Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing






Development, deployment of ballistic missiles


Question of whether North Korea possesses nuclear weapons


DPB # 87
THURSDAY, JULY 16, 1998 12:50 P.M.



MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the last State Department briefing of the week, which is because that's Thursday, and that would make it our last State Department briefing of the week.


QUESTION: On North Korea -- North Korea's development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Taipo Dong II or something like that, with the alleged ability to reach Hawaii or Alaska - how does that fit in with the intention of the arms control aspect of the nuclear agreement; and what's the status of the arms control talks with the North Koreans?

MR. RUBIN: We have wanted to resume bilateral discussions with them on the question of ballistic missiles as part of a number of things we'd like to do with the North Koreans. We haven't resumed those talks; there hasn't been another session, to my knowledge, in some time.

We are very cognizant of the threat posed by North Korea's ballistic missiles. That threat is built into the threat assessment the Administration has on the threats to the United States from ballistic missiles around the world. The basic way we deal with that is not only to try to deter the development and, ultimately, deployment of such a missile, but also to put ourselves in a position, if necessary, in the year 2000 to make a decision to deploy a nationwide system if necessary. Those are the two ways we deal with the threat. One is to try to convince the North Koreans to not go forward with their deployment; to have a dialogue with them; to show them the benefits to them and the world of not going forward. And simultaneously, as a hedge against that not succeeding, being in a position to act, if necessary, by the year 2000.

Q(Inaudible) - report that was released yesterday?


MR. RUBIN: Well, I prefer - it's a broad question. I mean, I think an answer to that would take 40 or 45 minutes to go through the entire report.

QUESTION: Well, there's a couple things, though, that are most important. It says that there are nuclear weapons, perhaps, at least one or two; that they have deployed the No Dong missile, which is capable, I think, of hitting some bases in Korea and Japan; and that the Taipo Dong is in advanced stages of construction.

MR. RUBIN: Right. The American Government's assessment of the current state of play with respect to these capabilities is not something we share in public. We continue to stand by our intelligence assessments of what the threats are; and I am not in a position to comment on specific intelligence issues.

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

QUESTION: To jump back to Korea, did you happen to say when you expected talks to resume with the North Koreans on ballistic missiles? I don't know if I missed it.

MR. RUBIN: No, I didn't say that.

QUESTION: By the way, could you possibly correct the record on Korea?


QUESTION: The US Government has spoken publicly in the past about North Korea's nuclear capabilities --

MR. RUBIN: Whether we have one or two nuclear weapons --

QUESTION: -- Slocombe at the Pentagon, in that period where, obviously, the Administration had a stake in getting public support for the agreement you were reaching with North Korea, said straightforward out in front of everybody that they had produced at least one nuclear weapon; and that was one of the reasons the US was alarmed. So the US has -- to sound the warning - has spoken publicly about North Korea's capabilities that they have.

MR. RUBIN: Well thank you for your historical background on this issue. The question was whether I was prepared to respond to specific intelligence assessments in the Rumsfeld's report that I am not prepared to respond to in this forum.

QUESTION: But Slocombe obviously spoke against an intelligence background when he made those statements. He didn't know himself by going out there and looking at them.

MR. RUBIN: I'm not disputing that. I didn't know - I'm not disputing that there have been government officials who, from time to time for a variety of reasons, have talked about what we think is going on in another country. But to do a point by point rebuttal of an intelligence assessment in this forum is not the way we normally do business.

QUESTION: Of course. Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)



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