 12 press briefing, Einhorn said the meeting covered developments since the last round of talks in March 1999 and U.S. proposals to end North Korea's missile exports and indigenous capabilities. Einhorn specified that in return for addressing U.S. concerns, the United States is "prepared to move step by step to full economic normalization."

Einhorn characterized the talks as "very useful" and said that he hopes to meet again with the North Koreans in the near future. However, on July 12, Jang "clarified" that North Korea would only continue the talks if the United States compensated Pyongyang "for the political and economic losses to be incurred in case we suspend our missile program." During the meeting, the United States had once again rejected North Korea's long-standing demand for $1 billion per year in return for the cessation of missile exports. "North Korea should not be receiving cash compensation for stopping what it shouldn't be doing in the first place," Einhorn said.

Following the talks, on July 13, Chairman of the House International Relations Committee Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) introduced the North Korean Nonproliferation Act of 2000. The proposed legislation would require the president to reimpose sanctions on North Korea that were eased in June unless the president certifies that Pyongyang has not tested or proliferated missiles or missile technology. (See ACT, July/August 2000.)

Despite the recent easing of sanctions, some sanctions remain in place, including those derived from North Korea's classification as a state sponsoring terrorism. The second round of bilateral talks designed to discuss steps that North Korea must take to shed this classification were held August 9-10 in Pyongyang after a break since March.

Led by U.S. envoy for counterterrorism Ambassador Michael Sheehan and North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Gye Gwan, the talks were not able to reach a resolution. In return for removing North Korea from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, the United States wants North Korea to extradite members of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group and publicly condemn terrorism.

During his August meeting with South Korean media executives, Kim Jong-Il reportedly said that removal from the terrorist list is a precondition for resuming diplomatic relations with Washington. If that occurs, Kim told the executives that he would be willing to immediately establish full diplomatic ties, according to the Korea Herald.

U.S. Eases Sanctions After North-South Summit; Pyongyang Reaffirms Missile-Testing Ban

July/August 2000

By Seth Brugger and Matthew Rice

Immediately following a historic summit between North and South Korea, on June 19, the United States eased sanctions on North Korea that had been in place since 1950. The U.S. action, which implemented a previous decision to relax sanctions, apparently prompted North Korea to reaffirm its pledge not to flight-test missiles and provided momentum for a resumption of bilateral missile talks.

The United States originally announced its intention to ease sanctions under the Trading With the Enemy Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Commerce Department's Export Administration Regulations in September 1999. (See ACT, September/October 1999.) However, the sanctions were not legally relaxed until new regulations were printed June 19 in the Federal Registry. Explaining the lapse between the announcement and the actual easing of sanctions, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher simply said, "Everything always takes longer than you planned."

The United States has eased sanctions on Pyongyang before, although only in a very limited sense. Some travel restrictions were loosened in 1989. In 1994, following the signature of the U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework, which aimed to freeze North Korea's nuclear program, Washington relaxed a few narrowly focused economic sanctions. The United States has also permitted the shipment of humanitarian items to North Korea in response to natural disasters there in 1995, 1996, and 1997.

The newly announced action is much broader and permits a "wide range" of exports and imports between the two states, although imports from North Korea will be subject to an approval process, according to the State Department. Direct personal and commercial financial transactions are permitted, and investment restrictions have been eased. Additionally, commercial U.S. ships and aircraft will be allowed to land or dock at North Korean ports.

However, some sanctions remain in place, including counter-terrorism and non-proliferation controls and statutory and multilateral restrictions, effectively prohibiting exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most related U.S. assistance. North Korea also remains on the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism, effectively blocking U.S. support of World Bank or International Monetary Fund loans to North Korea. Pyongyang has insisted that as long as it remains on the terrorism list, it will not send a high-level official to Washington as reciprocation for a May 1999 visit to North Korea by presidential envoy William Perry.

Following the U.S. action, North Korea reaffirmed its September 1999 pledge to "not launch a missile." On June 20, a foreign ministry spokesman remarked, "Now that preparations are going on for the Washington high-level talks, the moratorium still remains in force," according to a June 21 report by the Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean government's press organ. The spokesman called for the complete removal of remaining U.S. sanctions, adding that if the United States "sincerely" worked toward "improved bilateral relations…the D.P.R.K. will move in good faith and work to clear the U.S. of its worries." During a June 21 briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said these assurances were "very much welcome."

These latest U.S.-North Korean actions helped provide the momentum needed for a resumption of bilateral missile talks, dormant since March 1999. The two sides met in May for preparatory talks, which will be followed up with missile talks from July 10 to 12 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

The North-South Summit

The easing of sanctions and North Korea's latest missile pledge followed on the heals of the first-ever summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, held June 13-15 in Pyongyang. The summit produced agreements of little substance but offered hope of progress toward more peaceful relations.

South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il signed a joint declaration June 15 that "agreed to resolve" the reunification question, decided to "promptly" settle the issue of exchange visits by families separated since the Korean War, encouraged economic and cultural cooperation, and set the stage for an eventual visit by Kim Jong-Il to Seoul. President Kim Dae Jung exuberantly proclaimed that the accord promised the Korean people "a dawn of hope for reconciliation, cooperation and unification."

It had not been expected that the two sides would make progress on difficult issues such as the status of U.S. troops in South Korea and the North Korean missile program. However, President Kim Dae Jung said he discussed these issues. "We talked about nuclear and missile problems and U.S. troops," he told reporters upon his return to Seoul.

President Kim Dae Jung told a June 19 meeting of the U.S.-Korea Business Council that although Pyongyang continues anti-U.S. propaganda, Kim Jong-Il never denounced the United States during the summit, according to Donald Gregg, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, who attended the meeting. President Kim Dae Jung said that he told the North Korean leader that improved ties with the United States could aid his country's economy and that Pyongyang should pursue better relations with China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. President Kim also told his counterpart that nuclear and missile controls needed to be kept in place, emphasizing the importance of North Korean cooperation on these areas in order for Pyongyang to gain the international communities' support and economic assistance. According to President Kim, the North Korean leader responded to these remarks in a fairly positive manner.

 

Effect on U.S. Threat Assessment

It is not clear whether the missile flight-testing moratorium and the slow thaw on the Korean Peninsula will impact the short-term U.S. evaluation of the North Korean missile program, a key driver behind the proposed U.S. national missile defense system. During a June 28 press conference, President Bill Clinton described the summit as a "very, very important development" and said he was "encouraged" by the missile moratorium, but he cautioned that he did not think the North Korean missile problem had yet been resolved. "Do I think [the threat has] gone away because of this meeting? I don't. Do I think it might? It might, and I hope it will, but we don't know that yet," Clinton said.

Vice President Al Gore echoed Clinton's sentiments in a June 15 interview on "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer." When asked whether a reconciliation process on the Korean Peninsula would lessen the need for a national missile defense, Gore said, "Yes, but not eliminate it." Gore added, "We are well to keep a weather eye on such threats."

U.S. Eases Sanctions After North-South Summit; Pyongyang Reaffirms Missile-Testing Ban

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