News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

NORTH KOREA
2,6Results of US-DPRK Talks/Series of Talks Set Up
3Delivery of Heavy Fuel Oil
3,5-6Provision of Light Water Reactors by KEDO
3,9World Food Program Appeal/Additional Food Aid
3-4Assessment of Recent Missile Test/Possibility of Satellite Launch
4Dates For the Resumption of Four-Party Talks
4-5Assessment of Congressional Support for Funding for Fuel Oil/Food Aid

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 105
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1998, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

...............

MR. RUBIN:

Now, with respect to North Korea, I do have an important announcement. As a result of seven meetings in late August and early September, our negotiators in New York obtained important commitments from their North Korean counterparts on a range of issues of major concern to the United States, to our allies in South Korea and Japan, and to everyone in the region.

Our objectives in those talks were to obtain from the North Koreans concrete steps to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and to insure that the DPRK continues to abide by all of the terms of the agreed framework. Working closely with our allies, we sought to remove threats to that agreed framework - the Nuclear Framework Agreement - and to begin to clarify certain North Korean underground construction activity of concern to us; to raise our deep concerns over the missile tests; and to restart talks on the North Korean's missile program. We made progress on each of our goals.

The North Koreans have agreed to continue the discussion which began in New York about our concerns with respect to the nature of certain suspicious underground construction in North Korea. We made clear during those talks that verbal assurances will not be sufficient to meet our concerns. We intend to press for access to clarify the nature of suspect construction; and we have made the North Koreans aware that access will be necessary if our concerns are to be clarified.

On the missile front, the DPRK has agreed to resume missile talks on October 1, which will allow us to press strongly our concerns about their production, development and export of missiles as well as their further testing, heightened by the recent launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea. We have made and will continue to make clear to the North Koreans that such a missile launch should not be repeated.

Again, on the nuclear side, the DPRK will resume the canning of remaining spent fuel rods starting in mid-September. This canning, which has not taken place for several months is a North Korean obligation under the agreed framework, and is to be completed without further delay.

In the area of our long-term negotiations, the North Korean delegation has agreed to attend a third plenary of the four-party talks in October. And finally, in the negotiating sphere, the DPRK has agreed to restart talks on steps they need to take in order to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In short, we have set up a series of negotiations based on the principle of getting access and information and resolving the concerns we have both in the nuclear area and the missile area. These do not resolve concerns, but they set up a framework by which we wish to see those concerns resolved. We have no illusions about the difficulty of dealing with the North Korean Government and we do not trust North Korea. But we have a system in place now - a series of talks - in which our concerns on the nuclear side and the missile side can be addressed if the North Koreans so choose.

With respect to our commitments, what we did is reiterate our determination to complete the delivery of the remaining 284,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil planned for this year - that is, 1998. We also reaffirmed that the North Korean side would be provided two light water reactors by KEDO - the Korean Energy Development Organization - in accordance with the agreed framework.

Throughout this process we worked very closely with our South Korean and Japanese allies, and we also consulted very closely with Congress and we will continue to consult with the South Korean and Japanese allies and friends as we go through this extensive discussion.

QUESTION: We haven't asked in a while about contributions to support the energy program. Where do things stand now?

MR. RUBIN: We believe that with the combination of consultation with Congress and executive authority, that we will be able to provide the necessary heavy fuel oil to meet that 284,000 metric tons that I mentioned this year.

QUESTION: So the commitment means one way or another they're going to get what they --

MR. RUBIN: That is what we - we are working with Congress; there have been a lot of consultations; there's various waiver authorities that have been discussed with Congress. But we believe we have a program that will enable that heavy fuel oil to be provided this year.

QUESTION: Food aid - what can you say about food aid to North Korea, please?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to food aid, as you know, for some time it has been our view that the humanitarian suffering of the people of North Korea - the children and the women who are suffering so dramatically from their food shortages - is something that we should continue to pursue regardless of our differences in other areas - our very serious differences.

We have important humanitarian objectives in assisting the international community and preventing a famine in North Korea. We provide food solely on humanitarian grounds. As you know, earlier this year the World Food Program put forward an appeal, I believe in the realm of 650,000 tons. We have previously indicated a desire -- we have previously offered 200,000 metric tons of food pursuant to that appeal; and we are now working with the World Food Program to work on the possible provision of additional food aid to North Korea. But we have nothing more to say at this time on that.

QUESTION: This morning the South Korean Foreign Minister said that the consensus of the United States, South Korea and Japan is now that the missile was most likely a satellite launch that went awry. Is that how you see it?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have new assessments by us on that situation. Clearly there are those who hold that view. I can confirm again what I said to you two days ago, which is that we cannot confirm the presence of an orbiting satellite or were not able to see a satellite leave the missile. That is all we know for sure.

There are those who hold the view that you described; I do not believe we've reached a final judgment on this. It's a very important issue that we intend to work on very closely. But regardless, we have very serious concerns about North Korea's missile program. Their program is dangerous; their program is dangerous to the region; it is dangerous to the world. That is why we think it is so important that we obtain new commitments from North Korea in that regard.

QUESTION: In other words, it's irrelevant if it was -- in terms of the potential threat to the region, it's irrelevant whether it was a missile or a satellite?

MR. RUBIN: We've made clear that these kind of long-range missile capabilities - demonstrating these long-range missile capabilities should not be repeated. This demonstration has made reaching and understanding on missile development and proliferation all the more important.

We want to establish tight constraints on North Korea's missile activities - both it's exports and it's indigenous program. In combination with its missile program, whatever the intended purpose of that launch, it had a demonstrated capability to launch a ballistic missile with that range.

QUESTION: On the specifics, the resumption of the four-party talks, do you have a date and a location; and do you have a location for the missile talks?

MR. RUBIN: I do not have a location for the missile talks. I'll try to get you that afterwards. October I have for the four-party talks, without a date or a location at this time; but I'll try to get you that.

QUESTION: Prior to these latest developments, there was already if not opposition, reluctance among members of Congress to fund any additional aid whether it be fuel oil or food to North Korea. Do you think in light of the latest developments for President Clinton that what political capital might have been available for him to use or for Secretary Albright to use to get this additional money for North Korea, do you think that will be made more difficult now?

MR. RUBIN: We're obviously at a time when a lot of people are going to do a lot of thumb-sucking about what could or couldn't happen with or without what's going on in Washington. I am not going to participate in that from the podium here.

What I can tell you is the importance of an issue; I can tell you a little bit about what we're doing to try to deal with it. I can try to give you a flavor of how Congress is reacting to it. But as far as why - the political reasons why things do or don't happen either in the foreign policy sphere or anything else is just not my job.

With respect to our goals, they're clear: our goal is to get as much support as possible from Congress for the important North Korea agreed framework plan. Let's remember, if we weren't able to achieve these steps most recently, we could have been facing very seriously the possibility of a breakdown in the agreed framework and a return to the brink of crisis -- the crisis that riveted the world in 1994. So what we are trying to do is focus on a substantive problem, which is getting the heavy fuel oil so that North Korea will freeze the parts of its program that they've committed to under the agreement and we can move forward in trying to get additional commitment.

What responses Congress takes to that is up for them to decide. I can tell you the importance of it. I can describe to you the important role the Secretary is playing in trying to get agreement from Congress. As I indicated in response to Barry's question, we believe that through a combination of executive authority and congressional consultation that we will be able to provide the heavy fuel oil necessary for this year. There may be continuing discussions about what happens next year, and we would expect that to go on. There's been opposition to this agreement from some quarters for a very long time; and I don't expect that to go away. But in the meantime, that's the job that we're doing.

QUESTION: Are the Japanese going to provide the money that they had promised?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you'll have to ask the Japanese for their stated view. What we've indicated is that we are committed to keeping the light water reactor schedule - putting it back on track so that the light water reactors can be provided, pursuant to the agreement.

With respect to their decisions as to how they will contribute to that, that's for them to say.

QUESTION: But can it be done if the Japanese do not contribute the money that they have said that they would?

MR. RUBIN: Well, they've indicated in the past their intent to provide a very substantial portion of that. They, as you know, decided not to go along with some final planning that was being done by KEDO. They said they're reviewing that. Either the Japanese will make clear they're prepared to provide that support or we will try to get other support. But we believe that this agreement is extremely important, and I think the Japanese and the South Korean allies have given us every indication that they also share the same level of importance we attach to this agreement. With respect to any announcements that they may or may not make about their position, that's up to them to say.

QUESTION: Regarding KEDO construction, there's been reports that the US promised North Korea to start construction of light water reactors in November. Do you have anything on this?

MR. RUBIN: We continue to expect the light water reactor project to go forward as agreed by all the parties under the framework. In the just-concluded talks with the North, we acknowledged that construction is behind schedule, and we reaffirmed that the project should be implemented according to the agreed framework. We will fully respect the position of the South Korean and Japanese Governments on this issue and consult closely with them regarding this implementation.

So it was behind schedule. We've committed to try to put it back on schedule, and we're going to work with the South Koreans and the Japanese on that.

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(The briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)

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