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USIS Washington 
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01 September 1998

DESPITE NORTH KOREAN MISSILE TESTS, US SUPPORTS AGREED FRAMEWORK

(Albright interview, State Dept. background briefing)  (550)

By Jane A. Morse

USIA Diplomatic Correspondent



Washington -- North Korea's most recent missile test is considered
destabilizing, but it has not shaken US confidence in the Agreed
Framework, US officials say.


The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) tested for the first
time its Taepo Dong 1 missile on August 31. The two-stage missile,
which has an estimated range of over 1500 kilometers, flew over
Honshu, Japan's main island, and impacted in the Pacific.


Secretary of State Albright calls the test a "serious issue," but not
necessarily a breach of the Agreed Framework, a pact signed in 1994
between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea.


During a September 1 interview in Moscow with ABC-TV's "Good Morning
America," Albright said: "What we're looking for is to make sure that
they (the North Koreans) live up to the elements of the Agreed
Framework in terms of freezing their nuclear materials for nuclear
weapons," Albright said. "So far they have, in fact, from all
indications that we have, they're living up to their part of it."


Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea agreed to dismantle its gas
graphite nuclear reactor program, which produced weapons grade
material. North Korea also agreed to engage in dialogue with South
Korea, remain in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to meet obligations
set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.


In exchange, the United States spearheaded the establishment of the
Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an
international consortium led by the United States, the Republic of
Korea, Japan and the European Union.


The main purpose of KEDO is to finance the building of two light water
reactors in the DPRK to meet North Korean energy needs. These reactors
are considered safer in that they use fuel that produces significantly
fewer byproducts that can be used for nuclear weapons. The reactors
will be of South Korean design.


During a background briefing at the State Department September 1, a
State Department official, who did not wish to be identified, told
reporters that "We think KEDO is a good deal for the United States.
It's a good deal for the DPRK, and it's a good deal for South Korea
and Japan." He reiterated the Clinton Administration's satisfaction
that North Korea is not in violation of the Agreed Framework.


The US official said that KEDO members had been set to finalize plans
to share costs for the light water reactor project but postponed these
decisions in order to weigh the security ramifications of the North
Korean missile launch.


"The KEDO members will remain in consultation to determine an
appropriate time to finalize any agreement," the US official said, but
noted that "no member government has withdrawn its support for the LWR
(light water reactor) project. We simply halted finalization of the
burdensharing agreement."


The United States, the official said, believes "it's important to go
forward with the Agreed Framework ... just as it's important to hold
the North Koreans to the commitments they've made within the Agreed
Framework."


US and North Korean delegations are currently engaged in bilateral
discussions in New York City, but North Korea has declined to engage
in talks regarding missiles since 1997, the US official said.