Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


14,15-16Missile launch and Japan fly over/Bilateral and Regional concerns/Inability to confirm claims of satellite launch and/or orbit/Notice to Mariners/Current and Future Meetings/Agreed Framework and the topic of missiles/US View on Kim Jung-Il being election

DPB # 104
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1998, 1:35 P.M.


QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. On the issue of North Korea and Japan -- especially the missile launch over Japan - what's the United States' take? Could this have been an accident or a satellite launch or was this just a premeditated show of force? Or do we know yet?

MR. RUBIN: On the subject of North Korea, we have had a series of meetings going on in New York over the last week. The delegations have returned to Washington to report on the status of the talks to our leadership, to the Congress and to our allies. The DPRK Vice Foreign Minister returned to Pyongyang on Monday to report to his government.

In these talks, what we've been trying to do is to seek concrete steps to assure that there is full compliance with all aspects of the agreed framework. This is absolutely essential. We have also sought to make progress on a number of other issues of bilateral and regional concern, including missile proliferation, terrorism and a resumption of talks aimed at reducing tensions and achieving a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The talks have made progress on a number of these issues, but I'm not in a position to discuss the details. Let me emphasize that those are the broad areas and some of the specific objectives that we had.

With respect to the missile test, obviously our people have been assessing this and as best as I understand it, the people who assess this have not been able to confirm North Korean assertions that it launched a small satellite on August 31, 1998. They have not observed any object orbiting the Earth that correlates to the orbital data the North Koreans have provided in their public statements, nor have they observed any new object orbiting the Earth in an orbital path that could relate to the North Korean claims.

Obviously we're continuing to look at this; it's an important question as to whether or not there was a satellite launched. Nevertheless, there was a missile launched that demonstrated the capability to deliver a payload at very long range. So that was the matter of concern in combination with the North Koreans' active missile program and previous missile tests that we've seen.

With respect again to the question you've asked, what I've tried to do is be as specific as I can. We cannot confirm the presence of a satellite orbiting in the path that the North Koreans said there should be, nor were we able to observe any satellite being released during this missile test. We are continuing to watch the situation closely; obviously we want to get to the bottom of this question and we'll continue to work it as best we can.

QUESTION: Isn't it normal to have some kind of notice to give - some kind of notice if you're going to launch a satellite --

MR. RUBIN: I'm not an expert in this area. I'd have to --

QUESTION: -- any kind of missile over somebody else's airspace?

MR. RUBIN: There is a NOTAM* -- a notice to mariners -- and I believe that was done. But as far as the requirements for notifying about space launches, I just don't know.

QUESTION: And harm to the KEDO program?

MR. RUBIN: In fact, if I could be - my guess would be that there is no organization that purports to control who or release information about space.

QUESTION: But it would be termed or deemed a hostile act to do so without notice?

MR. RUBIN: I think we've spoken very clearly on what we think about that test.

QUESTION: What you're saying is that it could've been a satellite launch but it didn't successfully go into orbit.

MR. RUBIN: I don't want to myself draw conclusions. What I'm trying to give you is the best evidence we have. My understanding is there isn't a conclusion yet. The evidence is that there was nothing released that we can see or saw, and there is nothing that is now orbiting that we can see or saw. So that is what we know. It's an important question and we're going to continue to study it carefully; and there are, therefore, several possible explanations that ensue. But I want to tell you what we know and that's what we know. We haven't been able to confirm that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - meeting - US-North Korea?

MR. RUBIN: I think I just spoke to that when I indicated that there have been a series of meetings; that progress was achieved at those meetings, both with the specific objective I indicated of making sure that we've done - that we're seeking concrete steps to assure that there's full compliance with all aspects of the agreed framework with North Korea and that the other subjects - missile proliferation, bilateral issues, terrorism and the four-party talks - get back on track. That is both the procedural agenda and one of the substantive points. Progress was made and consultations are now going on in Washington and with our allies. But with respect to any agreement, all I can tell you is that progress was made and we are now discussing at the political level what work was done.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - further meetings?


QUESTION: What's the relationship between the full compliance with the framework accord and the launching of the missile if it has no nuclear --

MR. RUBIN: Well, the agreed framework is with respect to nuclear materials, nuclear reprocessing, nuclear reactors and not missiles. That doesn't mean we don't have a very strong and powerful interest in trying to get North Korea to control itself when it comes to both its own missile capability and anything it might export. But it doesn't, at a negotiating level, have a - there is nothing in the agreed framework about missiles other than that we should talk about missiles. It may have been at the back end somewhere that we should talk about it.

QUESTION: I was just wondering if there was a US view on Kim Jung-Il being elected the Chairman of the National Defense Committee, and if there's any concern that this is having any more weight on the military side of the society.

MR. RUBIN: The United States notes that Kim Jung-Il is already commander-in-chief of the Korean People's Army and Secretary General of the Korean Workers Party. He has also been named to the Chairman of the DPRK's National Defense Commission.

I'm not going to speculate about the meaning of this decision. We have believed and continue to believe that Kim Jung-Il is in charge of the government there.


(The briefing concluded at 2:30 P.M.)

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