Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


10Trilateral meeting in New York.
10, 11Funding of KEDO.
11US has monitored long-range missile efforts since 1980
12Extremely worrisome development.
13Implementation of Agreed Framework

DPB #107
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1998, 1:30 P.M.


QUESTION: Jamie, do you have anything on the meeting yesterday between the US, the North (sic) Koreans and the Japanese on the continued funding of KEDO?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. There was such a meeting. Let me say that there is expected to be a trilateral meeting at the foreign minister level in New York later this month. So I have what we call "bare bones" information to provide you.

Basically, this meeting was in preparation for that and the subjects were the same subjects I described yesterday. But there isn't an outcome. What they are doing is talking through the issues in preparation for this trilateral meeting of Secretary Albright and the South Korean and Japanese Foreign Ministers.

QUESTION: The last question just pre-empted my question, but let me try something else. There are reports that the United States may send an envoy to Angola soon to try to resolve the situation there. Do you know anything about this?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on that; I'll try to get it for you.

QUESTION: Back on KEDO again, so the funding still remain frozen for the reactor project?

MR. RUBIN: We made a commitment in the joint statement to - the work we did with the North Koreans in New York to try to put that back on track. It's up to the Japanese to describe their position on this; but we fully expect that everyone will get together and get this project implemented, provided the North Koreans abide by the agreement because we all share the same goal. The same goal is to make sure that North Korea doesn't become a nuclear threat to east Asia or the world.

QUESTION: But the agreement doesn't address -- correct me if I'm wrong -- address the attempt to satellite launches. So at this point, I fail to see the connection between the satellite launch and the Japanese freezing of assistance.

MR. RUBIN: Right. Again, one might talk here about the phrase "intentions and capabilities." We have been monitoring North Korea's efforts to develop increasingly longer-range missiles since the 1980s. This is a development that worries us, that concerns us, given North Korea's behavior in the past. Given their proclivity to sell such equipment to the highest bidder, we have concerns and we regard it dangerous, as does Japan.

In the early 1990s we identified a two-stage missile under development that we called the Taepo Dong I. On August 31st the North Koreans attempted to place a very small satellite into orbit with what appeared to be a Taepo Dong I with a third stage. Although the launch of the missile was expected for some time, its use with the third stage and the attempt to orbit a very small satellite was not.

Our analysis regarding this project continues, and we continue to assess how the use of a third stage would affect the ability of the missile to fly at greater ranges. Regardless of the range that this missile could fly or the question of whether it had a third stage for the purpose of satellite, the fact that that are working on such a long-range missile capability -- in the range of over 1500 kilometers -- is a worry to us. In combination with the other work that they are doing, they appear to be working assiduously on developing a ballistic missile capability that worries us.

On the other hand, some of the suggestion that this means that they have a long-range missile capable of attacking the United States we think is significantly overstated.

To show that they would have a capability able to threaten the United States, they would have to demonstrate two things to us that they have not yet done: one, that they've mastered the problems of a third stage - bearing in mind that this third stage broke up during the test; and two, that they've mastered the unique, daunting challenges of a re-entry vehicle launched to ranges in the 5,000-kilometer range, re-entering the Earth's atmosphere and hitting a target without burning up - all of which is an extremely difficult exercise, which they didn't even try to do. The small payload they tried to launch didn't even make it into orbit.

So on basic physics level, having launched a very small payload to this range, one shouldn't assume they could carry a bigger payload to the same range or longer. So we have not yet concluded that this test shows their ability to threaten any part of the United States.

On the other hand, it is an extremely worrisome development. To the extent that North Korea is spending its scarce resources on these dangerous missile programs, we want to sit down at the table and talk to them about restraints - not only on their indigenous missiles, but on those they would be prepared to sell - as part of our goal to do what we reasonably can do to stop the spread of dangerous missiles and weaponry around the world.

QUESTION: Without getting too bogged down in technical stuff, are you sure --

MR. RUBIN: I thought that's what I did, is bog us down in technical stuff. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you all sure that the rocket they used on August 31st was, in fact, a Taepo Dong I or something else?

MR. RUBIN: It's our judgment that it was a Taepo Dong I with a third stage for the purpose of launching a small satellite.

QUESTION: And not the more advanced missile that the intelligence agencies say won't be ready for another decade?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you threw that word in there that makes me - I don't have any information on a further weapons system.

QUESTION: Do you have any more information about the satellite itself? I mean, was it a dummy; was it intended to be a communications satellite?

MR. RUBIN: As I understand it, we believe that debris burned up; and what it was, I don't have any further information.

QUESTION: Last week you said that the United States has told North Korea that we want to get in to at least take a look around those underground facilities to see if they do, in fact, have some sort of a nuclear program that they still have functioning. The North Koreans, albeit reluctantly, issued a statement in which they said they would be amenable to that. Is there a time table for getting into this facility?

MR. RUBIN: We have four sets of talks planned. One is the four-party talks in Geneva in October. Another is the missile talks that we were just discussing in New York, also in October. A third unscheduled set of talks relates to the terrorism question.

QUESTION: Also in October?

MR. RUBIN: I'd have to check that for you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: I'd have to check that for you. I didn't mean to say - the four-party is October in Geneva; the missile talks are October in New York.

QUESTION: They are?

MR. RUBIN: That's my understanding. Terrorism has not been scheduled and this meeting has not been scheduled. The purpose of the meeting on implementation of the agreed framework is to discuss our insistence on getting access to potential, suspicious nuclear - well, definitely suspicious - nuclear facilities. We want to get access to those sites and they understand what we want. The meeting, when it is scheduled, would be designed to set a process in train by which we could get such access.

But I don't have any information for you now either on when the meeting will take place or what time frame would follow for access. But it's very --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: No, no. There's four meetings - one is on the four-party talks; two is on missiles, which is scheduled in New York in October; three is on terrorism; and the fourth meeting is about the implementation of the agreed framework. That meeting will have as its main agenda item our insistence on getting access to suspicious underground facilities. And although I'm aware of comments they've made, we would want to talk to them about the modalities of access and will insist on access, and they understand that.

............ (The briefing concluded at 2:15 P.M.)

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