News


DATE:03/05/92
TITLE:RISCASSI: NORTH KOREA COULD HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPON BY 1994 (03/05/92)
TEXT:*92030519.EPF
*EPF419   03/05/92 *

RISCASSI: NORTH KOREA COULD HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPON BY 1994
(Article on Senate Committee hearing March 4)  (510)
By Jane A. Morse
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- U.S. intelligence indicates that North Korea could amass
enough materials by this summer to complete a single nuclear weapons system
by 1994, according to General Robert W. Riscassi, commander-in-chief of the
Combined Forces Command in the Republic of Korea.

In responding to questions at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services
Committee March 4, Riscassi said U.S. intelligence data suggest the device,
though untested by then would be deliverable at that time via SCUD missile
or aircraft.  But he added that while U.S. intelligence reports allow him
to monitor North Korean actions, they do not give an accurate account of
North Korean intentions.

"The most destabilizing issue affecting security on the peninsula, and the
region at large, has been the growing suspicion that North Korea is on the
verge of developing a nuclear weapon," Riscassi said in his prepared
testimony.

North Korea appears to have been making a start on complying -- though ever
so slowly -- with international demands, he said.  In 1985 North Korea
signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, but refused to sign the contingent
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accord until January of this
year, after arduous negotiations with South Korea.  However, North Korea
has yet to ratify the agreement, saying ratification will be considered by
its parliament this April.

Riscassi said"MDBU""MDNM" that it is possible North Korea is trying to buy
1ime to reprocess enough material to build a nuclear weapon, but only the
parliamentary decision in April will give any indication.  He added that it
might be September before IAEA inspections could begin.

In December 1991, the two Koreas agreed to a nonaggression and exchange
pact, under which both sides agree to neither test, manufacture, produce,
receive, possess, store, deploy, nor use nuclear weapons.  A bilateral
inspection regime is to be constructed, including the right to perform
challenge inspections of suspect nuclear facilities and military bases.

"The denuclearization pact is now in effect, but there still is no agreement
on the structure or timing of the accompanying inspection program,"
Riscassi pointed out in prepared testimony.

At the hearing, there was some committee discussion regarding the precise
meaning of President Bush's announcement in September 1991 of the U.S.
withdrawal of all naval and land-based forward deployed tactical nuclear
system.  (In November, President Roh publicly announced the
denuclearization of the ROK.)  In responding to questions, Riscassi
commented that there has been "no local pressure for the United States to
remove its nuclear umbrella over the Korean peninsula."  He said that the
actions taken by Presidents Bush and Roh have not undermined the United
States' flexible response policy.

Riscassi was asked about the operational significance of a single, untested
North Korean nuclear device.  He replied that given North Korea's
capability to deliver such a device, it is of regional concern, but added
that international pressure and the actions of international atomic
agencies have constituted a proper response.

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