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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Charles Kartman, Deputy Assistant Secretary
East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Testimony by Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Process
before the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC, September 10, 1998

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Recent Developments in North Korea
Senator Thomas, the last time I appeared before you was to seek confirmation as the U.S. Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Process. Subsequently, the Secretary also appointed me the U.S. Representative to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, more commonly known as KEDO.
I want to thank you again for your and the committee's support. And, I reiterate to you my intention to consult regularly with you as we proceed with North Korea.
It has been a busy month since I assumed my duties. As you know, I returned from New York September 5, following two weeks of intensive negotiations with the North Koreans.
Those negotiations resulted in commitments from the D.P.R.K. to take a number of steps toward resolving key U.S. concerns about North Korea's suspect underground construction; its August 31 launch of a new, longer-range missile; and its implementation of the Agreed Framework.
Let me make clear that, in these as in past negotiations, the U.S. approach was one of seriousness with respect to the security risks at stake, coupled with deep skepticism. Let me be clear--we do not trust North Korean intentions. It remains indisputable that North Korea represents a major threat to peace and stability not only in northeast Asia, but also in other volatile areas in the region.
We have no illusions about our dealings with North Korea. There are no assured outcomes. But, I must underscore the significance of the commitments we just obtained in New York. They will facilitate our ability to deal squarely with the issues of great and immediate concern--suspect underground construction and the North Korean missile program. It will also lead to the quick conclusion of the spent fuel canning--thus dealing with an otherwise serious proliferation risk. The understanding we have reached also will lead to a resumption of Four Party talks in the near future.
We made clear in New York that the North Koreans need to satisfy our concerns about suspect construction in the D.P.R.K. This is essential for the Agreed Framework. Reaching an agreement to deal with our concerns in this area is a top priority. Further talks on this issue, which we intend to continue in the coming weeks, will get into the details of clarifying D.P.R.K. activities to our satisfaction; clarification will have to include access to the site. We made it quite plain to the North Koreans that verbal assurances will not suffice.
During our recent talks, in close consultation with our South Korean and Japanese allies, we put the North's missile program and alleged nuclear activities front and center, insisting that the D.P.R.K. address U.S. concerns in these areas. As a result, North Korea has agreed to resume missile talks October 1. During these upcoming negotiations, we will seek to curtail North Korea's efforts to develop, deploy, and sell long-range missiles.
But, if there is anything more dangerous than a long-range missile, it is a long-range missile with a nuclear warhead. That is why we sought and obtained in New York a North Korean commitment to resume by mid-September, and to complete quickly and without interruption, the canning of their remaining spent nuclear fuel. This will put an end to their threat of recent months to reprocess this spent fuel.
Finally, the North Koreans have agreed to convene a third round of Four Party peace talks by October. It is understood by all, including the North Koreans, that the participants must move on to practical business such as tension reduction.
We remain convinced that firm and steadfast use of available channels is the best way to achieve the results we seek with respect to North Korea. This is the basic approach we used in New York, and it is one that proved to be of value during our negotiations of the Agreed Framework in Geneva.
While we are hopeful that the resumption of the various talks agreed to in New York will result in concrete benefits, we also firmly believe that the Agreed Framework must continue to be the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward the D.P.R.K. for some time to come. Though not perfect, the Agreed Framework is still the only viable alternative we have that has a chance to keep North Korea's nuclear activities in check, and keep the North engaged on other matters.
Without the Agreed Framework, North Korea would have produced a sizeable arsenal of weapons-grade plutonium by now. We have prevented that for close to 4 years, and we are committed to ensuring that the D.P.R.K. nuclear program remains frozen for the future. This is, without doubt, in the interest of the U.S. and our friends and allies in and beyond the region.
We are clearly better off with the North Korean nuclear facilities at Yongbyon frozen. To cite specifics: the nuclear facilities are under IAEA inspection; Pyongyong has agreed, as a result of this past round of negotiations, to can its remaining spent fuel; the D.P.R.K. is not reprocessing nuclear fuel. In other words, the compliance record for the existing facilities is good, and a dangerous program at Yongbyon is frozen and under inspection. We have made it crystal clear to the North Koreans that we expect them to continue to live up to these obligations under the Agreed Framework.
In conclusion, what we seek in our present dealings with the D.P.R.K. is to avoid a return to the circumstances of 1993-94 when tensions between North Korea, its neighbors, the United States, and the international community were dangerously high. We will continue to look for ways to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but we will also continue to be firm and deliberate with the North. With the proper support, we can go a long way toward eliminating North Korea's ability to threaten its neighbors and to export that threat to other parts of the world.
There is no question that much depends on North Korean intentions. But, with the limited tools we have, I can assure you that we will press the North to take substantive steps to comply fully with its obligations; we will push to resolve questions about suspect underground construction; and we will persist in our efforts to eliminate the destabilizing nature of the North's missile program, including testing, deployment, and exports of missiles.
As we have explained on many occasions, however, this strategy will be best served if we are honoring our own commitments undertaken in the Agreed Framework, and, specifically, the provision of heavy fuel oil to the D.P.R.K. through KEDO.
Mr. Chairman, this Administration has worked closely with Congress as a partner in our broader policy toward the North, and will continue to do so. Together, along with our allies and friends, we can make a difference and do what we can to ensure that Koreans in both the North and South can live on a peaceful and secure peninsula.
[end document]

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