News

The White House Briefing Room


November 21, 1998

PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER

5:40 P.M. (L)





                               THE WHITE HOUSE

                        Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Seoul, Republic of Korea) 
____________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                     November 21, 1998     


      
                              PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                    NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
      
                                 Shilla Hotel
                           Seoul, Republic of Korea	        


5:40 P.M. (L)


      MR. LOCKHART:  Good afternoon, everyone.  The President's National 
Security Advisor, Samuel Berger, will brief you, give you a read-out on the 
President's bilats with President Kim and answer your questions.  And then 
I'll come up afterwards if you have any other questions.  Thanks.

      MR. BERGER:  Good afternoon.  Let me just quickly go through my notes of 
the bilat and summarize them for you.  President Kim began by talking about 
the APEC meeting from which he just returned.  He said that he was, of course, 
disappointed that the President had not been able to attend but was very 
impressed by the contribution of the Vice President to the meeting, and said 
that there was a clear consensus at APEC that the American leadership was 
indispensable to the solution of the Asian financial crisis. 

      He expressed disappointment that there was not consensus on the trade 
initiative.  As you know, there was refusal in the final analysis of the 
Japanese to agree with one element of that, but a decision by the ministers to 
refer it to the WTO, but he was pleased that the APEC leaders had agreed to 
other steps to deal with the crisis.

      The President talked in general about his ideas about the international 
financial crisis, the need in the short term for both dealing with individual 
situations, setting up a 

precautionary facility, the work that we've done with Japan in 
providing money for Asian businesses and Asian banks that need 
work-out assistance.  

     They talked a bit about Japan and the economic challenges.  

President Kim asked President Clinton about the trip to Japan and 
the meetings with Obuchi.  The President said that they had 
talked about the economic challenges laid before Japan and 
recounted for President Kim the discussion that they had had 
specifically about Korea and KEDO and the North Korea problem.

     The discussion then turned towards North Korea.  President 
Kim laid out what he basically described as the three principles 
of the South Koreans towards the North:  One, they will not 
tolerate provocations that undermine or threaten the security of 
South Korea; two, they will not seek to undermine North Korea; 
and three, they seek co-existence with North Korea.  And he 
described his conversations with President Jiang recently and the 
convergence between South Korea and China on handling of North 
Korea.

     The President said he strongly supported the policy of 
President Kim -- the engagement policy -- and the challenge was 
to continue that policy in the face of actions by the North that 
are provocative.  He told President Kim, as he indicated at the 
press conference, that we have asked former Secretary Perry to be 
a special advisor to the administration in dealing with North 
Korea, helping us assess our North Korea policy.  

     Talked about the agreed framework.  The President said that 
he believed that we had gotten a good deal out of the agreed 
framework.  Again, as he said in the press conference, that 
without the agreed framework, North Korea would have spent the 
last several years producing a good deal more plutonium that 
would have been available for nuclear weapons than without it, 
but that now we needed to deal with the underground site in the 
North, the suspect site, where there are suspicions about its 
intended use but not conclusive evidence, a view that was shared 
by President Kim.
     
     Also talked about the North Korean missile program and the 
importance of containing that missile program, which really now 
upsets the balance not only in the Korean Peninsula but in the 
region, as the Japanese look with apprehension at the launching 
of missiles over its head.  And clearly indicated, as we have in 
our conversations with the Japanese, that these matters are 
matters that need to be dealt with very closely between the South 
Koreans -- so very disconcerting to watch you all watch 
television -- can you just fill me in from time to time what's 
going on?  I mean, is it a soap opera?

     Q	  It's a fashion show.

     MR. BERGER:  A fashion show, oh -- I just wanted to know 

what I was competing against, that's all.  I mean, your eyes are 
riveted, particularly the male eyes.   (Laughter).  I think I've 
just undermined my own briefing here, but anyhow.

     President Kim said that he agreed with the President 100 
percent on what he had said about the North, the importance of  
dealing seriously with our concerns about whether the agreed 
framework is in fact being complied with, that we must require 
access; if it is a nuclear-related site, we should call for it to 
be shut down.  That he had been briefed on Ambassador Kartman's 
recent discussions with the North Koreans in Pyongyang, and while 
those discussions did not produce a resolution they also leave 
room for further discussions.

     President Kim then talked about the positive -- he said, 
would you like my assessment of North Korea and gave kind of the 
same rack-up that he gave in the press conference, the positive 
steps being -- the negative steps being the infiltration of the 
Northern submarines into South Korea's waters, the suspected 
underground site, the missile launching.  Those are all sources 
of considerable concern.

     At the same time, conflicting signals, the tourism project 
that he referred to with President of Hyundai and the North 
Koreans now taking South Korean's up to see some natural sites in 
North Korea; the fact that Kim Jung-il had specifically been 
engaged in the development of that project; the fact that there 
were journalists now and more cultural and political leaders who 
were going to the North, he saw that as a slight change; the 
talks that are going on with the United States, both on missiles 
and on the nuclear program; and the changes in the DPRK 
constitution, which provide for limited private property and 
market economy; and the expanded number of North Koreans that are 
now permitted to go abroad for training.

     And he basically described this as kind of a mixed picture 
that he sees in the north, but that his objective is to promote 
security and cooperation at the same time, essentially to offer 
the North the kind of choice that the President I thought put 
quite starkly at the end of the press conference, either a choice 
of trying to -- a fruitless decision to try to dominate the 
situation militarily or a choice to try to reach accommodation 
with President Kim, who is clearly reaching out to the North 
should they be prepared for some kind of reconciliation.

     On the bilateral relationship, they both agreed it was in 
strong condition, which after six years I've never been in a 
bilateral in which the leaders agreed it was in a weak condition.  
The President urged completion of the cost-sharing agreement with 

the South on the cost of our forces.  The strains on the South 
Korean economy have caused a delay in completing the cost-sharing 
arrangement, renewing it.

     And then the conversation went to the economic area.  The 
President said that he had been very impressed by the economic 
recovery program that had been persistently pursued by President 
Kim.  Don't forget, President Kim arrives in office and finds 
that the roof has fallen in before he has had a chance to really 
unpack his crates.  The President said he hopes that we have been 
helpful through the various things that we have done in the IMF, 
our bilateral assistance, OPIC, Ex-Im.  

     They talked about the one remaining -- or perhaps the most 
serious remaining problem in the South Korean economy, and that 
is restructuring the so-called chaebols, the large conglomerates, 
particularly the five large conglomerates.  Now, in order to 
understand the magnitude of that problem, you have to understand 
that 40 percent of the Korean economy are these five companies.  
So the restructuring of these five companies and streamlining 
them and the economic efficiency and world competitiveness of 
these companies is very important to the economic recovery.  And 
this is an area where I think President Kim agreed they have made 
the least progress. 

     There was some discussion of trade issues -- beef, 
pharmaceuticals, steel, the investment treaty.  On all of those 
issues, President Kim indicated that they would try to be 
forthcoming.  We then went into an expanded bilateral, which 
basically, since the limited bilateral had covered everything, 
was somewhat truncated.  But there was mainly a discussion of the 
economic situation and the desire of the South Koreans now to 
begin to attract again foreign investment.  We're trying to 
negotiate a bilateral investment treaty with the South Koreans.

     There was some discussion of Y2K, something that we've been 
working on with the South Koreans, and they've now formed a 
working level public-private committee.  And it's interesting, 
this is an issue that really -- totally obscure issue that no one 
had even heard about or understood a year ago, which is now 
increasingly on the bilateral agenda between the United States 
and the countries that we deal with.
     
     Finally, they talked about a Forum on Democracy that was 
announced at the press conference.  This is a joint project that 
will be undertaken between the United States and Korea to start 
something which will basically ultimately evolve, hopefully, into 
something like our National Endowment for Democracy.  
     

     Talked about Burma, where President Kim has been a stalwart 
supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, and a very outspoken critic of the 
government; and a bit of a conversation about climate change, 
where Korea has signed the Kyoto Protocol, and although it has 
not yet agreed to mandatory targets, has agreed to voluntary 
targets.  
     
     So that's basically not as attractive as the show, but 
that's it.  

     Q	  Don't sell yourself short.
     
     MR. BERGER:  Okay, thank you.  
     
     Q	  Sandy, President Kim used the words -- and you echoed 
them today -- will not tolerate these provocations.  President 
Clinton didn't use those terms.  I'm wondering what it means from 
the United States' point of view, how far you go in terms of will 
or will not tolerate obfuscation on this inspection issue.  Would 
the United States, for example, consider taking this issue to the 
U.N. Security Council seeking some sort of resolution demanding 
inspections?
     
     MR. BERGER:  These are very serious matters, and I think we 
consider them very serious.  Let me take first the nuclear issue, 
and then the missile issue.  
     
     In the nuclear area, we reached an agreement with the North 
Koreans in 1994, after a long negotiation and quite a 
confrontational period in which we were about to go to the U.N., 
as you will recall, for sanctions against the North, by which the 
North Koreans agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle its 
nuclear graphite reactors in Yongbyon, a five megawatt reactor 
and a 50 megawatt reactor that it was also constructing, plus a 
reprocessing plant.  Essentially, this was, from a nuclear 
weapons point of view, an engine for nuclear material -- a 
factory for nuclear material -- even though it had, presumably, 
electrical generating capacity.
     
     Now, that agreement has been complied with.  And we know 
that because there are IAEA inspectors who are at the site and 
who are physically monitoring the site.  The five megawatt 
reactors have been closed down; the reprocessing plant is under 
seal; the spent fuel rods have been canned; the construction has 
stopped on the 50 megawatt reactor.  So, by and large, that's 
been a good thing, because were that not stopped, for the last 
three years they would have been continuing to generate these 
fuel rods, reprocessing them, presumably creating the fuel that 
goes into nuclear weapons.

     
     Now, we have had information more recently on, in particular 
one site in the North, the purpose of which is not absolutely 
clear, but raises questions, raises serious questions.  Serious 
enough that we believe that we need to have the opportunity to 
inspect the site.  And that is the request that we have made to 
the North.  We need to determine in the first instance whether it 
is inconsistent with the agreed framework in which the North 
agree that they will not build other nuclear graphite reactors or 
reprocessing facilities.
     
     If this turned out to be a facility inconsistent with the 
agreed framework, obviously that would be a serious matter and we 
would demand the site be closed, but it would call into question 
obviously the viability of the agreed framework.  But I think 
it's premature to reach that conclusion.  We need to press 
forward with the North Koreans to gain access to the site.  
     
     Q	  Sandy, there has been a published report that plutonium 
has been found in the soil and water around these sites in Korea.  
Can you confirm that?
     
     MR. BERGER:  As far as I know, the report that you're 
referring to is a South Korean -- is based upon a South Korean 
press report.  The South Korean government has said that is an 
incorrect report.  Beyond that, these are obviously intelligence 
matters, and I can't comment.
     
     Q	  I have a question on the same subject.  If that suspect 
site is a hole in the ground, as the President just described it, 
how would going to inspect it help resolve the question of what 
its purpose is -- if there is nothing there? 
     
     MR. BERGER:  Well, it's a complex hole in the ground -- put 
it that way.  (Laughter.)  It is -- I don't want to describe the 
site, but we believe physical inspection of the site would help 
us ascertain its purpose, and presumably not only once, but over 
a period of time.  So let me leave it at that.
     
     Q	  When the subject is the missile test, the 
administration says -- correct me -- that's not covered by the 
agreed framework.  When it's the challenge inspections to see the 
site, that's not covered by the framework.  
     
     MR. BERGER:  The fact is we don't know what the -- we don't 
have conclusive evidence with respect to the intended purpose of 
the site.  If the intended purpose of the site were to build a 
graphite reactor or to build a reprocessing plant, it would be 
inconsistent with the agreed framework.

     
     Q	  I meant the inspection.  But the question is, why do 
you point to the agreed framework as a centerpiece of all policy 
if it doesn't cover these problems -- these additional problems 
with North Korea?
     
     MR. BERGER:  I'm not sure that I used the term "centerpiece" 
of all policy.  I mean, let's back up here.  North Korea is not a 
benign government.  We have lots of problems with North Korea.  
They have had a nuclear weapons program that we have been 
concerned about, that we have controlled at least to some extent.  
They have a missile program both with respect to its own 
development and with respect to exports, which is destabilizing 
-- destabilizing in Asia, destabilizing to the countries to whom 
it is selling technology.  So we have many problems with North 
Korea, and we have to deal with North Korea I think on a 
realistic basis.
     
     What President Kim has said, and I think what President 
Clinton was agreeing with, is that North Korea now is at a 
crossroads.  On the one hand, it can seize the opportunity 
afforded by the fact that the President of South Korea, President 
Kim, is extending a hand to North Korea and is probably more 
inclined to engagement and reconciliation than any President in 
South Korea's history.  It can choose that path, rejoin the 
international community, perhaps build an agricultural economy 
that is not based on starvation.  This is an economy that -- an 
agricultural economy that fails year after year.  We're the 
second largest food donor to North Korea.  That's one path.  Or 
it can continue to be a totally isolated, self-contained entity 
which obviously is failing economically and seeks to preserve its 
place in the world only through military means.  
     
     I think the President was saying, given our security 
relationship with South Korea, the latter course is not a 
successful course for North Korea -- because we will come to 
South Korea's defense.  If North Korea believes that it can ever 
gain military dominance or somehow prevail against South Korea, 
it is ignoring a bilateral security treaty that South Korea has 
with North Korea.
     
     So I think the President was saying, here is another option.  
It's an option that is embodied in that tourist ship going up the 
coast; it's an option of re-engaging with the world; it's an 
option of re-engaging with the South; it's an option that has a 
lot more promise than the other one.

     Q	  Can you explain why President Clinton supports 
President Kim's sunshine policy of engagement when the White 

House does not support it for other hostile governments such as 
Iraq, or even to a lesser extent, Cuba?  And secondly, could you 
also explain what is the special relationship between President 
Clinton and President Kim that gives President Kim's engagement 
policy extra cachet?  People have talked about a special trust 
that Clinton has.

     MR. BERGER:  I don't think it's a question of cachet; I 
think it's a question of strategic judgment.  I mean, President 
Kim has made a strategic judgment that he is going to pursue an 
engagement policy, but it's an engagement policy undergirded by 
strength.  It's a policy that basically says, we seek 
reconciliation with the North, but we are also not going to 
tolerate provocations from the North, and we're also obviously 
going to remain strong; we're also obviously going to sustain our 
security relationship with the United States.  It's a very 
sensible policy.  

     To try to draw comparisons between this and Iraq or Cuba I 
think is very difficult.  In terms of why does President Kim have 
moral authority or -- I'm rephrasing your questions, obviously -- 
President Kim is a remarkable man.  I think we're living in a 
time when you look around the world and you look at Nelson 
Mandela and Vaclav Havel and Kim Dae-Jung, three men who spent 
most of their lives fighting their governments, went to prison 
over the authoritarian policies of the government, were brutally 
punished for the stands they took, and now these are three men 
who are, in fact, the Presidents of their respective countries.  
I think that's a remarkable set of stories.

     And Kim Dae-Jung is someone who I think deserves respect for 
two reasons:  one is because of what he stands for, and the 
second is because he has been able to make a transition from 
being a leader of a movement to a leader of a government under 
the most adverse circumstances.  I mean, we all know that one of 
the hardest transitions for people to make is being leaders of 
opposition movements suddenly to be thrust into power.  History 
is filled with failed episodes -- with people in that situation 
that have failed.

     Kim Dae-Jung not only has led a life -- a principled life 
that has been instrumental in his country obtaining of democracy, 
he has then come into the government, ironically, at the time 
when the economy collapsed.  I'm sure that when he was sitting in 
jail he did not think that he was going to spend his first two 
years, if he ever got to be in power, trying to rebuild a 
collapsed economy.  But he's done that.  He's taken on some very 
hard decisions.  And Korea, as with Thailand, as with other 
countries, is beginning now to see the benefits of the very tough 

decisions that he made.  So I think he deserves a lot of respect 
for both reasons. 

     Q	  Sandy, did the issue of the convicted spy Robert Kim in 
the United States come up at all during the bilateral meeting? 

     MR. BERGER:  It did not come up. 

     Q	  Sandy, both you and the President have outlined some of 
the sticks in the U.S. and the South Korean policy toward the 
North, but can you outline some of the carrots that would be 
available if North Korea follows the course that you're talking 
about? 

     MR. BERGER:  We have a wide range of sanctions against the 
North Koreans, the easing of which, I suppose, become carrots.  
But those require, obviously -- some of those relate to their 
support of terrorism, some of them relate to their human rights 
record.  In some cases, these derive from particular elements of 
the North Korean regime.  But I think, clearly, if North Korea 
chose a different path -- chose a path of reconciliation with the 
South, chose to deal with its missile development program and 
export program in a responsible way, chose to forgo clearly and 
unequivocally a nuclear weapons program, obviously that would 
make it possible for us to improve our relationship with North 
Korea. 

     Q	  Sandy, North Korea's record for the last four years is 
not to choose A or B, but to have a little bit -- sort of salami 
tactics of giving a little bit but not as much as you want.  What 
makes you think that they're going to make this choice? 

     MR. BERGER:  I think there is -- I suppose saying a fork in 
the road is a bit, perhaps, too dramatic.  But there are some 
basic paths here that they can choose.  They can choose a path, 
essentially, of reconciliation or a path of confrontation.  At 
the time that they decided to enter into the agreed framework and 
give up the programs at Yongbyon, that was obviously a step 
towards accommodation with the rest of the world.

     But again, this is a very impenetrable government, a very 
impenetrable leadership.  I think we know less about what really 
takes place in Pyongyang than almost any other capital in the 
world.

     Q	  What happens next, in terms of our policy to North 
Korea?  President Clinton has made this kind of public comments 
on it, but do we have a diplomatic initiative that's going there?  
How do you get off the dime when it comes to North Korea?


     MR. BERGER:  There are at least three venues here, three 
avenues to pursue.  Number one are the four-party talks which 
President Clinton and President Kim Young Sam launched about 
three years ago, which include China, North Korea, South Korea, 
and us.  We have met several times.  At this last meeting there 
has been a modest agreement to set up subcommittees to deal with 
various issues involved with improvement in relations, 
confidence-building measures.  So that's one path we want to 
pursue.

     Second, we've had now, I believe, two rounds of discussions 
with the North Koreans with respect to this suspect site.  
Ambassador Kartman just completed his last discussions.  They 
were not -- certainly were not conclusive in terms of progress, 
but they will lead to further discussions.  

     And, finally, there are the missile talks with North Korea 
in which we've raised a range of issues relating to their missile 
programs.

     Q	  Will the U.S. ever be willing to give millions of 
dollars to the North Koreans to allow for the inspection of the 
hole in the ground?

     MR. BERGER:  No, I think we certainly would not pay for the 
right to inspect these sites.

     Q	  Sandy, North Korean -- to allow inspections of these 
sites.  How are you going to selling the agreed framework to 
Congress?

     MR. BERGER:  Well, let me not jump ahead.  We've insisted 
upon access.  We hope and expect the North Koreans to give us 
access.  And I'm not going to speculate beyond that. 

     Q	  Sandy, can you talk a little bit about the difference 
in the atmosphere now versus when President Kim was in the United 
States this summer?  At that point there was lots of talk about 
the Korean President pressing the United States to lift 
sanctions.  Now the talk seems a lot less advanced, or a lot less 
about progress and more about pushing back.

     MR. BERGER:  Well, there was, I think, too much made when he 
was in Washington of him pressing us to lift sanctions.  But 
putting that aside, there was no disagreement whatsoever between 
President Clinton and President Kim with respect to the two 
elements, essentially, of the policy that President Kim is 
pursuing, that we support -- that is consistent with our policy 

with respect to North Korea. 

     Q	  You described it as a complex, suspicious hole in the 
ground in North Korea.  What is it about this hole that makes it 
suspicious?  What is it about this hole that makes it complex?

     MR. BERGER:  Well, those again are intelligence matters 
which I'm not going to get into.
     
     Q	  Can you give us any guidance as to what it is that 
raises your antenna about this stuff?

     MR. BERGER:  No, I will simply say that there is information 
that we have that raised questions that we believe require 
answers.

     Q	  Sandy, how much time did the two Presidents spend 
relatively on economic issues and on the security -- North Korea 
matter?

     MR. BERGER:  I would say a little more than half the time on 
security issues, the rest of the time on economic -- maybe 60/40 
security/economics.

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

     Q	  Sandy, did the North Koreans really just try a blunt 
shakedown with relation to this inspection, or was there 
something more complicated than that?  It almost boggles the mind 
that a country would say, give us X million dollars to inspect 
this site.  Was there some other, more complex system they wanted 
to set up, or was it just a blunt shakedown? 

     MR. BERGER:  Can I say "yes"?  I'm looking at Ken here to 
see whether I start a war if I say "yes."  I would not choose 
that phrase.  (Laughter.)  But I don't think there was much more 
to it than that. 

     Q	  The reported figure of $300 million that North Korea 
has demanded coincidentally is similar to the reported figure 
that North Korea had been demanding to stop its missile export 
program.  Is there any relationship -- 

     MR. BERGER:  Let me say, having now been engaged for almost 
six years in negotiations with the North Koreans, this is not 
untypical of North Korean negotiating tactics, but it is not -- 
there is nothing much more to it than, you know, we'll let you 
see the site if you give us $300 million. 

     Q	  Sandy, the basic choice that the administration has 
presented to North Korea, either gradual steps towards engagement 
or continued isolation and the United States pursuing a 
containment policy -- that basic choice has been laid out for at 
least four years, since '94, right?  Wouldn't we know if the 
experiment was working? 

     MR. BERGER:  Look what President Kim said.  Basically he 
said there is a mixed picture here.  Again, this is a very 

complicated regime with a very complicated leadership picture, 
and you see conflicting signals.  On the one hand, you see North 
allowing South Koreans to travel up to visit North Korea.  You 
see a greater degree of cultural exchanges.  You see the other 
things that President King indicated.

     On the other hand, recently, in particular, since the launch 
of the Taepodong missile and with questions that have been raised 
about this site, you see the other side as well.  I don't think 
you're going to see for some time perhaps a clear picture of 
which way North Korea goes.  

     But ultimately -- listen, ultimately North Korea is a 
society, is a country in trouble, a country in internal -- 
certainly with serious internal problems -- is a country that 
can't feed itself, is a country that is isolated from the world.  
It is a country whose economy is in miserable shape.  It's a 
country where tens of thousands of people are hungry, if not 
starving, depending on what reports you listen to.

     And it's also a country that has roughly a million forces 
posed along the DMZ 17 miles from where we're sitting, and that 
makes it rather dangerous.  And we have to bear that in mind.

     We have 37,000 troops in this country.  We have a security 
relationship with this country.  I think this is a problem that 
we have to deal with in a very steadfast, deliberate, steady, 
firm way.

     Q	  I'm confused by your reticence about talking about the 
site that you call suspect.  Large elements of your own 
intelligence community say that it's not suspect, but that it is 
in fact intended to help produce nuclear weapons.  The people who 
have seen some of this evidence on the Hill -- not just 
Republicans -- basically agree with that assessment.  
     
     The North knows, itself, what it is doing.  Why shouldn't we 
conclude that your reluctance to talk about it is essentially 
intended to cover up your own embarrassment at what's happening?

     MR. BERGER:  The fact that there is not conclusive evidence 
here is a judgment not only that I have made but is a judgment 
that the intelligence community would also concur in.

     Q	  Why can't you share a little bit of this discussion 
with us?

     MR. BERGER:  Because these involve sources and methods, in 
terms of how we know what we know.  And there's no particular 
advantage -- I'm sorry, with all due respect -- to sharing that 
information with you.

     That's not you, personally.  (Laughter.).  You I would share 
it with, but nobody else.

             END                      6:13 P.M. (L)