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


"Prospects for Peace and Security
on the Korean Peninsula"

Remarks by
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Thomas C. Hubbard
at a conference on
"Prospects for Korean Reunification"
sponsored by
the Georgetown University Law Center
and the
Korea Economic Institute

Washington Court Hotel
Washington, D.C.

April 11, 1995

The negotiation of the nuclear issue between the United States and North Korea has received extraordinary attention in the United States and elsewhere. The Agreed Framework has been exhaustively discussed in seminars, testimony, and in the media. Although it is not a perfect document, it is a major achievement.

I won't review for you in detail the provisions of the Agreed Framework nor revisit its negotiating history. Rather, I want to step back, to take a longer view, and to discuss the Framework in the context of larger and longer-range goals. The Framework's implications for the nuclear non-proliferation regime are obviously profound. It is designed to resolve the clear and present danger of proliferation in Northeast Asia.

The Broader Challenge -- Achieving a Stable Peace

However, the Agreed Framework is not just a nuclear agreement. It also has major implications for Northeast Asian security and prosperity. The Framework is not an end in itself, but a means to reach the further goal of a stable peace. It is an important step in a process in which the Republic of Korea and the United States work together to achieve our common aim -- peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

We were mindful, as we sought to negotiate a solution to the nuclear issue, that many within the North Korean leadership seek to link their country into the thriving Asia-Pacific regional economy. While distrustful of political and cultural contact, they see continued economic isolation as fatal to their system in the long run.

At the same time, since about 1988, thinking has been evolving in the South. Few South Koreans would welcome an East German-style collapse of the northern regime. Republic of Korea policy aims at gradual convergence of the two systems into a unified nation that assures peace and prosperity for its people and contributes responsibly to the international community -- a nation that would look much like the Republic of Korea does today.

A base of our own approach, therefore, is the notion that evolutionary change in the North is possible, and that contact with the outside world will instill greater realism in the Pyongyang regime and help curb its tendency toward reckless behavior. If accompanied by productive dialogue between South and North aimed at reducing tensions and pursuing common interests, that process could move us toward durable peace in a region that has been the locus of struggles among the great powers for centuries. With tempers now high over the issue of the type of light water reactor (LWR) the North will accept, and a real short-term possibility that the Framework process could go off the track, talk of movement toward durable peace may seem far-fetched, but this is our challenge and our goal.

The present LWR problem is not a sign of a flawed Framework. Rather, the present difficulties underscore the fundamental fact that North and South have not yet reached a modus vivendi. There is no agreement between South and North on how to coexist, or how to solve inter-Korean problems. But before the nuclear crisis intervened just a few years ago, inter-Korean dialogue had achieved substantial momentum. Early in 1992, Seoul and Pyongyang concluded two important agreements, one on nuclear cooperation and another that addressed military confidence-building measures and social and cultural exchanges. The latter agreement also established the goal of "transforming the present Armistice into a solid state of peace." Thus the 1992 agreements contain a structure for a modus vivendi, and as recently as the spring of 1993 the Republic of Korea and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) each articulated visions of a path toward national reconciliation and reunification. Unfortunately, these agreements and visions have not been implemented.

North-South Progress Derailed

This promising movement was derailed by North Korea's effort to develop nuclear weapons. That clandestine activity threatened to upset the military balance on the Korean Peninsula, and disrupt constructive post-Cold War relationships building throughout the Pacific area. In that respect, Pyongyang was on a collision course with its neighbors -- themselves intent on enjoying the peace and prosperity that has been East Asia's general good fortune for two decades now.

An International Response

The world could not ignore North Korea's challenge. We are dealing with it. If fully implemented, the Agreed Framework signed in October 1994 will be a crucial step toward attaining our critical security objectives. It can reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. Although the Framework does not rely on trust, it creates opportunities to build trust.

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) -- still in formation -- will give tangible form to the resolve of many countries in and outside Asia to ensure the success of the Framework process. The Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States are the key members of KEDO, but a range of other countries have indicated their intention to join. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have committed substantial financing. Other Europeans and the ASEAN countries are likely soon to follow suit. Others, China among them, may not become members of KEDO, but are willing to help.

The U.S.-North Korean Relationship

The Framework contemplates an improvement over time in U.S.-DPRK relations. We are willing to move 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 the United States.

We hope that it will be possible in the months ahead for the United States and the DPRK to open small liaison offices in Pyongyang and in Washington to facilitate implementation of the Framework. The helicopter incident demonstrated the need for regular channels of communication. These liaison offices are provided for by the Agreed Framework to facilitate its implementation by making possible daily and direct contact with responsible offices of each government. This is a very small first step in a diplomatic relationship.

Securing a stable and peaceful future for Northeast Asia depends on much more than just doing away with North Korea's nuclear weapons program. It is essential to 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. Of particular promise in building U.S. relations with North Korea 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 north of the DMZ.

We would also hope to see movement by the DPRK toward universal standards of respect for the individual and for the free exchange of ideas. That would ease the way toward friendly U.S. links with the DPRK, would make it less worrisome to its neighbors, and more welcome in regional organizations.

Resuming the Inter-Korean Dialogue

The most immediate and critical obstacle to peace and security in Northeast Asia is the high state of tension that persists on the Korean Peninsula between North Korea and our friend and ally, the Republic of Korea. The Framework Agreement would not have been possible if Pyongyang had been unwilling to commit to resume inter-Korean dialogue. It was a deal-breaker. We were prepared to walk away. North Korea's obligation to resume serious and substantive dialogue with the South is integral to the Framework, and essential to its success.

Without cooperation between North and South, frankly, the Framework will eventually break down. The DPRK must accept that its relations with the United States cannot prosper unless there is parallel progress in North-South dialogue. 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.

On the other hand, as and if the Framework process moves forward -- including resumed inter-Korean dialogue -- we will explore prospects for bilateral cooperation and ways to help North Korea out of its international isolation. It will be in the interest of all if the DPRK takes the constructive path.

The North lately is urging "new peace arrangements," while chipping away at the Armistice structure that has kept the peace for more than 40 years. We can't accept that. Needless to say, we aren't fooled or tempted by Pyongyang's transparent efforts to drive wedges between the United States and South Korea. A cardinal tenet of U.S. Korea policy is that the future of the Peninsula must be shaped by the Korean people themselves.

We will not accept a relationship with North Korea that comes at the expense of U.S. ties with South Korea. Instead, we expect -- in fact, insist -- that contacts between Seoul and Pyongyang develop roughly in parallel with steps toward normalization of U.S.-DPRK relations.

Close U.S.-ROK Relations

Close U.S.-Republic of Korea consultation under U.S. leadership made the Agreed Framework possible; even closer teamwork under Republic of Korea leadership can drive the peace process forward. South Korean and American leaders meet and consult often -- so frequently that it is hardly news. President Clinton will 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.

The U.S. security commitment to the Republic of Korea is unwavering. Our readiness is high, our force levels constant. We do not have to look far for evidence of the strength of the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance. It was forged in war. It has remained strong in peace. We see it:

-- In booming trade and investment relations; -- In the democratic principles we share and practice; -- In our cooperation in peacekeeping from Haiti to Somalia to Cambodia; -- In building regional links through APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum; and -- In the full integration of our forces that maintain deterrence on the DMZ.

Notwithstanding the great threat still posed by North Korea's military might, this U.S.-ROK alliance that has stood the test of time can give South Korea increased confidence as it seeks to restart a peace process. It allows us to deal with the present North Korean challenge to the Framework process and -- we must hope -- get beyond it to the fundamental issues of peace and security on the Peninsula.

In recent months, we have initiated in-depth discussions with the South Korean Government on a common vision of the Peninsula's future, and how we might work together to achieve it. We have had two meetings of interagency teams led on the U.S. side by Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord, and on the Korean side by Deputy Foreign Minister Lee.

Negotiating the Agreed Framework was, by common consent, a role that only the United States could play. But the Framework is only a first step toward our objective of peace and security on the Peninsula The next important steps will depend on the two Kor eas. The United Status will remain fully engaged and supportive. We will contribute our own ideas. Nothing will shake our support for the Republic of Korea as it seeks to move forward toward reconciliation and a stable peace.

The U.S. will never play the role of"honest broker" between the two Koreas because we are not neutral. South Korea is our ally. However, we hope that our growing ability to communicate with the North can facilitate constructive dialogue between the parties in Korea. Developing the full potential of the U.S.-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 Road Ahead

The negotiation of the Framework required years of determined diplomacy; more such patient effort will be needed as we and other countries engage the North Koreans on our many issues of concern. We have a long way to go, yet we may have before us a real opportunity to ease tensions in Northeast Asia.

At Geneva, 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 stubborn self-reliance. They clearly seemed to realize that they were opening the door to constructive interaction and engagement with the United States and with other countries across a wide range of activities.

The next few weeks of negotiations will tell us more about the North's intentions. We cannot be certain at this point that North Korea is truly prepared to accept the interaction with the South that is required if we are to move in concert towards resolution of this most complicated set of issues. We cannot yet say in confidence that the Agreed Framework will work, but we can say 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.

We of course support the aspiration of both Koreas for unification, although the means to achieve that are still difficult to see clearly. As Seoul and Pyongyang work toward that goal, we would welcome a North Korea comfortably integrated into the community of nations and engaged in building cooperative relations, with South Korea in particular. This sentiment is broadly shared in Asia.

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, is unshakeably committed to maintaining a strong deterrent posture. However, peace on the Korean Peninsula must in the final analysis be arranged by the Koreans themselves.

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 a mutual commitment to peace, security, prosperity and development of their peninsula. We are confident that, ultimately, the energy and creativity of the Korean people on both sides of the DMZ will prevail over the tragedy of their separation. A bright future doubtless awaits Korea and the Korean people. 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 Korean Peninsula Energy Development consortium (KEDO) provides the vehicle for such support and participation by the international community with respect to the nuclear issue -- one critical element of the problem of a divided Korea. Constructive engagement by the international community may also be helpful in resolving other points of conflict.

There is also an important role for the private sector. Some first, tentative steps are already being taken by businessmen and traders in South Korea and elsewhere. We hope to see such steps continue at a quickening pace, and we are prepared to remove sanctions on American commerce with North Korea as the DPRK addresses issues of concern to us.

The road ahead is an uncertain one, marked by real dangers and threats. However, if Washington and Seoul continue to work together with firm purpose, it no longer seems impassable.


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