News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

NORTH KOREA
12-13Nuclear Reactor Remains Sealed / Maintenance Continues Under IAEA Observation /US & KEDO Fulfilling Obligations Under Agreed Framework / Funding Discussions Continue
15,16Contact with US re Delay / Three-Way Policing of DMZ
QUESTION: Another nonproliferation issue - North Korea. There was a story in the Times this morning which suggests that they may be backing away from the 1994 framework agreement.

MR. RUBIN: Well, without getting into the name of any particular newspaper, the suggestions in news accounts that the North Koreans are unsealing the Yongbyon reactor are inaccurate. We have confirmed with the International Atomic Energy Agency that its seals remain in place and that the freeze at North Korea's nuclear complex remains in place.

Under the arrangements established by the Agreed Framework, North Korea is able to conduct regular maintenance activities at the reactor under the observation of IAEA inspectors. We are confident that North Korea has not violated the across-the-board freeze on its nuclear activities in this regard, and the Agreed Framework is alive and well.

The canning of the fuel was essentially completed in mid-March; only clean up remains. This involves recovery of whatever material remains in the spent fuel storage pool. It is true the DPRK criticized US compliance with the Agreed Framework, and in late April, temporarily suspended some clean up operations. But let me emphasize the United States has fulfilled its part of the Agreed Framework and will continue to do so. We believe it is in the interests of all parties.

The specific DPRK charge that KEDO, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, and the US are not meeting our obligations with regard to delivery of the specified heavy fuel oil is not correct; we do not accept this. With the next delivery later this month, KEDO will have delivered 130,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil this year. It has been funded on a year-by-year basis, and we are obviously having discussions on arranging financing for the remainder of this year.

So neither the heavy fuel oil has been delayed, nor has the construction of the light water reactor been delayed. We're working on the finances for that. The South Korean Government has agreed to fund 70 percent of the construction of that reactor, and Japan a significant part of the project. We're discussing the additional details. So the long and the short of it is that the freeze on North Korea's nuclear program is alive and well. The IAEA has confirmed that, and this account is incorrect.

QUESTION: Is it 130,000 metric tons that you mentioned?

MR. RUBIN:Metric tons, yes. So far this year.

QUESTION: But is that consistent with the agreed upon schedule?

MR. RUBIN:Well, we have to get 500 metric tons by the end of the year. So we have significant additional fuel oil to provide. There is an additional delivery scheduled for later this month, and we're going to work on getting this additional deliveries made.

QUESTION: On this article you mentioned, it was rather specific and it was based on an interview with Selig Harrison, who had gotten this information from officials in Pyongyang.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: So it's really just recounting, I believe, his conversation. But anyway, it said that, specifically, there were 200 fuel rods that had not been packaged yet; and you're denying that?

MR. RUBIN:I'm not in a position to get into exactly what rods or not rods, but if the suggestion is that the canning process of all the rods has not been completed, that's incorrect. What is going on is clean up. That doesn't mean there can't be parts of rods in the pool. But the suggestion that a huge chunk of the material -- the rods -- that was supposed to be canned have not been canned is incorrect.

...........

QUESTION: Mr. Rubin, I'd like to ask brief follow-up questions on North Korea. One is, has there been any communication directly from North Korea to the United States about the kind of displeasure the newspaper account talks about on the delay, so called?

MR. RUBIN: We don't comment on those kinds of communications.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, there was also in the news account an idea about creating three-way peace-keeping force and structure for policing the DMZ in Korea. Was this something that the United States has proposed in terms of confidence-building measures?

MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that; I'll have to get that for the record.

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(The briefing concluded at 2:15 P.M.)

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