01 September 1998
DESPITE NORTH KOREAN MISSILE TESTS, US SUPPORTS AGREED FRAMEWORK(Albright interview, State Dept. background briefing) (550) By Jane A. Morse USIA Diplomatic Correspondent Washington -- North Korea's most recent missile test is considered destabilizing, but it has not shaken US confidence in the Agreed Framework, US officials say. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) tested for the first time its Taepo Dong 1 missile on August 31. The two-stage missile, which has an estimated range of over 1500 kilometers, flew over Honshu, Japan's main island, and impacted in the Pacific. Secretary of State Albright calls the test a "serious issue," but not necessarily a breach of the Agreed Framework, a pact signed in 1994 between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. During a September 1 interview in Moscow with ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," Albright said: "What we're looking for is to make sure that they (the North Koreans) live up to the elements of the Agreed Framework in terms of freezing their nuclear materials for nuclear weapons," Albright said. "So far they have, in fact, from all indications that we have, they're living up to their part of it." Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea agreed to dismantle its gas graphite nuclear reactor program, which produced weapons grade material. North Korea also agreed to engage in dialogue with South Korea, remain in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to meet obligations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In exchange, the United States spearheaded the establishment of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an international consortium led by the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan and the European Union. The main purpose of KEDO is to finance the building of two light water reactors in the DPRK to meet North Korean energy needs. These reactors are considered safer in that they use fuel that produces significantly fewer byproducts that can be used for nuclear weapons. The reactors will be of South Korean design. During a background briefing at the State Department September 1, a State Department official, who did not wish to be identified, told reporters that "We think KEDO is a good deal for the United States. It's a good deal for the DPRK, and it's a good deal for South Korea and Japan." He reiterated the Clinton Administration's satisfaction that North Korea is not in violation of the Agreed Framework. The US official said that KEDO members had been set to finalize plans to share costs for the light water reactor project but postponed these decisions in order to weigh the security ramifications of the North Korean missile launch. "The KEDO members will remain in consultation to determine an appropriate time to finalize any agreement," the US official said, but noted that "no member government has withdrawn its support for the LWR (light water reactor) project. We simply halted finalization of the burdensharing agreement." The United States, the official said, believes "it's important to go forward with the Agreed Framework ... just as it's important to hold the North Koreans to the commitments they've made within the Agreed Framework." US and North Korean delegations are currently engaged in bilateral discussions in New York City, but North Korea has declined to engage in talks regarding missiles since 1997, the US official said.