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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Address at National Press Club
November 2, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Jack, and good morning to you all. I appreciate your being here. I expect that some of you may still be recovering from Halloween. I know that I am. I have never had so much fun. Of course, I have also never before walked around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, costumed like Barry Schweid. I had to do less tricks and got more treats.

But now, down to business.

Today, I want to report to you, and through you to the American people, regarding my recent trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This visit is part of an historic process aimed at creating lasting stability on the Korean Peninsula, the world's most prominent remaining Cold War frontier. This process is a key component of the Clinton Administration's strategy for promoting peace, and for reducing the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction.

And it embodies an approach developed with our close allies in Seoul and Tokyo, for building--if we can--a new and mutually beneficial relationship with Pyongyang.

I said on the day I took office that I would do all I could to explain clearly the who, what, how and especially the whys of American foreign policy. That is especially vital on this subject, because the process in which we are engaged is long-term. Even if all goes well, it will require sustained congressional and public support to succeed.

The next President will have to choose whether to continue down the path we have begun. Respectfully, I hope he will and believe he should, because I am convinced it is the right path for America, our allies, the people of Korea and the world.

As you know, my trip to Pyongyang was the first-ever by an American Secretary of State. While there, I had a chance to visit with North Korean children who are being fed through the heroic efforts of the World Food Program.

And I had a series of meetings with the DPRK's top leaders, with whom I reviewed a wide range of topics, including the inter-Korean dialogue, economics, terrorism, human rights and humanitarian issues.

I met at length during my stay with Chairman Kim Jong Il, and made substantial progress in key areas, including the security matters that were our main focus.

My impressions of Chairman Kim were far different than stories about his past might lead one to expect. He was practical, decisive and well prepared for our discussions. As a result, our talks were pragmatic and productive, which is very much to the good.

But having said that, let me be clear. I have studied Communist systems all my life. And I have no illusion about the nature of such regimes.

As Chairman Kim would be the first to acknowledge, there is an abyss between his political ideology and ours.

North Korea is among the least-free nations on Earth. There is little, if any, respect for global norms of human or civil rights. From the top down, the emphasis is on uniformity, order and discipline. The result is indeed order--but at a heartbreaking cost in human happiness, creativity, and welfare.

Chairman Kim and I referred to our profound political differences in our talks, but we did not allow them to obstruct progress.

America's immediate interest is to make gains on core security issues. There are, after all, few human rights imperatives more meaningful than preventing war. And I hope that cooperation in this area will improve the climate for broader discussions at a later time.

Our approach was developed in close consultation with our allies in Seoul. President Kim Dae-jung has said publicly that the best way to move forward with Pyongyang is to focus on specific security, economic and humanitarian issues.

He has also made clear that, given the DPRK's authoritarian structure, progress can only come through direct discussions with Chairman Kim Jong Il and his closest advisers.

There are some in our country who think they know more about what is right for Korea than Kim Dae-jung and the Korean people. And they argue it is wrong for our leaders to meet with those of the DPRK.

These commentators are certainly entitled to their point of view. But without dialogue, we are stuck with the status quo. And I believe the risks of trying to work with North Korea are less than the ongoing costs of confrontation.

The Korean de-militarized zone has often been described as the world's most dangerous place; and understandably so.

For decades, heavily armed forces on both sides have stood poised, face-to-face, prepared for battle. North Korea especially has filled the airwaves with propaganda and hate. Periodic incidents and accidents have sometimes brought us to the threshold of conflict. And we must never forget that 37,000 American troops are among those at risk.

For many years, the United States has worked to create a stable environment in Korea and throughout East Asia. Our goal is a region where no nation seeks to dominate others, and all nations cooperate for prosperity and peace. A fundamental question has been whether the DPRK would ever find its place within such a vision.

When President Clinton took office, the outlook was not good. The new Administration learned that Pyongyang was violating its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and was actively engaged in developing nuclear weapons.

In March, 1993, instead of answering the IAEA's questions, the DPRK announced plans to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I was at the UN then and remember thanking the DPRK representative for his speech. "You have made me feel 40 years younger," I said, "with your rhetoric from the deepest depths of the Cold War."

Tensions were rising quickly and the chances for miscalculation were high.

President Clinton responded with vigorous diplomacy backed by America's ongoing security presence. Administration officials, including then-Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci-and with important help from former President Jimmy Carter--raised our concerns directly with the DPRK and received a measured response.

This led to the 1994 Agreed Framework, which froze plutonium production at Yongbyon and Taechon, blocked North Korea's surest and quickest path to building nuclear weapons, and later helped make possible visits to a suspect underground site at Kumchang-ni.

As the decade wore on, another security concern arose. In 1998, the DPRK launched a Taepo Dong missile in a failed attempt to orbit a small satellite.

This raised alarms throughout the region and in our own country because a North Korean long-range missile capability could undermine security and heighten tensions well beyond the 38th parallel. It could also spark a regional arms race and harm the global nonproliferation regime. Moreover, Pyongyang's practice of peddling its missiles and missile technology abroad could endanger stability in other key regions, including the Middle East.

With backing from concerned leaders in Congress, President Clinton and I asked former Defense Secretary William Perry to conduct an extensive review of our policy toward the DPRK.

Working with an interagency group headed by the State Department Counselor, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, this review was global in scope. Secretary Perry consulted repeatedly with our allies in Seoul and Tokyo; spoke with officials in China, Russia and Europe; and listened to advice from academic experts and NGOs.

Dr. Perry's team placed special emphasis on a two-way exchange with members from both parties on Capitol Hill. As I said earlier, our goal was to develop a policy that would be effective in the region, but also have bipartisan support at home, so that it would continue regardless of the outcome of next Tuesday's election.

Dr. Perry's recommendations were accepted by President Clinton and published a little more than one year ago. They continue to guide us today.

These recommendations begin by making the fundamental choice to engage with North Korea directly and now. They combine diplomacy and deterrence for the purpose of ending the DPRK's destabilizing weapons activities. And they envision the possibility of better and more normal relations, as our concerns are met.

Following months of negotiation led by Special Envoy Chuck Kartman, and soon after the Perry report was released, President Clinton announced the easing of U.S. economic and trade sanctions against North Korea. Shortly thereafter, Pyongyang pledged to observe a moratorium on flight-testing of long range missiles of any kind for the duration of our bilateral talks.

More recently, the North Koreans hinted that they might agree to permanent missile restraints if arrangements could be made for others to launch their satellites into orbit.

We discussed this possibility with representatives from Pyongyang on several occasions, but we did not know for sure, prior to my trip, whether North Korea was truly serious about such an approach.

Not surprisingly, this was a major topic in my discussions with Chairman Kim Jong Il, and we made a good start on an array of long-range missile issues, both indigenous programs and exports. We also agreed that further expert-level talks should be conducted. That is why Assistant Secretary of State Bob Einhorn and his team are in Kuala Lumpur this week, meeting with counterparts from the DPRK.

I returned from Pyongyang convinced that the possibilities for mutually acceptable arrangements on missiles are real, and that this could enhance the safety of the American people, our allies in East Asia, and friends around the globe. But we have to make sure.

Twenty years ago, we used the prescription "Trust, but verify." Our message to North Korea now is "Don't test, and that will verify the possibility of a new era of confidence between our countries."

I can make no predictions about the outcome. Nor can I speculate about how an understanding on missiles might relate to progress on other matters, such as economic cooperation and diplomatic relations.

But the bottom line is this.

We are in no hurry. The substance of an agreement matters far more than the timing. But if prospects for further progress develop, we will pursue them. We would be irresponsible if we did not take advantage of an historic opportunity to move beyond fifty years of Cold War division and reduce the danger North Korean missiles pose to us and to others around the globe.

The same thinking applies to the possibility of a meeting between President Clinton and Chairman Kim. I have reported to the President on my trip and he will decide soon whether a meeting would contribute to our goals of security and reconciliation.

Throughout the past year, the DPRK has shown a willingness to discuss our concerns in a serious and straightforward way.

Some may ask why this is true now when it has so often not been the case in the past. We cannot be sure of the answer.

But we do know that North Korea's economic problems multiplied after the Cold War ended and support from the Soviet Union and Central Europe evaporated. Today, North Korea is plagued by shortages of food, water, medicine, power, fertilizer and other essentials. The incentives for adopting a more open approach to the world are therefore strong.

Moreover, the DPRK has long professed reunification with the South to be its ultimate goal. And President Kim Dae-jung's sunshine policy--and Chairman Kim's response to it--have altered the political dynamics of the entire region.

Their summit in Pyongyang was surprising in its warmth and stunning in its promise.

It has been heartening since to see Korean families reunited after decades of forced separation, a process we hope will continue.

It has been encouraging to see ministers from the two Korean governments meet, and athletes from the South and North march into the Olympic Stadium together.

It was also extremely gratifying to see President Kim Dae-jung awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. This is an apt honor for one of our era's most courageous advocates of democracy and human rights. It also shows the depth of world support for Korean reconciliation.

Ironically, some suggest that the inter-Korean dialogue will be harmed as U.S.-DPRK relations improve. As evidence, they point to past efforts by Pyongyang to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul. But such concerns overlook the fact that relations between the United States and South Korea have become 100% "wedge-proof."

As I made clear during my trip, Seoul's agenda with Pyongyang is an inseparable part of our agenda, as well. And progress toward reconciliation between the South and North is both central to this entire process and essential if ties between the U.S. and the DPRK are to improve.

After all, I would never have been able to go to Pyongyang if President Kim had not gone there first. Moreover, the North should find it easier to address concerns about the size of its military and the status of its weapons programs if tensions with Seoul relax, and fears about its own security diminish.

I would also like to stress Japan's role in the effort to achieve lasting stability on the Korean Peninsula. Prior to my trip, I consulted by phone with the Japanese Foreign Minister about our intentions and expectations.

The day after the trip, I met jointly and separately with South Korean and Japanese leaders in Seoul. These consultations are part of a process of trilateral coordination that is at the heart of our Korea policy. It reflects our alliance with Japan, our friendship with the Japanese people, and our understanding of Japan's strategic, political and humanitarian interests in Korean events.

The United States strongly supports efforts by Tokyo and Pyongyang to resolve the difficult bilateral issues that divide them. All of East Asia will benefit if Japan and the DPRK find the path to cooperation.

China, too, can contribute in important ways to the process of reconciliation. Because the security of the Korean Peninsula is threatened not only by the presence of advanced weapons, but also by the absence of peace.

As President Kim said recently, as relations with Pyongyang improve, "conditions conducive to the Four Party Talks will ripen."

He went on to say that through the Four Party Talks, the two Koreas will be able to replace the old armistice with a new peace agreement; and that with U.S. and Chinese backing, "peace will become institutionalized."

Like Seoul, the United States recognizes and welcomes China's constructive role in Korea, and that of Russia, the European Union and others, as well. The broader the backing for peace, the more likely it is that peace will be achieved.

By any measure, the past year has been an astonishing one on the Korean Peninsula.

We have seen the first-ever summit between Seoul and Pyongyang, the first visit by a high-ranking North Korean official to Washington, and the first trip by an American cabinet member to the DPRK.

The result is the most contact between South and North Korea in fifty years; and a chance to fundamentally transform relations between the United States and the DPRK.

This latter point is evidenced not only in our progress on missiles, but also in our discussions and Joint Statement opposing Terrorism, and in the mutual commitments made in last month's Washington Communiqué. We have also worked together well on humanitarian issues, including efforts to account for Americans still missing from the Korean War.

Any assessment of the Clinton Administration's approach to North Korea must take into account not only what has happened in the region, but also what has not.

Without the Agreed Framework, the DPRK could have enough fissile material for a significant number of nuclear weapons, not only from the small reactor that was operating in 1994, but also from much larger reactors that had been nearing completion at that time.

Without our dialogue, the DPRK would likely have conducted a whole series of long range missile tests.

Without our engagement, tensions within the region would have risen steadily. A dangerous arms race would be underway. And instead of moving in the direction of openness, North Korea's isolation would be increasing. The result would be a more dangerous world for our allies and for us, and even greater hardships for the North Korean people.

We recognize, as do our counterparts in Seoul and Pyongyang, that the divisions and disagreements accumulated over more than half a century cannot be erased overnight. We have made a start, but only a start, toward a new kind of relationship, in which attitudes of confrontation are supplanted by habits of cooperation, and even the most basic differences of philosophy can be frankly discussed.

Leadership in international affairs requires a willingness to take calculated risks and explore the possibilities for creating a future that does more than mirror the past.

In years gone by, we have all heard--and some of us have made--predictions that the Cold War would never end, apartheid would never be defeated, Northern Ireland would never know peace, and the Balkans would never embrace democracy.

Today, in Korea, it is possible to envision a future in which the 38th Parallel becomes just another line of latitude; in which North-South contacts increase while tensions decrease; and in which visits to and from Pyongyang no longer warrant the attention of the world.

That time, if it comes at all, will be long after my time as Secretary of State. But it is a prospect well worth pursuing. And a day that now appears far closer than any of us could have anticipated just a few years ago.

Thank you very much. And now I would be pleased to respond to any questions you might have.

[End of Document]
Blue Line

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