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Top Administration Official Comments on Bush's North Korea Policy; United States, North Korea Set to Meet Later This Month

For Immediate Release: April 16, 2003

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 277-3478 or Paul Kerr, (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): In a possible breakthrough, the United States, North Korea, and China will hold direct talks in Beijing later this month to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program, according to press reports today. The months-long crisis began when the United States stated in October that North Korea admitted to a covert nuclear weapons program and has deteriorated to the point that North Korea announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in January. Pyongyang is now on the verge of being able to resume the separation of plutonium for building nuclear weapons. The announcement of the trilateral talks is clearly a positive development, but it leaves many unanswered questions about the substance of proposals from each side, and whether they can lead to a verifiable dismantlement of Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons program and enhanced security in the region.

During an April 15 interview with Arms Control Today, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton described several salient elements of the Bush administration's North Korea policy.

Bolton stated that the United States has no preconditions for multilateral talks, but the administration expects the "complete verified dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear weapons program" before bilateral talks can proceed.

When asked about the administration's verification proposals, Bolton explained that the administration is discussing the matter internally and does not "have a final package at the moment."

Bolton further indicated that the Bush administration is considering reviving a comprehensive political and economic package vis-à-vis North Korea if it dismantles its nuclear program. He said, "I think it's a possibility, but as I said-as was the case in October- they have to have the dismantlement of the nuclear weapons program before that becomes possible."

Bolton also stated that the administration has not specified any particular actions that would trigger punitive actions against North Korea, saying "we haven't declared anything to be a red line." North Korea may be preparing to reprocess spent fuel rods on its territory, which could yield enough material for five or six nuclear weapons in roughly six months.

The entire interview is available on the Arms Control Association's Web site at http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_05/bolton_may03.asp.

Excerpts from the Bolton interview will also appear in the upcoming May issue of Arms Control Today, which will also present perspectives and proposals on how to address the North Korean nuclear crisis, including:

  • Michael Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Alan Romberg of the Henry L. Stimson Center on how negotiations between the United States and North Korea can resolve the crisis.
  • Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center on why penalizing North Korea for its pursuit of nuclear weapons is important to discourage additional countries from illicitly trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
  • Bates Gill and Andrew Thompson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on China's perspective and future role in resolving the crisis.
  • Matake Kimiya of Japan's National Defense Academy on Japanese attitudes toward North Korea and the potential effects of the crisis on Japan's defense posture.
  • Haksoon Paik of South Korea's Sejong Institute on Seoul's effort to find a middle ground between Washington and Pyongyang.


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The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

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