Tracking Number:  226289

Title:  "Cheney: US Sees North Korea as Threat for Many Reasons." Portions of remarks of Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney during a television interview in Australia. (920504)

Date:  19920504

*EPF103 05/04/92 *

CHENEY: U.S. SEES NORTH KOREA AS THREAT FOR MANY REASONS (Excerpts: Cheney on Australian news program) (1430) Canberra -- The United States considers North Korea a threat to the security of the Asia-Pacific region because of the instability of its regime, because of the enormous investment it has made in military hardware, because its forces are forward-deployed, and because it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, according to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.

Speaking on an Australian television news program May 3, Cheney allowed that the United States is pleased that there has been some progress in the North-South dialogue in recent months.

"On the other hand," he said, "the North has not yet stepped up to accepting the kind of international inspection that would give us confidence that they are now no longer seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. And given history, given the tensions that exist in that part of the world, if I were to look throughout the region for an area that is potentially worrisome, I think the Korean peninsula continues to be on the top of our list."

Following are excerpts from a transcript of the program: (begin excerpts) HOST: With the end of the Cold War, the question has been asked whether the United States has any further need for Australia as an ally. The question was answered emphatically this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Pointing to five possible flash points in the region, he singled out North Korea as the most dangerous, describing its destabilizing regime and development of nuclear weapons as a daily threat to peace in the Pacific. Mr. Cheney is in Australia for the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. He granted his only television interview to "Sunday's" political editor, Laurie Oakes....

Q: You've said, several times now, that the biggest threat in the region is the Korean peninsula and particularly the nuclear aspirations of North Korea. How big a threat is it? How immediate do you see that?

CHENEY: Well, the problem in North Korea -- if you look at a potential flash point where you could have difficulties develop on relatively short notice -- the Korean peninsula comes immediately to mind because of the instability of the regime in the North, because of the enormous investment they've made in military hardware, because their forces are forward deployed, and because they are trying to develop nuclear weapons.

We've been pleased that there's been some progress in terms of the North-South dialogue in recent months, but on the other hand, the North has not yet stepped up to accepting the kind of international inspection that would give us confidence that they are now no longer seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. And given history, given the tensions that exist in that part of the world, if I were to look throughout the region for an area that is potentially worrisome, I think the Korean peninsula continues to be on the top of our list.

Q: Possibly the next Gulf? CHENEY: I wouldn't want to go that far. I don't -- I think it's a -- you've got to be careful about automatically projecting into the future the experience you've just had in the past. The Gulf was unique in many respects. We did have, of course, the Korean War in the 1950s. Hopefully, they'll be able to build a more normal relationship between North and South, lessen some of those tensions and the North will give up its aspirations for a nuclear weapon. That would clearly be the ideal outcome.

Q: But there have been intelligence suggestions that the North could be within a matter of months of developing a nuclear weapon. Is that your view? Is that what you've been told?

CHENEY: We know they've been working aggressively to develop that capability. I wouldn't want to put a timetable on it.

Q: So what will the U.S. do to stop them? You're pulling troops out. Will you stop the drawdown of your forces from Korea?

CHENEY: I announced a few months ago that we would not proceed beyond the current phase in terms of future drawdowns of U.S. forces as long as the issue of the North Korean nuclear weapons program is unresolved.

Q: What about your nuclear weapons? You've pulled them out of Korea too, have you not?

CHENEY: We have announced, pursuant to the president's decision that he made last September, that we are eliminating all of our battlefield nuclear weapons from the army; short-range systems -- that's been done on a worldwide basis. We also are redeploying back to the United States tactical nuclear weapons off our sea-based systems. We will not, under normal circumstances, now deploy those kinds of systems overseas.

Q: Even though there's this threat in Korea? CHENEY: We do not believe that it's necessary for us to retain that kind of capability on the Korean peninsula. We continue to be firmly committed to the defense of South Korea. South Korea is an ally. We've got U.S. forces deployed on the Korean peninsula and they will stay there as long as they're needed.

Q: You've mentioned that this is one area where you could get war in 24 hours. I mean, how serious are you about that?

CHENEY: I wouldn't overdo the 24 hours proposition. It's one place in the world where conflict could begin on short notice because of the physical arrangements of the space. Because of the way the North Korean forces are forward-deployed, the amount of warning time that would be available in the event of a crisis, is probably less there than it is elsewhere in the world.

Q: Australia, of course, is worried about nuclear weapons in the region, but we're also very worried about the potential for chemical weapons to proliferate. The U.S., I'm told, is not being exactly cooperative in getting an agreement in Geneva to formulate a convention on chemical weapons. Why is that? Why are you not cooperating?

CHENEY: Well, we believe we are cooperating. We have been actively negotiating, not only with Australia, but with the other nations involved. Right now, today, the only nation in the world that is destroying chemical weapons is the United States. We've got a very active program underway to get rid of our chemical weapons stockpile. We're spending a great deal of money on it and the process is actually going forward. I don't know another nation that is eliminating its stockpile of chemical weapons.

Q: Your stance in Geneva has been described to me as, "difficult negotiating partners," "a negotiating problem," "obstructive". What would have led to that?

CHENEY: Well, somebody obviously disagrees with our negotiating position. It's a difficult negotiation. But, I think we are committed to trying to work out an arrangement that is meaningful.

Q: Isn't it important to get it done quickly, while you've got the momentum from the Gulf war?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's important to get it done. But I also think it's important to do it right; and chemical weapons, for example, is a difficult area to work in. You've got to worry about being able to verify that, in fact, people have eliminated their stockpiles. There is a lot of dual-use technology in the world that can be used to make chemical weapons or to manufacture perfectly harmless commodities. There are a lot of nations that have chemical weapons that don't even admit they have chemical weapons. So there are a number of complex issues in this regard.

We think that it is important to try to get some kind of international agreement. But we think it's got to be a good one. It's not enough for everyone simply to sign up to the proposition and then say, "There. We have done that."

In fact, we've discovered, for example, in the area of nuclear weapons, that the inspection regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency is not as good as we had hoped, because even though Iraq was a party to the Nonproliferation Treaty -- allowed periodic inspections of their facilities -- they still had a very aggressive program underway to develop nuclear weapons. The treaty was not adequate. The inspection regime was not adequate. So a little caution, we think, is in order; and if we are going to enter into these kind of international agreements, then they ought to be good agreements. They ought to be verifiable, and we ought to be able to have arrangements that we can have confidence in.

(end excerpts) NNNN

File Identification:  05/04/92, EP-103
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Document Type:  TRA; EXC
Thematic Codes:  1AC; 1EA; 1DE
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  226289
USIA Notes:  *92050403.EPF