U.S. Department of State
96/02/08 Address: Ambassador Winston Lord on Korea
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
GRAND HOTEL, WASHINGTON D.C.
FEBRUARY 8, 1996
U.S. POLICY TOWARD THE KOREAN PENINSULA
I wish to thank the IIE and Fred Bergsten for inviting me back again to address the 21st Century Council, which brings together some of the best minds in Korea and the US. As a forum of officials, executives and journalists, the 21st Century Council plays a unique and valuable role in fostering informal communications between Korea and the U.S.
The success of our policies on the North Korean nuclear challenge has removed this topic from the daily media headlines. But Korean issues are among my most important responsibilities and continue to receive regular attention at the highest levels in the U.S. Government. We are very conscious of the importance of consistency and constancy for achieving our policy objectives.
Long Term Goals
What are those long term objectives on the Korean Peninsula? US policy seeks to achieve a durable peace and to facilitate progress by the Korean people toward achieving national reunification. We look forward to the day when all Koreans will enjoy peace, prosperity and freedom as well as constructive relations with their neighbors.
Our approach is founded on our rock solid relationship with the Republic of Korea. Our ties were forged in the crucible of war. They have been cemented by an alliance that has endured for forty years. They have been nurtured by long established patterns of close consultation and cooperation. As Koreans have built an economic miracle, our bilateral trade has expanded rapidly, reaching about $50 billion last year and making Korea our fifth largest market. And as Koreans have developed their own democratic institutions, a commitment to shared values has strengthened the bonds between our two peoples.
On these foundations, the United States stands ready to support the Republic of Korea in meeting the challenges of peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula. It is our fundamental long standing principle that the issues of peace and reunification must be resolved by the Korean people themselves. North Korean proposals to pursue these issues unilaterally with the United States have not and will not be acceptable. The ROK has the lead; the U.S. will remain in a supportive role. We consult closely and continuously on our respective policies toward the North.
The humanitarian aid issue which has received so much media attention recently is, contrary to what some have written, a good example of allied collaboration. Before deciding to extend $2 million of humanitarian assistance, my colleagues and I conducted very close consultations bilaterally with the ROK and trilaterally in Honolulu with the ROK and Japan.
We explained that this aid would respond to a real humanitarian need, keep the World Food Program engaged in North Korea and demonstrate to North Korea the benefits of permitting international organizations to operate there. Seoul understood that we were considering only modest humanitarian aid to flood victims, not massive aid to deal with North Korea's overall food deficit. In the course of the consultations, we adjusted our plans to make this point clear to the Korean people. Consequently, the ROK announced that it had no objection to our provision of emergency disaster relief assistance through the World Food Program. Japan also expressed support.
Internationally, the ROK is playing an increasingly active and constructive role in the world community, reflecting its stature as the world's twelfth largest economy. This year, the ROK begins its first two year term as a member of the UN Security Council. And this year, it hopes to conclude its negotiations to become a member of the OECD. Seoul is also exploring participation in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
These developments mean that we and the ROK increasingly work together on major international issues in multilateral forums as well as bilaterally. It is gratifying to note the extent to which our approaches are consistent and mutually supportive.
The Evolution of US Policy Toward the DPRK
In order to understand where we are today, it is helpful to recall briefly the evolution of US policy through three administrations over the last eight years. Our approach toward the DPRK began to evolve in 1988, when the Reagan Administration undertook the so-called "Modest Initiative" to open the window for limited contact.
The next step came in January 1992, during a period of hopeful dialogue between North and South Korea, roughly at the same time as the conclusion of the North-South Basic Agreement, the North-South Joint Denuclearization Declaration, and the DPRK-IAEA Safeguards Agreement. The Bush Administration agreed to host the first ever high-level meeting between US and DPRK officials. While useful, this did not lead to further high level official contacts. The US-DPRK dialogue quickly slipped back, with contact limited to working-level exchanges between our embassies in Beijing.
In early 1992, the North Korean nuclear issue was becoming a focus of world attention as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was denied access to nuclear waste sites in North Korea. Suspicions grew that North Korea had reprocessed enough plutonium for one or perhaps two nuclear weapons. Then, the DPRK's March 1993 announcement that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) spurred determined American diplomatic efforts.
Following up the UNSC's call for member states to do whatever they could to help resolve the crisis, this Administration decided to engage the DPRK once again at the political level, in talks led by Ambassador Bob Gallucci and my Deputy, Tom Hubbard. After protracted and difficult negotiations and the closest consultations between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, we fashioned the US-DPRK Agreed Framework of October 21, 1994.
Working forward from this historical experience, the U.S. will pursue relations with North Korea in a manner that contributes to our longer term goals -- a durable peace on the peninsula and eventual reunification. These goals would make a major contribution to regional security in Northeast Asia.
In dealing with North Korea, the U.S. will follow three broad approaches:
-- The implementation of the US-DPRK Agreed Framework;
-- The reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, most importantly through substantive North-South dialogue; and -- The opening of increased contacts with North Korea.
The Agreed Framework
A year and a half ago, the world faced a dangerous situation in which the North Korea nuclear program was on the verge of producing enough plutonium for 5-6 nuclear bombs annually, the UN was threatening sanctions against North Korea, and the spectre of conflict loomed over the Korean Peninsula. Today, all that has changed. The Framework is a true success story.
For over a year, the North Korean nuclear program has been frozen under international surveillance, and the DPRK has not produced any additional plutonium. When fully implemented, the Framework will lead to the dismantlement of the DPRK nuclear program and the threats it poses. These dramatic changes make the Agreed Framework one of the most significant recent accomplishments in American foreign policy.
We have made more progress than many would have expected in implementing other aspects of the Framework. The DPRK has accepted that the reactors, which the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) will supply, will be based on the South Korean model. KEDO was established in March 1995 by the US, Korea and Japan. Last December, KEDO and The DPRK signed an agreement on the supply of these proliferation- resistant light water reactors. This supply agreement has activated a DPRK obligation to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to resume ad hoc and routine inspections of nuclear facilities not subject to the freeze.
Preparations for the safe, interim storage of the DPRK's spent nuclear fuel are well advanced. The process of loading that fuel into safe storage canisters should begin soon, with full DPRK cooperation.
KEDO is supplying North Korea with heavy fuel oil as called for in the Framework. To ensure that this oil is used for the intended purposes, the DPRK has agreed to monitoring procedures proposed by the U.S.
KEDO is gaining increasing international support. A dozen countries have joined KEDO or indicated their intention to do so. Some twenty countries have contributed financially or plan to do so. Given the major contribution which KEDO is making to regional stability and the global non-proliferation regime, broad support by countries around the world, including in Europe and Asia, is warranted and important. We have been intensively engaged, along with our South Korean and Japanese partners, in lining up additional international support.
KEDO is preparing for its negotiations with the Korean Electric Power company (KEPCO), the firm with which it plans to conclude the prime contract for the LWR project. In addition, KEDO is opening new channels with the North. Preparatory work on the LWR project has begun, and four KEDO teams have visited North Korea to survey the proposed reactor site. These teams have included participants from all the three core members of KEDO, including many experts from the ROK. This preparatory work is proceeding in a thoroughly professional and cooperative manner.
One key aspect of the Agreed Framework, however, is seriously lagging -- the North's obligation to engage in dialogue with the ROK, a subject to which I will return later.
The Reduction of Tensions
The Agreed Framework has been so successful that some may overlook that North Korea still poses a serious military threat and foreign policy challenge. The world still faces the continued confrontation between North and South, a closed DPRK society isolated from the outside world, the massive, forward-deployed DPRK military forces, and the DPRK missile, chemical and biological weapons programs. The Korean peninsula remains the most heavily armed real estate in the world today.
Consequently, a key objective of US policy toward the peninsula must continue to be preserving security and peace. The cornerstone of our efforts is our alliance with the Republic of Korea. The 37,000 U.S. forces in Korea supporting this alliance are part of the overall 100,000 troops the U.S. maintains in the Asia-Pacific area. Our alliance is commited both to continued vigilance and to exploring ways to reduce tensions on the peninsula.
With the North Korean nuclear program in check, we must continue to address the conventional military threat. The Military Armistice Agreement of 1953 has helped to maintain the peace for more than 40 years now; the US believes that all sides should abide by its terms until it can be replaced by a new peace system.
Over the last few years, the DPRK has engaged in a systematic campaign to undermine the armistice. This threatens peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. We urge the DPRK to restore military communications in Panmunjom so that we can ensure that the armistice is maintained. This is in Pyongyang's interest as well as that of other interested parties.
The DPRK has repeatedly sought to open direct bilateral talks with us to discuss a permanent peace treaty. In solidarity with our ally, the ROK, we have repeatedly rebuffed this approach. As the North-South Basic Agreement of December 1991 stipulates, it is up to Koreans -- both North and South -- to create a stable peace on the Korean peninsula.
The United States will support fully any joint efforts by the North and South to create a new peace mechanism, and is willing to play whatever role agreed upon by both the North and the South. But the U.S. will not engage the DPRK bilaterally, over the head of our South Korean allies. The ROK must fully participate in any military-to-military contacts.
These realities point up the fundamental importance of improved North-South relations. In the Agreed Framework the DPRK made a commitment to engage in North-South dialogue. This commitment was so central that the U.S. would not have concluded the Framework without it. North-South dialogue is an essential aspect of the Agreed Framework and a prerequisite for its full implementation.
We have repeatedly urged Pyongyang to meet its commitment and begin direct governmental dialogue with the ROK. Recently, Kim Yong Sun, the Secretary of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee, made a major speech in Pyongyang calling for 1996 to be a year of peace and national unity. We hope this speech, despite some familiar rhetoric, is a harbinger of a willingness by North Korea to have constructive dialogue with the South, much as it did in the productive efforts that produced the 1992 North-South Declarations.
Expanding Contacts with the DPRK
Expanding contacts with North Korea is an important means of reducing tensions and building a broader basis for peace and security on the peninsula. In close concert with our South Korean allies, we seek to engage the DPRK bilaterally on a number of issues. One of the goals of the Agreed Framework is to build a North Korean stake in responsible behavior.
We encourage the DPRK to continue down the road of greater openess to the outside world. We seek to demonstrate to Pyongyang the benefits of acting in accordance with international norms in areas such as missile proliferation and terrorism. And we remain ready to cooperate with the DPRK on humanitarian issues such as the return of the remains of US soldiers.
To achieve these goals, it is important to open up channels of communication with the DPRK, both governmental and private. Under the terms of the Agreed Framework, we are prepared to exchange liaison offices when remaining technical issues are resolved. In the non-governmental sphere, we encourage cultural, academic and other people-to-people exchanges. We have facilitated North Korean groups that have visited the US and welcome the visits of American groups to North Korea.
We also believe it will be beneficial to all parties for the DPRK to expand its economic ties so that its people can share in the East Asian economic miracle. We took initial steps a year ago to ease US economic sanctions on the DPRK. These steps, while modest, have led to a small, but still significant increase in commercial contacts between the US and the DPRK.
For example, direct telecommunications services have been established, US companies have signed contracts to import magnesite from the DPRK, and an unprecedented number of licenses have been issued for American firms to provide humanitarian goods to the DPRK. We welcome indications from American firms of their interest in exploring discussions with North Korea, within the context of U.S. law.
We are committed gradually to normalize economic as well as political relations with the DPRK as progress is made on the Agreed Framework and other issues of concern to the U.S. There have been recent steps forward -- particularly the signing of the LWR supply agreement and progress on spent fuel canning. The timing and extent of further sanctions reduction measures will in large part depend on DPRK willingness to engage constructively on the issues we care about, including missile proliferation, the return of war remains, the reduction of tensions and, most importantly, North-South dialogue.
On all of these issues concerning the Korean peninsula, the US will continue to coordinate closely with the ROK as well as Japan. It is essential that U.S.-DPRK and North-South relations proceed in parallel. The U.S. will not get out in front of the ROK.
Our pattern of consultations is intense and constant. President Clinton has visited Seoul. President Kim has made two visits to Washington. National Security Advisor Lake was in Seoul this week. Deputy Secretary Talbott met with his counterpart in December. Secretary Christopher, ROK Foreign Minister Gong and former Japanese Foreign Minister Kono decided last November to institute a series of high-level trilateral consultations to coordinate policy toward North Korea.
Together, we encourage greater North Korean openess to the outside world, and engagement with the South. I recently hosted the first such consultation in Honolulu. This process reflects the determination of two close allies who enjoy a deep and productive friendship. We will continue to work closely with our allies as well as China, Russia and others.
The Agreed Framework has been a great success in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat. It serves regional stability and global non-proliferation efforts. We will continue to do everything necessary to ensure the Framework's smoothest possible implementation.
At the same time, it encompasses more than just the nuclear issue -- we plan to use it to promote a broader approach toward our long term goals: a durable peace and the eventual reunification that the Korean people seek. These are issues on which Koreans will play the leading role. As a friend and ally, the United States stands ready to help.
Return to the Electronic Research Collection Geographic Bureaus Home Page
Visit the Electronic Research Collection Home Page
Go to the U.S. State Department Home Page
To top of page