Friday, May 9, 1997 Briefer: Nicholas Burns

Q: Nick, also on Korea, can you comment on the wire, the Reuter wire,
today about Kim Jung-Il saying, it says, A war atmosphere has
dominated North Korea since 1991 when he became the Supreme Commander
of the Army. This is coming from Mr. Hwang who is being interviewed by
Korean intelligence people. Basically, it sounds like North Korea is
predisposed to war. It has already decided to go to war against the
South. Is there any validity in that?

BURNS: Bill, with all due respect to Reuter's which is one of the
great world wire services, I have enormous respect for it, you can't
always believe everything you read in the newspapers and the wires. In
this case, you have a secondhand report of what Mr. Hwang may have
said to a South Korean official, so I wouldn't put too much stock in

I would say one other thing. The United States has a defense and
security commitment to the Republic of Korea. We have 30,007 American
troops there. We have many hundreds of thousands of South Korean
troops ready to defend South Korea should that be necessary. But all
of our indications are that North Korea wishes to open up its
relations with the United States and South Korea on the food question,
on the agreed frame work, on the issue of possible normalization of
our relations at some point down the road, on the issue of the
four-party talks.

So, we are not moving in the direction of war. We hope we are moving
away from war and conflict and towards cooperation with North Korea;
but we are absolutely ready to defend South Korea. Secretary Albright
went up to the DMZ, visited the most forward deployed American unit,
which is a combined unit with the South Koreans right up on the DMZ,
and those guys are ready. Now, hopefully, they will never have to go
into action. Hopefully, this gradual process of talking reasonably
with the North Koreans, their talking reasonably with us will

Q:  When does the U.S. get some time with Mr. Hwang?

BURNS: Well, we've been assured we will have access to him. I
guarantee to you we will not announce that ahead of time. I don't even
know if we'll announce it after the fact. But I am sure we are going
to talk to him. The South Koreans are our allies. They have made a
commitment to us and they always keep their commitments to us.