ACCESSION NUMBER:246702 FILE ID:EPF406 1ATE:10/08/92 TITLE:DPRK NUCLEAR WEAPON CAPABILITY REMAINS TOP U.S., ROK CONCERN (10/08/92) TEXT:*92100806.EPF *EPF406 10/08/92 * DPRK NUCLEAR WEAPON CAPABILITY REMAINS TOP U.S., ROK CONCERN (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. NNNN .