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Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

NORTH KOREA
1,2(Kartman's trip )Possibilities of Follow-on Meeting/Commitment to Access/Issue of Compensation
2,3Terms for Access of Site/Issue of Nuclear Activities Taking Place/Agreed Framework
3,4Perry's Role in Discussions/President's Travel to Region/Wide Gaps
13Resumption of Missile Talks


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 128
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1998, 12:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

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MR. RUBIN:

Let me begin with the subject of North Korea. A US delegation led by US Special Envoy for the Korean peace talks, Ambassador Charles Kartman, met in Pyongyang November 16 through 18 with North Korean officials to discuss the serious concerns the United States has about suspect underground construction in North Korea. The DPRK delegation was headed by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan.

During the two days of intensive discussions, the US laid out our serious concerns about construction activities in Kumchangni, North Korea, and reasserted the need for access to the site and other steps necessary to resolve our concerns. Although we worked to resolve these concerns, I cannot say that we were satisfied with the response we received. At this point, we did agree to meet again as soon as possible, and we will settle the details, including the location, through the normal means - the so-called New York channel.

QUESTION: Do you have more details on the nature of the North Korean response?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, they obviously denied they were - as expected - engaged in any prohibited nuclear activities. We did not get access on terms we find acceptable; and that's what we're going to be working on.

The goal of these discussions was to firmly impress on the North Korean side the gravity of this issue and through the Foreign Ministry officials to the North Korean leadership, the gravity of this issue. We pressed hard for clarification of the nature of the site at Kumchangni, and we supplied our ideas on how the North Koreans could resolve our concerns, including the necessity of access to the site.

We've expected that this would be difficult, and we told the North Koreans, as we've said before, that verbal assurances - as they are wont to give - are simply unacceptable. We told them that access to the site is essential.

This is an ongoing process. There was no expectation that we were going to resolve it right away. What the goal was, was to get the leadership in North Korea focused on the gravity of our concerns and the serious consequences for our relations, should our suspicions not be resolved. We hope and expect the North Koreans will reflect on that message, and we'd obviously like to have a follow-on meeting quickly because of the importance we attach to this matter.

QUESTION: Jamie, what happens if you don't get a follow-on meeting quickly?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we have reason to believe we will get a follow-on meeting. But if we don't resolve our concerns, we've said before that failure to resolve our concerns will affect the viability of the agreed framework because of the seriousness with which we regard the suspicions we have on this underground facility.

QUESTION: You said you didn't get a commitment to access on acceptable terms. Did you get an offer on access on any terms whatsoever?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as we expected, the North Koreans brought up the issue of compensation and we flatly rejected that.

QUESTION: Do you have any figure on that?

MR. RUBIN: It's so not on as a possibility that I don't care to get into the figures.

QUESTION: So basically they offered to do it in exchange for some dollar amount?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to characterize their position in general. I've described to you very specifically what's gone on. The short version of this is we have not yet achieved terms for access to the site in a way that we find acceptable.

QUESTION: Did they agree to another meeting?

MR. RUBIN: We have reason to believe that another meeting will happen, and we're going to work on the venue through the New York channel.

QUESTION: So, Jamie, the US delegation is going back to Pyongyang again?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is they will be fanning out to Seoul, to Tokyo and to China -- different members of the delegation -- to brief those governments on the status of this issue. I'm not going to speculate on where and when that meeting will take place, other than we'd like to see it happen quickly.

QUESTION: While they're mulling over whether or not to have a follow-on meeting, could they not change or modify anything in the underground complex that would change --

MR. RUBIN: I think we've spoken to this issue as far as we can with respect to our concerns about this. We have stated that we don't yet believe it is a violation of the agreement, and we want an agreement to meet quickly so that we can resolve this issue before we reach that stage.

QUESTION: Jamie, about the agreement, the original framework agreement, does that deal with the one site where you believe they were developing nuclear weapons, or in the US interpretation does it deal with any nuclear activities undertaken by North Korea?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to parse the agreement because I don't have it in front of me. But certainly if nuclear activities were taking place in North Korea, it would go against the entire letter and spirit of the objectives of the agreement and it would affect the viability of the agreement.

QUESTION: Jamie, Kartman and company were there for three days. Were there discussions on other issues?

MR. RUBIN: As I understand it -- I spoke to Ambassador Kartman earlier this morning -- the actual sessions took place over two days. There were 12 hours worth of meetings; they were all at the Foreign Ministry; and they were all on this subject. I'm not excluding that in the margins other issues arose, because they often do; but the focus and the subject matter was this issue.

QUESTION: Jamie, apart from the compensation issue, is there any other obstacle to access?

MR. RUBIN: I'd rather not get into the details on this issue at this time. Obviously, it's an ongoing discussion and what's important is that we get the kind of on-site access that we think we need to assure ourselves that there is no activity that would affect the viability of the agreement.

QUESTION: Isn't Perry going to step in at some point?

MR. RUBIN: I've put out a statement, I believe last week or earlier this week, on the announcement of former Secretary of Defense Perry, also former Deputy Secretary of Defense Perry, who is joining in this effort, and we spoke to his specific responsibilities. I expect him to be in the Department in the coming days, working with Secretary Albright and others to begin the process of reviewing the issues.

QUESTION: Will Kartman brief the President in person?

MR. RUBIN: I believe he is going to Seoul to brief ROK leaders there. We will be, obviously -- the party has NSC officials on it and will be communicating the results of this trip, this discussion, to the White House. I'm not aware of any direct briefing by Ambassador Kartman of the President, but I couldn't rule it out.

QUESTION: Can you say that the North Koreans, then, agreed in principle to inspection just to work out the --

MR. RUBIN: I really don't want to characterize it any further than I have. We're working on this issue, we think it's extremely important, and we have not achieved agreement on terms acceptable to us, and there's wide gaps in our approach to this problem.

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