ACCESSION NUMBER:213804 FILE ID:EP-405 DATE:02/06/92 TITLE:U.S. STILL WARY OF NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR INTENTIONS (02/06/92) TEXT:*92020605.EPF *EPF405 02/06/92 * U.S. STILL WARY OF NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR INTENTIONS (Article on Kanter before SFRC subcommittee) (560) By Jane A. Morse USIA Staff Writer Washington -- Although North Korea finally signed the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards agreement last week, a U.S. official expressed concern about whether the agreement will be implemented. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Arnold L. Kanter, under secretary of state for political affairs, told senators February 6 North Korea's "track record does not leave one optimistic." North Korea has been accumulating nuclear expertise since the mid-1960s when it acquired a small research reactor from the then Soviet Union. This was operated under IAEA safeguards as condition of sale, Kanter explained. But since 1987, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has operated an unsafeguarded, indigenously developed reactor of a type suitable for producing plutonium, the building-block of nuclear weapons, according to Kanter. U.S. intelligence shows that the North Koreans are constructing another, larger reactor and a reprocessing plant, he said. Although the DPRK signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in December 1985, it was not until a week ago that North Korea took the first step toward compliance, which involves signing a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA that allows for IAEA inspections. This second agreement must be ratified by the North Korean government, a step the United States hopes will take place before February 19 when the North-South Prime Ministerial talks begin. "We have to be cautious, even skeptical, until we see whether and how the North Koreans move forward," Kanter said. The United States fears proliferation on the Korean peninsula and instability in northeast Asia if North Korea attains nuclear weapons capability, Kanter said. "We could also face the danger of the covert export of nuclear materials and/or technology by the DPRK to unstable areas of the world," Kanter noted in his prepared text. "Such a harrowing scenario is in no nation's interest, but it is, unfortunately, not the stuff of mere science fiction." In responding to questions, Kanter emphasized that "the heart of our estimate of whether the North Koreans are following through on their obligations connected to their nuclear program will be the fact of inspections -- not whether they signed or ratified the IAEA paper and agreement -- but the result of the IAEA inspections." He added that the IAEA inspections must be "complemented and reinforced by a separate, effective inspection regime in the North-South Non-nuclear Agreement." This bilateral agreement, which has already been signed by 1oth Koreas with the blessing of the United States, allows -- if and when implemented -- inspections of military as well as civilian nuclear facilities on each side, including U.S. military facilities in South Korea, Kanter noted. The United States, Kanter said in response to questions, "is reasonably confident" that implementation of the IAEA safeguards and the inspection regime, along with the bilateral inspection agreement, "will in combination give us high confidence that North Korea could not have significant nuclear weapons capability." Kanter noted that the South Koreans are urging North Korea to begin now with "trial inspections as a confidence-building measure without waiting for the machinery to be set up under either IAEA or under the bilateral agreement." This would involve inspections of one military and one civilian facility each for both sides, he explained. NNNN .