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


Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Thomas C. Hubbard
at the
Annual Symposium
of the
Korea Church Coalition
for Peace, Justice, and Reunification
Washington, D.C.
May 1, 1995

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you today, and to exchange views on Korea with you. I have great respect for the Korea Church Coalition, for you have unparalleled and insightful knowledge of Korea. My colleagues at the State Department and I value our relationship with you, and our continuing dialogue with you on Korea.

This morning I will explain the Agreed Framework, which is the central focus of our efforts now with North Korea. I'll review where we've been and where we stand now with the Framework. Then I'll cast an eye to the future and outline a larger view of the future, showing the direction we want to go, both with South Korea, and with North Korea.

The Agreed Framework deserves the attention it is getting these days, because it will resolve a critical non-proliferation issue if fully implemented and because it is an important landmark on the way toward resolving fundamental issues on the Korean peninsula. As you know, not all the attention it gets is positive; some have criticized it as inadequate. However, I am convinced it is a sound and eminently useful agreement. Let me explain why.

In a balanced and effective way, the Framework addresses important concerns of all three principal participants: South Korea, North Korea, and the United States. For South Korea, the Framework lays a good foundation for North-South dialogue, and it provides a means of directly engaging the energies of the South in the economic development of the North. For North Korea, the Framework provides economic benefit and the beginnings of a relationship with the U.S. For the U.S., the Framework addresses our concerns about the North Korean nuclear program while establishing a starting point for resolving broader issues relating to peace and security in Northeast Asia and the Korean peninsula.

I agree with those who say the Agreed Framework is not perfect. Still, it is valuable and useful to all who are involved: not only the three main participants, but also the other nations of Northeast Asia, and in fact all countries that have a stake in nuclear nonproliferation. Critics who insist we should have driven a harder bargain cannot convincingly show how we could possibly have reached for more, without eliminating all chances of reaching an agreement.

To illustrate, both we and our critics would have strongly preferred that the Agreement require special inspections to be carried out immediately. However, as our negotiations matured it became clear to us that insisting on early execution of special inspections would lead to certain deadlock -- and failure to reach any agreement. So instead we fashioned the best agreement we possibly could out of the raw materials available. The worthwhile result is that we have an agreement that freezes the North's nuclear program and thus prevents any future production of plutonium.

To those who complain that we cannot trust the DPRK, we point out that the agreement is based not on trust but performance: crucial nuclear components of the LWR will not be delivered to North Korea until special inspections are completed. Viewed as a whole, the Agreed Framework is a blueprint for retiring a North Korean nuclear program that is designed to produce nuclear weapons, and for replacing it with a proliferation-resistant system. As such, it is an intrinsically sound and worthwhile agreement.

Thus, on substance, the Framework is valuable. But the very process of negotiating the Framework also has value. The Framework is the product of a very close and cooperative effort between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, a cooperation that draws on the inherent strength of our close relationship. I feel certain that two countries with anything less than a truly deep bond could not have collaborated successfully on such a difficult undertaking. The Framework should be seen as a symbol of the maturity and effectiveness of the U.S.-Republic of Korea partnership.

The process also has another kind of value. Framework negotiations established for the first time that the U.S. and the DPRK, after nearly half a century of unalloyed enmity, are able to address complex issues productively. This is the beginning--the bare but hopeful beginning--of a constructive U.S.-DPRK relationship.

At the same time, this does not mean the U.S. sees the ROK and the DPRK in the way. South Korea is our close ally, with whom we have deeply intertwined ties that span a wide spectrum from a security treaty to a vigorous trade relationship to shared political values. North Korea is a negotiating partner with whom we have barely begun to address an array of serious issues. Moreover, the sheer breadth of our relationship with the South defies comparison with the fledgling dialogue we have with the North. On any given day, Americans and South Koreans share a million conversations, while on the busiest of days, Americans and North Koreans have at most only a few exchanges, usually by phone or fax, not face to face. We will remain fair-minded as we address issues with North Korea, but we do not see the North and South the same, for the South is, and will remain, our ally.

A moment ago I said the Agreed Framework is sound, and that we are committed to implementing it. At the same time, you are doubtless aware that our talks in Berlin on the LWR portion of the Framework broke down ten days ago. What should we make of this?

First of all, we should not conclude that the Framework is broken, for it is not. So far North Korea has continued to maintain the freeze of its nuclear program, which is the foundation of the Agreed Framework. We have hit a snag in implementing the Framework, and this has halted forward motion, but the Framework has not been violated. With this distinction in mind, we have made clear to the DPRK that as long as it continues to maintain the freeze, we are prepared to continue negotiations.

What we have, then, is a significant problem in the negotiation, but not a crisis. We have expected all along that implementing the Framework would be a headache, presenting continual difficulties and occasional setbacks, and that is the situation we have now. Neither we nor the ROK is surprised, and I suspect the DPRK isn't surprised, either. We will make our progress in the only way we ever expected to: one small difficult step at a time.

In order to move forward, we have proposed talks in Geneva that would bring together the two chief negotiators who produced the Framework Agreement, Ambassador Gallucci and Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju. So far the DPRK has not agreed to such talks.

The situation could, to be frank, veer toward crisis. If the DPRK refuels its 5 megawatt reactor, that would break the nuclear freeze, and violate the Agreed Framework. We have made clear that in this case we would consult with our allies with a view to returning the issue to the UN Security Council for consideration of sanctions. But our focus now is on returning to productive negotiations.

That, then, is where we stand in our effort to implement the Agreed Framework. In your invitation to me to speak today, you asked that I also discuss the implications of the Framework for U.S. policy in Korea. Let me now explain those implications as they pertain to both North and South Korea.

As I mentioned earlier, we are consulting and cooperating very closely with the ROK on how to proceed in implementing the Framework. The closeness of our joint effort both proves the creative strength of the U.S.-ROK relationship, and makes it even stronger. We in fact share the same long-term goal--to establish peace and security on the Korean peninsula. We also share the view that the Agreed Framework, by addressing the North Korean nuclear issue, is an important step toward that goal, but is still, only a step.

A more fundamental view we and the ROK share is that, ultimately, peace and security on the Korean peninsula can only be established by the Korean people themselves. A touchstone principle is that the Korean people themselves must determine the future of the Korean peninsula. Our role in this will be to facilitate and support a stable solution that will essentially be devised and carried out by North and South Korea.

It is because we see the future of the Korean peninsula in this way that we insist that the DPRK must enter into a good-faith dialogue with the ROK. Such a dialogue is absolutely necessary. Without it, the Agreed Framework cannot work. And without it, there can be no peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

We will help with this dialogue. Eventually the U.S.-ROK partnership will turn its best and most productive energies to the task of resolving the essential tragedy of the Korean people, the division of their nation.

The Agreed Framework also has implications for U.S. policy toward North Korea. One valuable result we are already reaping from our efforts to resolve the nuclear issue is that North Korea has been "demystified." For most of the last half century, North Korea was written off as a deeply enigmatic country--isolated, unpredictable, and dangerous. But our growing body of direct experience with North Korea has given us some insight and understanding of North Korea. I myself gained a great deal of experience with North Korea and the North Korean viewpoint during the Geneva negotiations, and when I was dispatched to Pyongyang last December to secure the release of downed U.S. pilot Bobby Hall.

Thus our negotiating experience has enabled us to understand North Korea somewhat better than before. We still don't really know what is going on in that isolated land, but now we can at least see the outlines of political, security, economic, and social factors that affect North Korean decision making. This is the beginning of a productive dialogue. We and North Korea are learning how to address tough issues. Viewed broadly, the Agreed Framework is opening the door to cooperative efforts with the DPRK across a wide range of issues.

The implications of this can be significant. This process--if we can sustain it--will slowly but inexorably draw North Korea out of isolation and into the mainstream of nations. The outcast will become the neighbor, and North Korea will reap the benefits of integration with the global village, and the global economy.

Such long-term optimism, however, needs to be tempered by mid-term caution. We are a long way from where we want to be. Even if we resume Framework negotiations soon, other serious issues remain unresolved: we do not have a permanent peace arrangement on the Korean peninsula; we do not have an adequate accounting from North Korea of Korean War MIAs; we do not have a North Korean commitment to stop exporting lethal missiles, or to reduce its aggressively-postured conventional forces; we do not have respect for the rights of individuals in North Korea. But most importantly, we do not have a dialogue between North and South Korea.

What is key, what is truly essential, to the goal of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula is constructive engagement between North and South. Only that can bring a stable peace to Korea. And until North and South engage, even our very best efforts can yield only limited results. The difficulties we are now encountering in implementing the Agreed Framework flow not from flaws in the Framework, but from the fun damental fact that North and South have not yet reached an understanding of how to resolve problems, or to co-exist, or even to talk. In this I am not finding fault with South Korea. I am urging North Korea to step up to dialogue with the South.

When North and South Korea engage constructively, then the two Koreas will take center stage, and the U.S. will step to the wings, supportive, but to the side. At center stage the Korean people, with their energy and creativity, will address the problems, and fashion the solutions. Koreans themselves will find the means to resolve the tragedy of their separation, and build a prosperous, united Korea that will stand at the forefront of nations.

You, as community leaders possessing special insight and expertise on Korea, know that this forecast is not idle speculation. These things will happen. And the U.S. is pledged to play a constructive role in helping to establish an atmosphere in which the people of Korea can join together to build an ever brighter future based on democracy and a free flow of goods and ideas.


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