DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, August 18, 1998 - 1:30 P.M.
Presenter: Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. What do you want to talk about today? What topics? All right, thanks.

Q: You need to stop reading the book.

A: What book? History and Philosophy? The Impact of Reuters on World News Coverage? What book? No questions? I've got no statement. If you have no questions, you can go back out. Yes?

Q: What can you tell us about the digging in Korea that's alleged to be, possibly, an underground nuclear site? Is there indication -- is there evidence that digging is going on? How concerned are you about it and what are you going to do about it?

A: Well first, as you know, Charlie, from your many years in this building, we don't comment on intelligence reports. And therefore, I have nothing to say about the specific report of what's going on in North Korea or may not be going on in North Korea. We watch very closely what's happening there and at the appropriate time, if there's something to say, we'll say it. But, this isn't the appropriate time.

Q: Without going into specifics, could you tell us if there is some indication that digging might be going on in Pyong-yang?

A: I've just said I don't want to comment on intelligence reports.

Q: So, do you have any indication that North Koreans might be doing anything of this type?

A: Right now, we are monitoring compliance very closely with the Framework Agreement and we will continue to do that. We will continue -- we will raise with them any signs we come across that there may not be compliance. And that's all I want to say at this stage.

Q: There's a meeting on Friday on this issue with North Korea. What message will the U.S. take to that meeting?

A: The U.S. will deliver several messages. One will be that we expect complete compliance with the Framework Agreement and two, we will meet our obligations under the agreement, which involves delivering a certain amount of fuel oil every year.

Q: Is it the opinion of the U.S. government that North Korea, as of now, is in compliance with the Framework Agreement?

A: Right now, I do not believe we have a firm basis to conclude that they are out of compliance.

Q: Basically, the North Korean side is complaining that the United States has been slow, at best, at fulfilling our side of the bargain. Is that correct? Is there a basis for it?

A: Well, they have claimed that we've been slow. We deliver every year, under the agreement, 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil, and we have always met the deadline and I anticipate we'll meet the deadline this year as well.

Q: When's the deadline?

A: I believe it's on a fiscal year basis, so it would be -- I guess the -- no. The KEDO has its own year and the KEDO year ends on the 21st of October. We have delivered, so far, 218,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea out of the 500,000 we'll have to deliver by the 21st of October.

Q: Isn't the 18th of October (inaudible)?

A: 21st.

Q: And the money that's being sought from Congress is how much and would that be for this years to buy oil?

A: Let's see. This is a State Department issue. So far, Congress has agreed to provide $30 million for administrative expenses and purchase of heavy fuel oil. An additional $5 million has been reprogrammed for heavy fuel oil from other accounts, so that's 35 million. We have a contribution of $16 million from the European Union to help meet the cost of heavy fuel oil. I don't know how much more money is needed at this time. As I say this, the State Department handles this part of the account.

Q: But would it be possible to get that money from someplace else if Congress says no?

A: Well, I don't believe Congress will say no when it looks at the importance of continuing compliance with the agreement. This is an agreement that has caused North Korea to close down a nuclear reactor. They've canned the fuel from that reactor, the spent fuel, and we are trying to meet our end of the agreement by providing the heavy fuel oil and with the assumption that they will meet their end of the agreement as well.

Q: Is North Korea deemed to be, you know, years away from developing any kind of a, nuclear weapons capability if it were to go in that direction?

A: Well, we've said in the past that we believe they had, perhaps, generated enough fuel to create a small number, one or two -- a small number of nuclear devices. This is not what you would call a robust nuclear program. The goal of the Framework Agreement was to make sure that they didn't generate more plutonium so they could create more nuclear devices. As I say, our belief is that they are currently in compliance with that program -- with that agreement.

Q: When the program was frozen, how far away was the plant from being capable of producing enriched weapons grade material?

A: Well, we believe it may have produced some --

Q: So it's already done it?

A: -- a very small amount before it was frozen. That was why it was so crucial to get the plant frozen. Remember, they wanted to throw out the IAEA inspectors and break from that inspection regime. The IAEA inspectors have been at that closed plant since -- or they've been inspecting it regularly since it was closed down.

Q: Ken, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said that the United States had turned over -- they said publicly, on the record, the United States had turned over satellite photographs of this digging in South Korea now Pyong yang. While I understand your reluctance to comment on intelligence -- I mean, you can't at least confirm that there are indications that digging is going on by whatever method you've found out?

A: I'm shocked that the South Korean Foreign Minister didn't get our guidance, which was not to comment on intelligence reports.(Laughter)

Q: On the photographs, you mean?

A: I said that he apparently didn't get our guidance, but I got it and I'm not commenting.