Congressional Delegation Cancels Trip to North Korea at White House Request

A bipartisan congressional delegation led by Representative Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) postponed a late October trip to North Korea after the White House expressed opposition to the visit. “At the eleventh hour, the White House withdrew its support,” Weldon said in a statement. The congressman, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, described the delay as temporary and said a new date for the visit is forthcoming.

The postponement follows indications from the North Koreans that they might consider President George W. Bush’s proposal to provide a written guarantee that the United States will not attack North Korea as part of a multilateral agreement.

“Discussions continue between our delegation and North Korean officials,” Weldon stressed. “The members of the delegation still believe that a congressional visit will positively impact relations between our two nations. In that regard, the North Koreans continue to make overtures that our delegation will have access to the Yongbyon nuclear facility,” where the North Koreans say they have reprocessed spent fuel rods to use in their nuclear weapons program.

Representative Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Texas), a member of the delegation, told Arms Control Today he is “dumbfounded” by the administration’s stance. “We were going there because we think we can be supportive of the administration,” Ortiz said. Ortiz credits the delegation’s June 2003 visit with helping to bring the North Koreans to the six-party talks. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)