U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: East Asia and Pacific Bureau


Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Thomas C. Hubbard

at the

Heritage Foundation Conference

"The Nuclear Accord with North Korea:
Dangers and Opportunities"

January 31, 1995

Good afternoon. I welcome this opportunity to join in today's discussion of the US-DPRK Agreed Framework.

The Framework is not just a nuclear agreement that furthers our non-proliferation objectives. It also has profound implications for overall Northeast Asian security. If the process embodied in the Framework is carried to its intended conclusion, we may be able to speak of an historic shift that redefined the parameters of security in a region that has been the locus of struggles among the great powers for centuries.

North Korea's effort to develop nuclear weapons was a clear and present danger. It threatened to undermine the nuclear non-proliferation regime, overturn the military balance on the Korean peninsula, and, indeed, disrupt post-Cold War relationships that are building throughout the Pacific area. As long as Pyongyang pursued the nuclear option, it was on a collision course with its neighbors who want to continue to enjoy the peace and prosperity that has been Asia's good fortune for more than twenty years.

For more than a decade, North Korea diverted much of its GNP -- upwards of a quarter -- into its nuclear program. Whether it was intended as deterrent or as the means to undo the growing dominance of its South Korean rival, North Korea's nuclear program accelerated the impoverishment of its population. Though many in the North Korean leadership must have known that their nuclear program risked economic collapse, military confrontation and, ultimately, catastrophe for their system, they seemed incapable of ridding themselves of it.

The world could not ignore the challenge. Perhaps there was an element of bluff, but Pyongyang seemed clearly on the verge of an indigenously-developed nuclear weapons capability. North Korea's history of defiance of international norms made its extremism more credible. We had no choice but to assume that before many more years passed, the DPRK might deploy dozens of nuclear weapons and, if it chose, share them with other pariah regimes.

Beginning in the spring of 1993, we sought with the support of the UN Security Council and particularly of our Pacific allies, South Korea and Japan, to negotiate North Korea back from the brink. There is no need to repeat for this group the tedious history of our effort to establish a basis for negotiation. Nor, other than to confirm that negotiating with the North Koreans is a singularly frustrating experience, will I discuss our meetings in Geneva.

Let me just state my conviction that the Agreed Framework signed last October, if fully implemented, attains our critical strategic objectives. It enhances the security of our close allies South Korea and Japan. The most imminent threat of a nuclear arms race in Asia will have been ended at the same time that the world's nuclear non-proliferation regime is strengthened. The Framework also raises the real prospect of a general reduction in tensions in the region, particularly on the Korean Peninsula.

The nuclear accord itself is receiving intense scrutiny -- as it should. Hard questions are being asked. But we have good answers. We are confident that the more the Congress and the country examine the Agreement, the more they will share our judgment that it meets America's goals and powerfully serves America's interests.

The accord addresses the past, present and future nuclear threats that were posed by North Korea.

North Korea has agreed to allow the IAEA to do whatever it deems necessary to clear up doubts about the past, including special inspections at the two waste dumps -- an idea it steadfastly refused until the last weeks of the negotiations. Any delay in realizing the special inspections is justified by the opportunity to deal once and for all with the Korean nuclear program. In the interim, North Korea's nuclear program is shut down and its installations are under very tight surveillance. Not only the IAEA but also national technical means will tell us if North Korea is cheating in any significant way on its pledge to freeze its indigenous nuclear program.

The IAEA has already verified that North Korea has frozen its nuclear capacity. It has shut down its 5 MW nuclear reactor. It has sealed its reprocessing facility that was the focus of such intense world attention over the past several years. Ten days ago, US and DPRK experts agreed on a plan to store the spent fuel rods safely, for eventual shipment abroad. Pyongyang has halted construction on its two large reactors. All of this is verified by IAEA monitors. North Korea has reversed itself and remains a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

North Korea has agreed to dismantle its current nuclear installations; they will be replaced by light water reactors much more resistant to proliferation. Some ask, "Why LWR? Non-nuclear energy investment would be more economic." This is true, but apparently not relevant in Pyongyang's internal policy process. The critical point is that North Korea already had a nuclear program--one designed to produce nuclear weapons. It will be dismantled and replaced by a nuclear program designed to generate electricity. In shutting down its existing program, North Korea is going far beyond the requirements of the NPT and the IAEA safeguards agreement.

The Agreed Framework agreement is not based on trust. In addition to monitoring and verification, there are built-in checkpoints along the path of implementation. At each step in implementation of the Framework, North Korea must act first, before it receives the technical or economic benefits laid out for it. If at any checkpoint, North Korea fails to fulfill its obligations, it will lose the benefits of compliance that it so clearly seeks.

The most important benefit which the North will receive under the Agreed Framework -- the sensitive nuclear components for the light water reactors -- will not be provided until IAEA is satisfied that its concerns have been resolved, and certifies that the DPRK is in full compliance with its safeguards obligations.

About a month from now, a multinational consortium, the Korea Energy Development Organization, or KEDO, will be established. The product of months of discussion with Japan and South Korea, KEDO will provide the DPRK with two proliferation-resistant light water reactors of ROK design and construction, and until these are completed, 500,000 tons annually of fuel oil. It will see to the safe storage of spent fuel and its future shipment out of North Korea. We expect a broad group of countries to join KEDO and cooperate in providing financial support for the LWR and heavy fuel oil projects.

Sometime in the next few months, North Korea will open a small office here in Washington, and we will open a similarly small office in Pyongyang. These liaison offices are provided for by the Agreed Framework, to facilitate implementation by making possible daily and direct contact with responsible offices of each government. It is the first small step in a diplomatic relationship. The need for regular channels of communication was made manifest following the recent helicopter incident, where effective communication required a senior U.S. official to travel to Pyongyang.

We are willing to move over time toward more normal relations with North Korea, but -- we have made it very clear -- the pace of this normalization depends on the North's willingness to address and resolve issues of concern to us, including the establishment of productive North-South dialogue. Securing a stable and peaceful future for Northeast Asia depends on much more than just doing away with North Korea's nuclear weapons program. A broader approach must address the threat posed by the North's ballistic missile program, its maintenance of large and aggressively postured conventional forces, and its history of support for terrorists.

We are prepared to explore the prospects for bilateral cooperation and for bringing North Korea out of its international isolation into the broader community of nations.

Of particular promise would be a joint effort to locate and return to the United States the remains of some eight thousand soldiers who were killed on battlefields in North Korea.

Human rights and civil liberties, as we conceive them, scarcely exist in North Korea. We would hope to see movement by the DPRK toward universal standards of respect for the individual and exchange of ideas. That, obviously, would ease the way toward friendly links with the DPRK, and would make it less worrisome to its neighbors and more welcome in regional organizations.

The most immediate and critical obstacle to progress toward the full normalization of American relations with the DPRK is the high state of tension that persists on the Korean peninsula between North Korea and our friend and ally, the Republic of Korea. In the Agreed Framework, the DPRK committed to resume inter-Korean dialogue, and to take steps to implement the visionary "Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" concluded by North and South three years ago. If North Korea had been unwilling to make this commitment in the Framework, we would have walked away from that document. As the one who negotiated this portion of the Agreed Framework, I can confirm that the North knows it was a deal-breaker. Pyongyang's obligation to engage in serious and substantive dialogue with Seoul is integral to the Agreed Framework, and essential to its success.

We cannot agree to closer U.S. ties with the North while the North's contacts with the South remain frozen. The critical point here is that without the restoration of minimal cooperation between North and South, the Agreed Framework cannot prosper. In time it will break down. The Framework can only succeed if there is a climate of civility and pragmatic cooperation between North and South. The ROK, which is playing a central role in the planning and execution of the light water reactor project, cannot and will not be left to stew on the sidelines as our talks and discussions with the North proceed.

It is a cardinal tenet of U.S. Korea policy that the future of the peninsula must be shaped by the Korean people themselves. We will not allow Pyongyang's campaign for "new peace arrangements" to undermine our very strong and enduring relationship with the Republic of Korea. Our security commitment to Seoul remains unwavering. All progress in our nuclear negotiations with the North has been made in very close consultation and coordination with Seoul, and could not have been made without the active cooperation and support of the ROK.

The DPRK must accept that, while we will exchange liaison offices, there will be no further significant expansion of bilateral relations with the United States unless there is parallel progress in North-South dialogue. We will not accept a relationship with North Korea that comes at the expense of U.S. ties with South Korea. Instead, we expect contacts between Seoul and Pyongyang to develop roughly in parallel with steps toward normalization of U.S.-DPRK relations.

We do not have to look far for evidence of the enduring strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance. We see it in our booming trade and investment relations, in our cooperation in peacekeeping activities from Haiti to Somalia to Cambodia, in the democratic principles we share and practice, and in the full integration of our military forces, which maintain deterrence along the DMZ.

South Korean and American leaders meet and consult often -- so frequently it is hardly news. Just days ago, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was in Seoul to coordinate policies. Foreign Minister Gong Ro-myong will make an initial visit to Washington in early February. We hope to welcome President Kim Young Sam again to Washington this summer, to join in the dedication of the Korean War Memorial now rising on the Mall.

Developing the full potential of the US-DPRK Agreed Framework for easing of tensions in Northeast Asia obviously will require months and years of effort. The antagonisms are deep, and encrusted with suspicion and fear. The negotiation of the Framework required years of determined diplomacy; the same will be true as we and other countries engage the North Koreans on our many issues of concern.

We have a long way to go, but I believe there is evidence to support the possibility that the nuclear accord represents a watershed, as I suggested at the outset. Our North Korean negotiating counterparts repeatedly stressed their view that in resolving the nuclear issue, their country was taking a fundamental step away from its history of proud self-reliance. They seemed clearly to realize that they were opening the door to constructive interaction and engagement with the U.S. and with other countries across a wide range of activities.

We cannot be certain at this point that A will follow B and that all of the concerned parties will be able to move in concert towards resolution of this most complicated set of issues. What we can say is that there is a positive process in train where only months ago there was an increasing sense we might be facing Saddam Hussein's twin in Northeast Asia.

Within the Administration, we see the Agreed Framework as the beginning of a process of building a new and inclusive security framework in Northeast Asia. We, of course, support the aspiration of both Koreas for unification. As they work toward this goal, however, the world can only benefit from the prospect of a North Korea comfortably integrated into the community of nations. This sentiment is broadly shared -- the nations participating in the ASEAN Regional Forum have endorsed it, underscoring the view that "reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation and easing tensions on the Korean peninsula benefit the security environment in the entire region."

Korea has always marked the intersection of interests of the surrounding major powers. These powers will continue to play an active role. The United States, for its part, remains unshakeably committed to the defense of the ROK. However, the long-term peace of the Korean Peninsula must in the final analysis be arranged by the Koreans themselves. The United Nations, the United States, and other concerned countries should cheer them on, and stand ready to guarantee and support arrangements negotiated between Seoul and Pyongyang.

The KEDO consortium provides the vehicle for such support and participation by the international community with respect to one critical element of the problem of a divided Korea. KEDO's success will assure the verifiable and scheduled resolution of the nuclear issue. Negotiating the Agreed Framework was a role that only the United States could play. However, the next important steps will depend on the ability of the two Koreas to sit down with each other, to build through dialogue and experience a firm sense of trust, and mutual commitment to peace, security, prosperity and development of their peninsula.

Some first, tentative steps are being taken already by businessmen and traders. We hope to see such small steps continue at a quickening pace. We will do what we can to encourage this. We look forward to the further loosening of American trade and economic sanctions against North Korea as circumstances permit. The road ahead is an uncertain one, marked by real dangers and threats. However, if all parties rigorously implement the Agreed Framework, it is no longer impassable.


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