Login/Logout

*
*  

"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
U.S. North Korean Missile Talks Collapse Following Defection

WHILE THE collapse of U.S. North Korean missile talks in late August may have temporarily set back Clinton administration efforts to rein in Pyongyang's missile activities, the cause of the break down—the defection to the United States of a senior North Korean diplomat believed to be familiar with the North's missile related transfers to the Middle East—may produce an intelligence bonanza for the United States. The diplomat, Chang Sung Kil, North Korea's ambassador to Egypt and a former vice foreign minister, is the highest ranking official from the North ever to defect directly to the United States.

Chang's defection and that of his brother, a lower ranking diplomat based in Paris, and their families prompted North Korea to withdraw from a scheduled third round of missile talks in New York only hours before they were set to begin on August 27. A North Korean official said the defections would also have "serious effects" on the four party talks (involving North and South Korea, the United States and China) on formally ending the Korean War scheduled to resume September 15.

The U.S. North Korean missile talks, which opened in April 1996, focus on Pyongyang's missile development programs and its missile related exports. So far, however, the talks have apparently not produced any changes in Pyongyang's proliferation behavior. The United States is particularly concerned about North Korean transfers to Egypt, Iran and Syria, as well as Pakistan, and its development of short and medium range ballistic missiles. In addition to producing Scud B and Scud C short range missiles (with ranges of 300 and 600 kilometers, respectively), North Korea is developing the 1,000 kilometer range No dong (which it has flight tested) and is suspected of developing the Taepo dong I and Taepo dong II (with an estimated range of 3,500 kilometers).

In a June 1997 unclassified report on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and advanced munitions, the CIA said North Korea "continued to export Scud related equipment and materials to countries of concern" during the last half of 1996. In early 1996, North Korea reportedly provided Egypt with materials and equipment that, according to a leaked CIA document, "could allow Egypt to begin Scud C series production." (See ACT, July 1996.)

As part of the Clinton administration's carrot and stick approach to dealing with North Korea's proliferation activities—offering a bilateral dialogue while maintaining the threat of economic sanctions—the administration announced August 6 in the Federal Register that the United States was imposing sanctions on two North Korean entities—the Lyongaksan General Trading Corporation and the Korea Pugang Trading Corporation—for unspecified missile related transfers. The sanctions, however, which prohibit the U.S. government and U.S. companies from doing business with either firm, are largely symbolic because of long standing legislation that precludes such trade.