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Progress and Challenges in Denuclearizing North Korea
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An ACA Press Conference

On April 10, the Arms Control Association held a press conference after the Bush administration decided that it would not certify North Korea’s compliance with the 1994 Agreed Framework, which requires North Korea to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for two light-water nuclear power reactors.

The panelists were Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association; Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service; Marc Vogelaar, director of the Public and External Promotion and Support Division at the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization; and Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council.

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

Daryl G. Kimball

Welcome to this morning’s Arms Control Association briefing. We have organized this meeting to provide what we believe is some much needed information and analysis on the challenges facing continued progress toward implementing the Agreed Framework of 1994. Before I introduce our expert panelists, let me briefly outline the background of the issues that we are going to be discussing.

As most of you know, the Agreed Framework calls upon North Korea to freeze the operation and construction of its nuclear reactors and plutonium separation facilities that were part of its covert nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy support, including the construction of two light-water reactors [LWRs] for energy production. The deal drew the region back from an 18-month-long standoff over the North’s weapons programs and its threat to pull out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT].

So far, the deal has effectively frozen North Korea’s program, but difficulties clearly lie ahead. The Agreed Framework calls upon North Korea to comply with all International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] safeguards, which prohibit civil nuclear programs from undertaking military activities and include on-site inspections. North Korea must be in compliance, according to the Agreed Framework, when a significant portion of the two light-water power reactors are completed but before delivery of key nuclear components. When a significant portion of the construction is completed is a key issue here.

The Bush administration is now asserting that North Korea must agree to these inspections very soon because it asserts that the reactors will be completed in approximately three to four years and that IAEA inspections of declared and undeclared facilities could take up to three to four years. To underscore this message and to appease hard-line members of Congress, the administration recently announced that it cannot certify compliance by North Korea with all of the provisions of the Agreed Framework. Now, the North Koreans—who are still a bit stung by President Bush’s “axis of evil” remark in January and by reports about the U.S. nuclear posture review [NPR]—cite delays in the reactors’ construction and signals that Washington may be seeking to end the deal.

Now, the more we’re concerned about the threat posed by North Korea, the more important it seems to us at the Arms Control Association to maintain the freeze that currently exists on the North Korean weapons program. Though the North Korean regime is difficult, undemocratic, and uninterested in its people’s welfare, recent history shows that pragmatic and principled engagement can yield results that enhance U.S. and regional security. Timely initiation of inspections and progress toward construction of the reactors are both important for the Agreed Framework’s implementation. And with a U.S. envoy, Ambassador Jack Pritchard, headed to Seoul shortly and with the prospect of talks with the North restarting in the near future, the question now is how to move ahead to make sure that the Agreed Framework continues to be implemented by both sides.

To help us explore these and other related issues, we have three speakers with substantial hands-on experience on these matters. First, we’ll hear from Ambassador Bob Gallucci, who will provide us with his unique perspective on the agreement itself, its contributions, the undertakings of the parties to the agreement, and how the Bush administration is apparently interpreting the Agreed Framework.

Following Bob, we’re going to hear from Marc Vogelaar, who will update us on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization’s [KEDO] progress. Finally, we’ll hear from Lee Sigal, who’s going to outline the issues in the agreement that the Bush administration must take into account if it seeks to keep the North on track with the framework and prevent a re-emergence of the nuclear crisis that gripped the region in the 1990s.

Robert Gallucci

I think it’s useful to first note where we’ve come from, what the past is. When I was an assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration in the early 1990s, we were concerned about a nuclear weapons program in North Korea, and when I was assistant secretary in the Clinton administration, we were still concerned about a nuclear weapons program in North Korea, but we were getting to know substantially more about it. In fact, there was a significant nuclear weapons program in North Korea that we estimated would, in five to seven years, be producing around 150 kilograms or so of plutonium a year, which is on the order of 30 nuclear weapons’ worth of plutonium. So, that’s a serious nuclear weapons program to worry about.

There was also a crisis that had emerged from a North Korean refusal to accept what the IAEA calls special inspections, and it was a crisis that involved the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and, of course, access to two North Korean radioactive-waste storage sites.

Furthermore, there was concern about a ballistic missile program in North Korea that included medium-range ballistic missiles, the Nodong, and longer-range, potentially intercontinental-range, Taepo Dong variations. We were concerned about what they were building in North Korea and what they were exporting to the Middle East and South Asia. We were concerned about the forward deployment of their conventional forces along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ]: roughly a million-man army, a lot of it forward deployed, plus artillery that could reach Seoul and therefore hold that city, in a sense, hostage. We were also concerned about volatile relations between North and South Korea and between North Korea and the United States, which were manifested intermittently by incidents at sea and along the DMZ.

So, a very bad atmosphere in the early 1990s was the backdrop to the negotiations that produced the Agreed Framework. And by the way, during the course of those negotiations, while I would not claim that we reached the brink of war in 1994, I would certainly say we were on the road to war in 1994, before we produced a negotiated settlement.

Since then, I would say that the Agreed Framework has addressed but not resolved the problem of the known North Korean nuclear weapons program. That was the program I just mentioned to you: a five-megawatt research reactor, a 50-megawatt reactor, a 200-megawatt nuclear reactor, and a reprocessing plant. It addressed the threat posed by that program by stopping and freezing it and holding out the prospect of ultimately having it dismantled. It ended the crisis by offering some benefits to both North Korea and the United States immediately. But North Korea would only receive the big benefit, the light-water reactors, after it had satisfied the IAEA.

North-South relations improved, and so did North Korean-U.S. relations. Kim Dae Jung, the president of South Korea, made a historic visit north. Not quite as historic, but certainly important, Vice Marshal Jo came to the United States and the secretary of state of the United States went to Pyongyang. Pretty significant. And regarding the North’s ballistic missile program, well, there was a freeze put in place unilaterally by the North Koreans on testing. But missile exports continued and still continue; we have no reason to believe there’s been any halt to ballistic missile development; and conventional forces are still a problem.

So, against this backdrop the Bush administration comes to office, and initially it had a rocky start. Kim Dae Jung, who has championed a policy of engagement with the North, came to the United States. The day before Kim met with President Bush, Secretary of State Powell seemed to indicate that the administration would follow the same direction as the Clinton administration. But the very next day, the president himself, in a sense, says “not” and stakes out a different, tougher line that opens up the possibility of a disagreement between Seoul and Washington. This is the reverse of what we have experienced during the negotiation of the framework; now the South is actively enthusiastic about engagement and the United States is more resistant.

But within a matter of months, a policy review by the Bush administration concluded that it would be desirable to have an improved Agreed Framework and a posture to go with its willingness to have negotiations. Since that point a little more than a year ago, I would say the music has not supported the lyrics very well. We’ve had statements by the administration, particularly the president, indicating a lack of trust of the North. We’ve had the president’s comments about an evil axis that includes North Korea and Iran, as well as Iraq. We’ve had press reports about a nuclear posture review that indicates the United States would contemplate nuclear weapons strikes in a pre-emptive mode and that mentions North Korea in that context. And most recently, as Daryl noted, we’ve had the decision not to certify North Korea’s compliance with the Agreed Framework but instead to waive the requirements for compliance. In each of these points that the administration made, there is a fair amount of honesty, but this honesty provided a relatively poor backdrop for the conduct of negotiations, as honesty might in many human interactions.

Since I’m often asked to explain what’s happening in North Korea and what the North Koreans are thinking, I must tell you that I often say “I don’t know” because I don’t know. Moreover, I don’t have a lot of faith or high confidence that the experts know either. What’s odd now is that I feel comparably confused about what this administration is thinking now, and that’s not a good thing for me, and that’s what I really want to focus upon.

It is possible that the North Koreans are looking at the very tough posture the administration has adopted—no carrots and possible sticks—and have a certain amount of concern, given the robust character of American military capability, and are finding themselves in a position of desperation. Put these things together and they’ve decided that, under these circumstances, they will talk to the United States and to South Korea. But even if that is a correct characterization—which would present an arguable case that the administration is on the right track—I still wonder, without real negotiation, how we can deal with the problems that we have: the problem of gaining greater transparency into the North Korean nuclear program, dealing with ballistic missiles, and dealing with the conventional forces. These are all issues that the last administration had on its agenda at its end and that this administration still has on its agenda.

So, what is U.S. policy? Early on, some were suspicious that the administration’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for real negotiations with North Korea was connected in some way with identifying North Korea as the principal threat to which America’s ballistic missile defense would respond. In other words, this was a method of preserving that threat. I’m not embracing that myself, but that certainly was a frequently heard criticism. That seems to me less likely to be the case, partially because we hear these days less about national missile defense than we did a year ago.

We also have the administration’s decision not to certify on Pyongyang’s compliance with the Agreed Framework. I think, although I’m not certain of this, that the American decision to waive rather than certify embraces an argument that I think is captured by the phrase “anticipatory breach.” I am aware that at least two well-known analysts, Henry Sokolski, who is here, and Victor Galinsky, have made this argument.

The anticipatory breach argument is an interesting one, and I will try to shorthand it. It holds that the Agreed Framework requires North Korea to come into full compliance with its IAEA obligations before the shipment of nuclear components for the nuclear reactor takes place. Since we can anticipate the pace of delivery and can see that, within a few years, we’ll be at the point when nuclear components would be delivered, if the North Koreans do not start cooperating now with the IAEA to come into full compliance, since it will take some years to do that, they will not be in full compliance by the time it will be appropriate to begin delivering those nuclear components. Therefore, they are in anticipatory breach.

Well, with that argument, the North Koreans would have to start cooperating with the IAEA now on special inspections, or at least not put it off for years. This is a way, I would suspect, of improving the Agreed Framework, which is something the administration said it wishes to do. My problem with it is that this is the kind of improvement that drives a stake through the framework’s heart, which could be an objective for some. The point is that it is a unilateral reinterpretation of the Agreed Framework that is not supported by the framework’s language or any reading of the negotiating history.

The Agreed Framework essentially provides, together with its confidential minute, for the delivery of a nuclear power project, which will have components that are both non-nuclear and nuclear. The non-nuclear, conventional portion of the project would be delivered first, then the nuclear portion. The nuclear portion consists of items listed on the trigger list of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and these can only be delivered after IAEA safeguards requirements permit.

In the language of the Agreed Framework, it says, “When a significant portion of the LWR project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components, the D.P.R.K. will come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.” Now, a significant portion of the reactor could be completed and then the delivery of the nuclear components could commence immediately, or there could be a delay before nuclear components are delivered while the IAEA completes its work. The language does not specify either scenario and, I would say, therefore does not support an argument for the concept of anticipatory breach.

Then, there is over a year of negotiating record here, if for some reason you can’t understand the language. It is very clear what went on in these negotiations. Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Gu told me he didn’t trust the United States, and I of course told him that we didn’t trust the D.P.R.K. So how do we have this deal? Well, that’s what the framework is. The framework is not an agreement; it’s a set of steps that one side takes and the other side takes. It’s reciprocal, sometimes in parallel. And the North Koreans said quite clearly that compliance with the IAEA, particularly special inspections, is an act of transparency. That was the word Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Gu used. That is, they were granting us transparency over their program. And he said quite clearly that the promise of transparency was an incentive for the United States to deliver that first part of the reactor project. And when Washington does that, it will get the transparency; that will be its reward. No suggestion was ever made that North Korea was going to start giving the transparency earlier so that they can have a smoothly flowing construction of the light-water reactor project. It was to come afterwards.

However, at one point I did suggest that the North could start early and show their goodwill right away; in 1994, they could start the negotiations with the IAEA. He said, in effect, “Thank you very much for that suggestion of how we could show our goodwill. When you complete the first part of the project, then the transparency that we promised will take place.” I never had any question about this. I’ve been asked whether I knew how many years it would take for the IAEA to bring the North Koreans into full compliance, and the answer is, no, I didn’t. I knew it would take time. I don’t think anybody knows for sure right now, but it will take time. So, I find, first in the framework’s language and second in negotiating history, no support for this argument of anticipatory breach.

I am not a lawyer, but the whole idea of an anticipatory breach of a framework strikes me as odd. The Agreed Framework is not an agreement. Our lawyers were very clear about this; I testified on this. We are not legally bound by it; they are not legally bound by it. This is a framework for both sides to take action on. If we want to get up one morning and say, “We’re not going to deliver the reactors,” we will not have violated anything. We would not be acting consistent with the framework, but if we decide it’s in our interest not to, we can do that without violating any international agreement. They can do the same. We signed the framework document because we thought it was in both of our interests to do so; but if the administration should decide the framework was no longer consistent with the international security interests of the United States, I don’t think it needs to do anything in terms of explaining anticipatory breaches. So, I don’t understand the use of that phrase in this context.

However, I would note that President Clinton gave the North a side letter representing a political commitment to complete the LWR project and provide heavy-fuel oil, even without the assistance of other countries, if necessary. But the language of the letter makes the assurance contingent on a U.S. assessment that the North has acted consistently with the framework.

There is another reason, of course, why one might find North Korea acting inconsistently with the framework. If North Korea had a secret nuclear program of any kind, that would be inconsistent with the framework and the confidential minute. Is this the reason the administration waived rather than certified North Korea’s compliance with the framework? I have no idea. I would, however, observe that if it was, we would be back to 1998, when the Clinton administration was concerned about a secret nuclear program in North Korea, used the negotiations we were in to tell them so, implicitly and explicitly putting the Agreed Framework and the light-water reactor project and the 500,000 tons of heavy-fuel oil on the table, and we got access, twice, to the site of concern. That sounds like the framework’s working, even when it doesn’t have a specific provision for inspection.

So, when I look to the future, I’m concerned. If there is a secret program or we have concerns about a secret program, I’d like to be in negotiations with the North Koreans so we can resolve it. Ballistic missiles are also an enormous problem for us, as are conventional forces. And of course, the alliance with the Republic of Korea is an issue for us, one that we must continue to tend. I worry about all of these.

In sum, my concern is that an ideology is getting in the way of common sense and has the potential to undercut national security. Abba Eban is given credit for that short line, “You can’t make peace if you only talk with your friends.” Thank you.

Marc Vogelaar

In this rather august company, I’ll do my best to clarify to you some elements of the implementation of the Agreed Framework, part of which has been entrusted to us at KEDO.

The political landscape in which KEDO is implementing the light-water reactor project is, as you just heard, constantly changing and has been changing from the start. The prophets of doom have had a field day as of late. The D.P.R.K. has been called a part of an “axis of evil,” and critics of the Agreed Framework have predicted its imminent demise. Some have even been so cynical as to pretend that the United States never even intended to provide the North with two light-water reactors but that the project only served as a ploy to keep Pyongyang away from developing a nuclear weapon, pending the regime’s collapse.

The last fortnight and the last few days provide encouraging signs, heralding a renewed chance for engagement and sunshine on the Korean Peninsula. And let me add that even the occasional cloud on the Agreed Framework’s horizon doesn’t always mean that stormy weather is ahead. KEDO’s record, now seven years old, illustrates that implementing the Agreed Framework has never been and will never be plain sailing. KEDO’s mission is a political one, and the construction of a multibillion dollar project in a remote part of any country that lacks skilled labor and essential infrastructure is no easy task. In addition, carrying out such a task under the taxing political conditions that have prevailed on the Korean Peninsula for half a century makes this an uphill struggle.

I would like to give you a balanced assessment of our progress at KEDO along the winding road to security on the Korean Peninsula. This will not be a forecast; this is an in-flight report. I will argue that KEDO is on course and that the point of no return has passed, that our expected arrival time may be somewhat delayed, but that weather conditions are brightening.

There is, not only in this country, a sometimes heated debate on what policies should be pursued toward the D.P.R.K. In this atmosphere, it is well to remember that the nuclear power project undertaken by KEDO is a practical approach to removing the threat of a D.P.R.K. nuclear arsenal. KEDO’s objective goes beyond the rehabilitation of the North Korean energy sector. Its objective is political. The reports of delays of construction of the LWR project have fed the misconception that the project is treading water, that it will, at best, prove to be a white elephant, or worse, that it may never be completed.

If you go to Kumho on North Korea’s east coast and visit the KEDO construction site, you would quickly come to the opposite conclusion. An entire mountain has been removed to prepare a solid bedrock foundation for the reactor buildings. Geological surveys have been carried out to establish scientifically the suitability of the location. A complete harbor has been constructed to provide direct access to the site for the delivery of heavy equipment for the project. That harbor is actually about to be opened sometime next week. A whole village has been built to accommodate the thousands of expected workers employed at the site. We have built roads, health clinics, training centers, et cetera. Since the beginning, $750 million has now been disbursed to achieve all of this. In addition, $350 million has been spent on heavy-fuel oil supplies to the D.P.R.K. since the heavy-fuel oil program began in 1995. In other words, the KEDO project is real, and it is serious. The Agreed Framework is neither a pipe dream nor a Trojan horse.

But what about those delays? There have been delays, mainly caused by political complications that Ambassador Gallucci already referred to and that have occurred during the implementation of the project. Think of the test launch in 1998 of the multistage missile fired by the D.P.R.K. over Japan and other security-related incidents that have cast a shadow over the prospects for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. But perhaps the greatest challenge in the KEDO process has been, and is likely to continue to be, the time that we need to convince the D.P.R.K. of the need to accept its international obligations connected with the LWR project. This process is sometimes at the expense of efficiency, but at the same time it represents an opportunity for the D.P.R.K. to familiarize itself with international legal concepts and arrangements.

I’ll give you an example: nuclear liability. There is a need for a satisfactory legal framework protecting both North Korea and its neighbors against liability in case of a major nuclear accident. Pyongyang must adopt national legislation in this field and adhere to certain international conventions on nuclear liability. And another example of this process of familiarization is the training of future North Korean regulators and operators to meet international safety standards. For obvious reasons, it is vital that the D.P.R.K. develop a nuclear safety culture that will allow it to take full international responsibility after it takes possession of the plants. Under KEDO’s auspices, a group of North Korean nuclear experts recently visited Sweden and Spain to study safety procedures at nuclear plants in those two countries.

The best illustration, however, of how the Agreed Framework has jump-started beneficial interactions between the D.P.R.K. and the outside world is that the framework requires the D.P.R.K. to come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement with the IAEA when a significant portion of the project is completed but before delivery of key nuclear components, as Ambassador Gallucci has already said. KEDO is not responsible for the establishment of such compliance nor for the acceptance of inspections by Pyongyang, but the issue is obviously of direct concern to us because failure by the D.P.R.K. to comply with this requirement would stop the light-water reactor project in its tracks. No key nuclear components will be shipped unless International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors report satisfactory findings at the end of their inspections of the relevant North Korean facilities. So far, the D.P.R.K. has been reluctant to accept IAEA inspections, but, as Ambassador Gallucci has argued, we should not abandon hope.

It is widely assumed that Pyongyang believes that the inspections do not need to begin until several years from now, when shipment of the key nuclear components would be imminent. However, there is no evidence for this assumption. The IAEA, on its part, has made it abundantly clear that it will need somewhere between three to four years to complete the inspections, assuming that the North Korean authorities cooperate with them. KEDO expects that a significant portion of the reactor project will be completed within a few years; therefore, the inspections must begin without further ado. The resumption of the North-South dialogue and the prospects of resumed talks between Pyongyang and Washington may increase the chances of North Korean acceptance of IAEA inspections.

Now, what does all this portend for KEDO? Because KEDO’s mandate is no more and no less than implementing part of the 1994 Framework, the answer depends on many political variables. As long as its mandate remains unchanged, KEDO will continue to support its twin obligations: the LWR project and heavy-fuel oil supply. This won’t be easy, as I have explained. There are numerous pitfalls on the road to completion, and there are years of intensive negotiations ahead of us, both with the North Koreans and among ourselves. We should keep in mind that KEDO is given the task of implementing the LWR project, but it is not its job to overcome political hurdles. KEDO must leave that to the members of its Executive Board: the United States, South Korea, Japan, and the EU.

I believe that questioning the Agreed Framework is questioning engagement. In the ongoing political debate, some have referred to engagement as a dovish approach that has become obsolete, a view that has been reinforced by the State of the Union speech in January. Others believe the Agreed Framework has effectively served as a linchpin for security on the Korean Peninsula and that it has prevented recurrence of the crisis of 1993, when the United States demonstrated its willingness to go to war over evidence that North Korea might be diverting plutonium to make a nuclear bomb.

Of higher relevance than such speculations, however, are the official statements by the two parties to the Agreed Framework. The D.P.R.K., while continuing to accuse the United States of walking away from its obligations under the Agreed Framework, repeatedly reconfirmed the framework’s importance during the past few weeks through official radio broadcasts. And, in response to questions about the administration’s recent waiver of certification requirements for North Korea, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed, “We will continue to adhere to the Agreed Framework.” So, paraphrasing Mark Twain, I daresay that reports of the Agreed Framework’s death are exaggerated.

Whether or not one likes the Agreed Framework, it proves to be too valuable a tool to be thrown on the scrap heap of history. Before doing so, it is worthwhile to remember this: The Agreed Framework is the only existing international arrangement with North Korea offering a real alternative that prevents the D.P.R.K. from becoming a nuclear power. And KEDO is the only show in town offering economic interdependence on the divided Korean Peninsula. As a European, I’m convinced that ideological divides on any land can be overcome by creating common interests and goals. As in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, the emerging détente between South and North may be a prelude to cooperation and ultimately unification. I’m very proud that KEDO stimulates this process. Thank you.

Leon Sigal

As you all know, [South Korean special envoy] Lim Dong-won came back from Pyongyang with word that the North is willing to resume talks with the United States. And you also know that the administration’s position is, “We’re prepared to talk anytime, anywhere.” The issue is not whether or when the D.P.R.K. will resume talks with the United States; the issue is whether the talks will go anywhere when they do resume.

It seems to me that no progress is likely while the Bush administration reneges on past commitments to North Korea and seeks to redraw the agenda unilaterally. Unless it shifts out of campaign gear, where the answer to everything is, “We’re not the Clinton administration, stupid,” and lives up to the word of the United States of America, we are headed for trouble on the Korean Peninsula. To understand why, let me offer two astounding propositions. First, it occasionally pays to listen to what others outside of Washington are saying. Second, negotiating tables have two sides, not one, and deals require diplomatic give-and-take. The United States cannot get something for nothing.

North Korea has been willing to cooperate. It seeks an end to its lifelong enmity with the United States. In return, it has shown willingness to give up its nuclear and missile programs. It may eventually even be ready to end its artillery threat to Seoul, but it will not do so unless it gets what it wants in return. The way to reduce the nuclear, missile, and conventional threats from North Korea is to put an end to enmity.

At the same time, the North has kept its nuclear and missile options open as leverage on Washington to live up to its end of the bargain. It has also demonstrated its displeasure in very nasty ways. Now, the administration is absolutely correct to say that it won’t yield to North Korean threats, but it is wrong to see Pyongyang as engaging in blackmail to get economic aid without giving up anything in return. It is not. It is playing tit for tat, cooperating whenever the United States cooperates and retaliating when the United States reneges. That is why it is prudent for us to keep our word.

Four accords matter to Pyongyang: the U.S.-D.P.R.K. joint statement of June 11, 1993; the Agreed Framework of October 21, 1994; the October 6, 2000, joint U.S.-D.P.R.K. statement on international terrorism; and the U.S.-D.P.R.K. joint communiqué of October 12, 2000. The Bush administration has called each of these into question, and that’s why we have a problem now.

First, in the joint statement of June 11, 1993, the D.P.R.K. and the United States agreed to a number of principles. With respect to the first principle, “assurance against threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons,” the U.S. nuclear posture review refers to requirements for use of nuclear arms in “unexpected contingencies,” such as “an opponent’s surprise unveiling of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities.” Note that WMD is not simply nuclear, and North Korea is the first country listed among those who “could be involved” in such a contingency.

Apart from raising doubts about the 1993 joint statement, the NPR also appears to contradict the negative security assurance given by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to the UN Special Session on Disarmament in June 1978. On March 14, a D.P.R.K. Foreign Ministry spokesman reacted with a moderate warning, saying, “In case the U.S. plan for a nuclear attack on the D.P.R.K. turns out to be true, the D.P.R.K. will have no option but to take a substantial countermeasure against it, not bound by any D.P.R.K.-U.S. agreement.” That’s what I call tit for tat.

In the 1993 statement, the two sides also agreed to the principle of “peace and security in a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, including impartial application of full-scope safeguards, mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty, and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.” These are mostly words taken from the UN Charter. They’re pretty anodyne. But here are the president’s words in his February press conference with Kim Dae Jung in Seoul, which spell trouble: “I will not change my opinion on Kim Jong-Il until he frees his people.” He went on, “My comment about evil was toward a regime, toward a government, not toward the North Korean people....We want them to have food. And at the same time, we want them to have freedom, and we will work in a peaceful way to achieve that objective.”

The D.P.R.K. Foreign Ministry spokesman responded two days later. “Bush made clearer the U.S. intention to violate the sovereignty of the D.P.R.K., openly interfere in its internal affairs and stifle it by force…. He talked about ‘change’ of its system and, furthermore, outrageously slandered the supreme headquarters during his current trip…. We are not willing to have contact with his clan which is trying to change by force of arms the system chosen by the Korean people. Useless is such dialogue advocated by the U.S. to find a pretext for invasion, not admitting the D.P.R.K. system.” That’s how the North is reading Bush’s statement.

Finally, the third principle of June 11 pledges “support for the peaceful reunification of Korea.” Here, the administration is inviting trouble with South Korea as much as with North Korea. Impeding reconciliation between the North and the South by discouraging the South from negotiating a peace agreement with the North or providing electricity I think will jeopardize eventually the American presence on the peninsula. Over a decade ago, when governments in Paris and London tried to keep the two Germanys from getting back together, a prudent George Bush knew better than to stand in their way. Another George Bush needs to do the same in the Koreas.

With respect to the Agreed Framework of October 1994, a number of reciprocal commitments were made, including delivery of heavy-fuel oil, which “will reach a rate of 500,000 tons annually, in accordance with an agreed schedule of deliveries.” That schedule has not been met, most recently this year.

Second, “the D.P.R.K. will engage in North-South dialogue, as this Agreed Framework will help create an atmosphere that promotes such dialogue.” Note that the commitment is not binding on the D.P.R.K. alone. It is also absurd for the administration to accuse the North of violating that provision when the North and South have been engaged in high-level talks since last fall. Just because some of those rounds have been held in secret doesn’t mean they weren’t held.

Finally, it provides that, “as progress is made on issues of concern to each side, the U.S. and D.P.R.K. will upgrade bilateral relations to the Ambassadorial level.” The phrase “issues of concern” refers to missiles, among other things.

Bob has talked to you about anticipatory breach. Let me go on to the joint U.S.-D.P.R.K. statement on international terrorism, in which the two sides “underscored their commitment to support the international legal regime combating international terrorism and to cooperate with each other in taking effective measures to fight against terrorism,” specifically “to exchange information regarding international terrorism.” It’s an interesting commitment, and there is at least some evidence the North has been living up to it. It has signed two international accords, and it has hinted it is willing to share information, although that doesn’t mean it has done so.

Finally, the U.S.-D.P.R.K. joint communiqué of October 12, 2000, which was issued on the occasion of Vice Marshal Jo’s visit, stated that “neither government would have hostile intent toward the other.” In plain English, this says that we are not enemies. The declared end to enmity opened the way to the missile deal and to conventional force talks once a missile deal is concluded and implemented. The joint communiqué addressed both matters.

The joint communiqué says, “The two sides agreed on the desirability of greater transparency in carrying out their respective obligations under the Agreed Framework. In this regard, they noted the value of the access which removed U.S. concerns about the underground site at Kumchang-ri.” Remember that the Agreed Framework is not simply about nuclear issues, but also about “other matters,” namely missiles. So, this is a very interesting statement about verification that the North issued in a joint communiqué with the United States.

Two weeks later, as you all know, Secretary of State Albright went to the North and met with head of state Kim Jong-Il. In the course of their talks, he offered to end exports of all missile technology, including under existing contracts, and to freeze testing, production, and deployment of all missiles with a range of 500 kilometers or more. That covers Nodong, Taepo Dong-1, Taepo Dong-2, and arguably the Scud C. Now, to turn that freeze into a verifiable ban, significant issues remain to be explored and resolved, including on-site monitoring to verify the freeze on missile production and deployment. We can monitor testing on our own.

In return, you all know that the D.P.R.K. wanted President Clinton to come to Pyongyang to seal the deal, but with the election hanging like a chad on the Florida ballot, the president got cold feet. Without his commitment to come, the talks stalled. But instead of picking up the ball where Clinton dropped it, Bush has moved the goal posts.

Now, first and foremost, no administration official has ever reaffirmed the October 2000 joint communiqué and its pledge of no hostile intent. And with the “axis of evil” speech, President Bush has repudiated it. Second, the president said in June 2001 that he seeks improved implementation of the Agreed Framework but offered nothing in return; in effect, he wants to rewrite it unilaterally.
People here have not paid enough attention to the North Korean response to that June White House statement. The first response came from the foreign ministry spokesman on June 18, calling on Washington to implement “the provisions of the D.P.R.K.-U.S. agreed framework and the D.P.R.K.-U.S. joint communiqué as agreed upon.” That’s what the North says matters.

North Korea followed that with an interesting statement on June 28, which linked the U.S. demand for nuclear inspections with its own demand for electricity as compensation for the delay in constructing the first reactor under the Agreed Framework. It was hinting at a deal: trading electricity for expedited compliance. That is something worth taking up in negotiations. The June 28 statement also warned of tit for tat: “If no measure is taken for the compensation for the loss of electricity the D.P.R.K. can no longer keep its nuclear activities in a state of freeze and implement the AF [Agreed Framework.]”

The administration has done nothing to pick up Kim Jong-Il’s offer of a negotiated freeze and the end of exports. John Bolton recently told Arms Control Today, “It’s not a deal that we would have agreed to…. And I don’t think they were close anyway.” Someone should ask him if he has personally read the record of Albright’s talks in Pyongyang. It’s absurd for the Bush administration to claim that the North is not complying with the Agreed Framework when it comes to other issues of concern, mainly missiles, while it avoids negotiating a missile deal with the North. It’s absurd that they are still doing bad things without trying to negotiate with them. The North Koreans are under no international or legal obligation of any kind with respect to missiles, but they’ve made an offer. The administration might want to see if they’re serious. That’s called diplomatic give-and-take, and until we seriously engage in it we’ll never know whether we can end the missile threat.

Convinced that it was getting nowhere with Washington, the North changed course last September and resumed ministerial-level talks with the South, which opens the way to a return visit to Seoul by Kim Jong-Il this year. That is an important shift for Pyongyang, which for the past decade has engaged seriously with Seoul only when it was sure Washington was cooperating as well. So, I would pay attention very closely to the North-South dialogue. Whether there are talks with the United States doesn’t matter much. They’re not likely to get anywhere, for the reasons I’ve suggested. Thank you.

Questions and Answers

Question: What has happened to the implementation of the Perry report?

Gallucci: I would say that the diplomacy that Lee referred to at the end of the Clinton administration was a manifestation of the implementation of the Perry report. The Bush administration came in and did its own policy review. My recollection is that the outcome of that review is not that the Agreed Framework ought to be put aside but that it ought to be improved, and the administration was planning and interested in engagement to do this. So, it seems like the Bush review was consistent with the Perry report. Now, I don’t know that I would say that the report was put aside, but neither would I say that the prescription of the Perry report has been implemented by this administration. I would say certainly the Perry report was closely reviewed in the course of this administration’s policy review. I remember hearing one of those involved in the policy review in an open session saying that they had looked at the Perry report very closely.

Question: There seems to be a dichotomy in Washington, using harsh language and then using diplomatic language on joint communication. What is the Bush administration’s policy? What are they trying to do? Are they trying to push the D.P.R.K. over the edge?

Gallucci: I myself feel uncertain about the direction that the administration wishes to go with North Korea. The administration seems to have an ideological posture, and the honesty that it has used in its language about the North Korean regime is consistent with it, which does not create the setting for diplomacy that I might hope for. That concerns me because I don’t know of another way to deal with this problem, short of the use of force. But I have not heard the administration suggest that it’s about to use force.

So, I’m unclear about this. But I would also note that this administration is filled with experts. I mean, these folks did not just arrive in town from no place. They are well familiar with political-military matters. They’re well familiar with the connection between diplomacy and the use of force. I can only conclude that as much as their emphasis is focused elsewhere in the world, that what they are doing is considered. I, however, don’t understand it entirely.

Sigal: A couple of things on that. First of all, on whether there is a policy behind the words, I have a sneaking suspicion that there isn’t. And that is even more troubling than the words. I think we are watching officials talk about their own ideological predispositions in public without an appreciation of how they sound both to North Korea and to South Korea and Japan. And I think most of the words have been unfortunate because they don’t help the United States preserve its alliances or negotiate further constraints on the North Korean threat.

Also, different administration officials may say very different things, but the president’s words matter a lot. And when the president says things that seem to be totally inconsistent with past words that the United States has used jointly with North Korea, I think that’s a problem. And I think we have to be careful with what we say if we want to move ahead on the Korean Peninsula in a way that might end up with no missiles and no nuclear weapons in North Korea.

I cannot understand the administration’s current tack because I do not believe it has a military plan that it’s serious about. In 1994 we nearly stumbled into a war in Korea, and I think we do not want to go back to the brink because that won’t work with South Korea or Japan, as we learned in 1994. We should not go that route, certainly not until we’ve explored negotiating options fully, which we have not done.

But this is not the first administration to start its term in office by rejecting cooperation for the shortsighted but superficially satisfying alternative of demonizing North Korea and trying to compel its collapse. Every administration has then gone through a period of benign neglect, only to experience a rude awakening. Maybe this administration won’t get to the brink of war before it wakes up and realizes there is a possibility of a serious set of deals: improved implementation of the Agreed Framework, for which the North has suggested a way; getting rid of all North Korean missile exports; and moving beyond a freeze to what we really need, which is a verifiable ban of missile deployment, production, and testing. It seems to me we should try that route and see how far we can get.

Question: Will the United States continue to provide heavy-fuel oil if North Korea doesn’t admit the IAEA inspectors, and is there some way that the United States should respond in that situation?

Gallucci: This is a complete hypothetical, right? We are now a couple of years down the road, and KEDO is ready to deliver the nuclear components that would be controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group trigger list and can’t do it because North Korea hasn’t yet accepted the full-scope safeguards. What is the United States supposed to do? Well, if the North Koreans were otherwise acting consistently with the framework—i.e., we didn’t think or have reason to believe there was a secret nuclear program somewhere and the IAEA was still inspecting and confirming a freeze on the known nuclear weapons program—it would seem to me that it would be a good idea for us to continue with the delivery of heavy-fuel oil if that was the price of stopping 150 kilograms of plutonium from being produced every year.

Now, I think that the light-water reactor project was not the best outcome that could be imagined. I think, at the time, it was the best outcome that could be negotiated. What I’m saying is that it would be better if we weren’t delivering two 1,000-megawatt light-water reactors to North Korea. It would be better if we were delivering something else that didn’t have potential security implications. Suppose we had made a deal in which KEDO delivered a couple of thousand megawatts of conventionally fueled energy. That would be better. It would be better for the North Koreans because they could have gotten it sooner and better for us because there would be no nuclear power and accumulation of plutonium involved. That is not as bad as what the gas-graphite system, which the North Koreans were building, would have produced, but it is still not ideal.

So, in your hypothetical, I would not be unhappy if the nuclear reactor project did not proceed. That would be okay with me. My perspective here is security.

Now, might we have to manage our alliance relations pretty well? Yes, but I’d be making the argument that everybody is well served as long as we’ve stopped that nuclear weapons program. Would it be better if we also engaged and stopped the missile program and the forward deployment of conventional forces? Sure. But the crisis was over a nuclear weapons program.

Question: Over the weekend, Japan’s opposition Liberal Democratic leader Ichiro Ozawa said that it would be “so easy” to convert Japan’s civil plutonium into thousands of nuclear weapons. North Korea has pointed to the Japanese nuclear program as a threat. How does this resonate in the context of the Agreed Framework?

Gallucci: I don’t believe that this directly bears upon the U.S. relationship with North Korea, South Korea, and even Japan, which we’ve been discussing here. I recognize it could and that there are connections that analysts may wish to draw, but I don’t think it is part of the political dialogue these days, nor do I think it ought to be.

Sigal: I think the more significant development is that when President Bush was in Tokyo, Prime Minister Koizumi, with Bush standing at his side, said, “On North Korea, Japan, through cooperation and coordination with the United States and the Republic of Korea, would like to work on the normalization of relations with North Korea.” This was a very polite, Japanese way of saying we’re not playing your “axis of evil” game; we want to resume normalization talks with the North.

I believe the North Koreans heard Koizumi and read him correctly because, since then, the North has resumed its search for missing persons that Tokyo suspects it kidnapped a couple of decades ago, released a journalist it accused of spying, and it’s about to resume Red Cross talks on missing persons. I think these moves could lead, in the very near term, to the resumption of normalization talks between the D.P.R.K. and Japan.

So, again, I would note that on a political track, the North has not only moved with the South but also with Japan and that it is not assuming that it’s going to get very far with the United States. However, officials in the North are smart enough to know that the politics of this issue in Seoul and Tokyo are such that they’re better off being at the table with the Americans, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. My guess is it will culminate in some very far-reaching news on the Korean Peninsula between the North and South.

Kimball: I think, as our panelists have explained to us very well, it is a time of important choices for the Bush administration and North Korea. We look forward to informing you on future events and appreciate your attendance this morning. Thank you.

Posted: April 11, 2002