News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, December 8, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)


Q: Can you give us anything on the report out of Japan, Tokyo, that the North Koreans are building three missile launch sites in the northern part of the country? Japanese government officials are saying...

A: I understand that.

Q:...the United States.

A: Somebody in the Japanese government has allegedly been commenting on intelligence reports, but I won't do that. All I can tell you is that we are obviously concerned about North Korea's missile program. We've made that clear publicly and privately to the North Koreans. We've discussed this with our allies. As you know from time to time we've had talks with the North Koreans specifically about missile proliferation.

Q: There's also quite a bit of speculation in the press that the pact between North Korea, the nuclear pact between north Korea and the other KEDO nations is about to break down. Can you give us any insight into that speculation? Or is it just speculation?

A: Let me just talk about that briefly. I think there are at the outset two elements to discuss. The first is our obligations under the KEDO agreement, and second are the North Korean obligations under the KEDO agreement.

Our obligations in the short term are to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. We are in the process of doing that. We have the money to provide virtually all of that, or will soon have the money to provide virtually all of that. So I'm confident that soon we will be able to meet that obligation for this year.

The longer term part of our obligation is to mobilize money and manpower and machinery to build the light water reactors in North Korea and that is well underway.

The North Korean part of the agreement is to stop work -- fuel reprocessing -- which they have done at their reactor site. That has been well monitored by IAEA inspectors.

Now the question is whether there are acts within North Korea to perhaps carry out parts of a nuclear program elsewhere.

As you know, there has been some speculation that an underground facility, they're in the process of an underground facility they appear to be building might have something to do with their nuclear program. We have demanded an inspection of that facility. Even as we speak today Charles Kartman of the State Department is carrying on talks with the North Koreans over access to that facility. Those talks continue. I can't comment on them.

I think everybody agrees that we are better off because of the framework agreement than we would have been without it. It has, in fact, stalled or stopped their nuclear program. It has had an important impact on stability in the Korean Peninsula. We will vigilantly monitor their activities, and we are doing that.

Q: Can you tell us, is the fuel oil, the 500,000 tons of fuel oil -- even though it may be tardy, the money is in the bank, so to speak. Are the North Koreans continuing to complain about tardy deliveries of oil or is that now a moot point?

A: My understanding is that we've delivered 391,000 tons out of the 500,000 tons. We are working diligently to provide the other 109,000 tons, and I believe we will do that in a relatively short period of time.

I think they clearly can complain as long as we have failed to meet that obligation, but I'm confident that we will meet that obligation and meet it relatively soon.

Q: South Korea has called for offering the North Koreans diplomatic and financial incentives, from what I can tell, economic aid of a kind, in return for access to that suspect site. What's your position on that?

A: We've made it very clear in public and private statements that we're not going to pay for access or pay to have IAEA inspectors gain access to sites. I think that's clear.

Q: What about other forms of incentives...

A: There is a relationship with North Korea by the West and other countries that involves food aid. This is a country that is unable to feed its population and has been unable to feed its population for several years. And in order to head off massive starvation the community of nations, of more prosperous nations than North Korea, has contributed quite a lot of food aid over the years and the United States has been part of that. We have always said that food aid is not a political statement, that it's a humanitarian act. But, that food aid I anticipate will continue as necessary.

As you know, there is a new policy between President Kim Dae Jung, a policy of openness, a policy of reconciliation with North Korea to try to bring about a reunification over time. We support that policy. But that does not mean that we will get into the business of paying for access to a site that we believe should be openly monitored by the IAEA.

Q: Would you consider increasing food aid or providing economic aid if the South [North] Koreans show their good faith by allowing inspections...

A: We currently have economic sanctions imposed against North Korea. There has been some economic commerce between the two Koreas. As you know, some cattle were delivered and there's talk of a large investment project, maybe several investment projects in North Korea financed by South Koreans, private South Korean individuals. But right now we have made food assistance available on a humanitarian basis, and I would anticipate that's what our policy will remain.

Q: Regarding Dr. Perry, is his job, his portfolio, whatever you want to call it, simply to investigate and look at the situation? Or is he empowered in any way to deal with the North Koreans, perhaps to go and talk to them, or would that be stepping into Kartman's territory?

A: First of all, his job is to review our policy towards North Korea, and that's what he's doing now in South Korea. He's been in Japan, and of course he's had conversations with people in this government. My understanding is he does not plan to go to North Korea on this trip and he's not negotiating with the North Koreans, but he's reviewing our policy.

Q: What happens if the inspections of the underground site cannot be arranged? What happens to the framework agreement? What is your position on that?

A: We're right in the middle of talks now between Mr. Kartman and the North Koreans, and I don't think it's appropriate to speculate about what happens next. Those talks could continue, I believe will continue for at least another day, maybe longer.

As you know, conversations with the North Koreans frequently take a long while, so there could be another round of talks. I wouldn't rule that out. But I think it's probably inappropriate to speculate on what will happen until those talks are over.

Q: You've indicated concern about Korea's missile program, and in the past there's been quite a bit of very heated rhetoric that's been going on. The rhetoric seems to be getting more heated and more frequent. Is that also a cause for increased concern?

A: I think the rhetorical rheostat goes up and down over time. Sometimes it's turned up and sometimes it's turned down. We have not seen any particular moves by their military backing up this increase in rhetoric.

I think that they are in the process of trying to create some diplomatic pressure on us and other parties to the KEDO agreement and I would regard their rhetoric as part of that. But we're not unused to this type of excited rhetoric out of North Korea.

Q: How about UN forces in Korea? Are they on any heightened state of readiness?

A: I'm not aware that they are. They're on a generally high state of readiness, as you know, but I'm not aware that there's a new state of readiness there.

Q: There are reports that the North Koreans are planning for a possible test of its Taepo Dong, a second test of its Taipo Dong sometime this month. Would there be any consequences for North Korea if they did proceed to a second test?

A: I know there have been reports on such tests. So far we haven't seen a second test. I guess we have to answer that question if there were a second test.

Clearly the first test has had I think a chilling impact in the Asia Pacific region. It certainly increased the level of fear and uncertainty in the region, and this is not good for stability in the region. Ultimately, I'm not sure that it helps North Korea reach its goals of trying to establish trade and diplomatic relationships with a wider range of countries.