*EPF406   10/08/92 *

(Article on Cheney, Choi press briefing of 10/08/92)  (620)
By Jane A. Morse
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- North Korea's aggressive pursuit of a nuclear weapons
development capability remains a priority concern of South Korea and the
United States, according to Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney.

At an October 10 press briefing, Cheney said there exists intelligence of
"sufficient quality" to suggest that the Democratic Peoples Republic of
Korea (DPRK) is close to achieving its goal of developing its own nuclear
bomb.  And, he added, the United States will not continue its phased troop
drawdown until the North's nuclear weapons program is halted.

Cheney spoke to reporters at the conclusion of the 24th U.S.-ROK Security
Consultative Meeting held here October 7-8.  Accompanying him was ROK
Minister of National Defense Choi Jae-Chang.  Choi said the annual meeting
served to reconfirm the U.S. security commitment to the South and noted
that a joint study has been proposed to determine the scope and nature of
U.S.-ROK security cooperation into the 21st century.

After very brief statements, Cheney and Choi turned the briefing over to
William Pendley, deputy assistant secretary of defense for International
Security Affairs and Lieutenant General Kim Jae-Chang, assistant minister
for policy at the ROK Ministry of Defense.

Kim, speaking through an interpreter, said three rounds of inspections by
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of North Korean nuclear
facilities has led to "serious and clear" suspicions that the North is very
near completion of a reprocessing plant that would give it the fuel
necessary to build a nuclear device.

Asserting that the Korean Peninsula is the last remaining issue to be
resolved in the demise of the Cold War, Kim noted that the DPRK remains
well equiped with a powerful air force and Soviet Skud and Frog
surface-to-surface missiles.

When asked if there is an inherent contradiction in the South's maintaining
a powerful military deterrent and the goal of peaceful reunification, Kim
said that deterrence aided in North-South dialogue.  Pendley added that the
military deterrence sent a message to the North that reunifiecation is only
possible through peaceful negotiations and not through military means.

Both noted that plans are in the works to conduct the normal Team Spirit
joint military exercise in 1993.  Team Spirit, Kim noted, has been
considered by the North as an offensive threat in past years.  It was
suspended in 1992 in the hope of gaining greater cooperation from the North
on substantive issues.  The final decision to hold the exercise in 1993
will be made some time in December 1992-January 1993, he said.

Pendley and Kim were asked if there was any real chance for peaceful
reunification of the Korean Peninsula, given the North's long history of
inflexible military and political policies.  Pendley pointed to recent DPRK
accessions to IAEA inspections and its United Nations membership as
evidence of change.  He also noted that the collapse of the Soviet Union
and the demise of communism have shaped a new world environment which may
force North Korea to change.

Kim, too, noted the rapid changes in the security environment surrounding
the Korean Peninsula.  He said German reunification was only a lesson, and
that there may be many other ways to acheive reunification.  He ended the
1riefing with the observation that in spite of world changes, the U.S.-ROK
security relationship remains constant.  He noted that for 40 years it has
prevented an outbreak of war on the peninsula and said he felt certain it
would play an important role in peaceful reunification.