Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


1-2Meeting on Suspect Underground Construction/Ambassador Kartman to Lead Delegation

DPB # 118
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1998, 12:35 P.M.


As far as announcements today are concerned, let me start by saying that Ambassador Charles Kartman, our Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Talks, will lead a US delegation to Pyongyang November 16 to 18 to continue serious discussions on suspect underground construction in North Korea. The talks, which began in New York during high-level meetings in August, are aimed at completely satisfying US concerns regarding the suspect construction that we've talked to you about.

We've made clear to the North Koreans that any attempt by North Korea to pursue a nuclear weapons development program would be unacceptable. We have specific concerns about suspect underground construction, and we will demand assurances that North Korea continues to abide by its commitments in the agreed framework. Verbal assurances will not suffice. We will press for concrete actions, including our access to clarify the nature of underground construction.

QUESTION: Question about that - is this the first time a negotiation has taken place in Pyongyang?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check that. I believe there have been talks there before about aspects of our relationship. I know that people have been there before, but it strikes me as one of the first times that a real dialogue on a specific issue took place there; except to say that this is an implementation question about an agreement that's already been signed. So it's not like four-party talks or something like that. I'll check to try to - depending on how one defines the term "negotiation," to answer your question as to what their past practice has been and whether this is a first.

QUESTION: But is there symbolism in there that the North Koreans would enjoy?

MR. RUBIN: We don't regard it as symbolic; we regard it as serious business to get to the bottom of the issue of our concern.

QUESTION: Symbolism about growing ties with --

MR. RUBIN: We don't regard it as such.

QUESTION: Jamie, so they're going there to negotiate the terms of access; they're not guaranteed access when they go. Kartman is not going to go and look at the site himself?

MR. RUBIN: It would certainly be wonderful if upon their arrival that access pursuant to our conditions were provided and they could immediately move from the negotiating table to get the access that we want. But having been around this block before with the North Koreans, what we are doing is making very clear to them that verbal assurances will not be sufficient and that access by us is going to be necessary. I wouldn't expect that to overnight be accepted.

QUESTION: Can you say something about the nature of the team that Kartman's taking with him?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to get you some more details. I mean, he's the leader of the team; I'm sure there will be experts in all aspects of this question.

QUESTION: But the team would be qualified to go --

MR. RUBIN: Again you're jumping too far, as is often your want, too far ahead of the game. We are beginning a discussion with them in which we will demand access. The history of the US-North Korea discussions involves usually a lengthy discussion process before there is agreement to our requirements. So we're not expecting them to walk in one day and be able to have the access the next.


(The briefing concluded at 1:05 P.M.)

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