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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 15, May 1997

Fresh Speculation about North Korea's Nuclear and Missile Capability

On 15 April, Japan's Foreign Minister, Yukihiko Ikeda, addressing Parliament, stated that: "There are reports that North Korea has developed missiles with a range of more than 1,000 km. There are certain reports that some of them have been deployed." According to media coverage of his remarks, Mr. Ikeda pronounced himself unconvinced by the reports, which apparently refer to the Rodong-1 ballistic missile system.

On 9 May, the chief of South Korea's Agency for Security Planning (NSP), Kwon Young-hae, told Parliament that a recent North Korean defector, Hwang Janyop, had made allegations about North Korea's nuclear-weapons capability without being able to detail them: "Mr. Hwang said he presumed North Korea possessed nuclear weapons as it withdrew from the NPT in 1993 while refusing inspection of atomic sites by the IAEA." North Korea was rehabilitated within the NPT following an October 1994 agreement with the US, under which it agreed to suspend the operation of its nuclear reactors, pending the construction of replacement reactors by an international consortium.

On 6 May, referring to unspecified "technical reasons," North Korea cancelled discussions with US officials on its missile programme and policy. Department of Defense spokesperson Kenneth Bacon linked the cancellation to North Korea's desire for food aid: "North Korea is trying to turn food aid into a political weapon." On 18 April, the State Department had announced North Korea's willingness to enter such discussions.

Reports: N. Korea 'able to hit Japan,' Financial Times, 15 April; Japanese says N. Korea may have deployed missiles, BMD Monitor, 18 April; North Korea to resume talks on limiting BM sales, BMD Monitor, 18 April; N. Korea balks at missile talks, UPI Political Wire, 6 May; Defector presumes N. Korea nuclear capable, no proof, Reuters World Service, 9 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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