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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 27, June 1998

Clouds Gather over US-North Korea Framework Agreement

On 16 June, a Government statement carried on North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) defiantly asserted North Korea's right to produce, deploy and export ballistic missiles. The statement contended:

"The missile issue is related to the sovereignty and existence of our people. We are militarily confronted with the United States, which has the largest quantities of nuclear weapons, inter-continental ballistic missiles and other mass destruction weapons in the world. What it really seeks in the efforts for preventing our missile development is to disarm and attack us any moment. It is the consistent principle maintained by the DPRK Government...that as long as it remains subjected to military threat from outside, it should produce by itself and deploy military equipment to safeguard the security of the country and the people. On this principle, we will continue developing, testing and deploying missiles. ... Our missile export is aimed at obtaining foreign money we need at present. As the United States has pursued economic isolation of the DPRK for more than half a century, our resources of foreign money have been circumscribed. So, missile export is the option we could not but take. If the United States really wants to prevent our missile export, it should lift the economic embargo as early as possible and make a compensation for the losses to be caused by discontinued missile export. ..."

The US State Department responded the same day with a strong statement of its own: "North Korean missile proliferation activities are of serious concern to the United States... It has sold missiles and missile equipment and technology virtually indiscriminately, including to missile programs in unstable regions such as the Middle East and South Asia. ... If North Korea wishes to improve relations with the United States and see an easing of sanctions, it must show restraint in the missile area, both with regard to its missile related exports and its indigenous missile development activities..."

North Korea repeated its call for a lifting of sanctions on 22 June, repeating a claim detailed in a 8 May statement (see last issue) that the US was failing to fulfil its obligations under the October 1994 US-DPRK Framework Agreement on replacing North Korea's nuclear facilities. The new statement again suggested that North Korea was now close to pulling out of the Agreement:

"We, true to the Framework Agreement, made a political decision of sacrificing our policy of [an] independent nuclear power industry, stopped running all graphite-moderated reactors and their facilities, and guaranteed a safe storage of spent fuel to perform our duty sincerely. ... It [the US], however, has not yet made a political decision to stop pursuing its hostile policy towards the DPRK in response to our bold policy. ... This makes us suspect that the US intends to give up the implementation of the Agreement, although it pays lip-service to the implementation. The US continues raising one precondition after another for lifting sanctions against us because it seeks only to see 'change' of our system and to disarm us. Though we value the Agreement and regard the lifting of sanctions as necessary, we will never make an offering of our 'policy shift' and 'disarmament'. ... If the US lifts sanctions...it will prove the willingness of the US not to pursue the hostile policy towards the DPRK any longer. Herein lies the reason why the DPRK considers the implementation of the Agreed Framework to be important. ... If the US refuses to take positive steps...the DPRK will...come to a conclusion that the US has no willingness to implement the Agreement. This will inevitably encourage us to take the road of our own choice. Whether the US lifts the sanctions fundamentally and substantially will be regarded as a yardstick showing whether it is ready...to implement the DPRK-US Framework Agreement smoothly."

Speaking a few weeks earlier (7 June), US State Department spokesperson James Rubin insisted that the "United States is going to live up to its part of the agreement, and the North Koreans should do nothing to act in any way in contravention with the 1994 Agreed Framework."

Editor's note: On 2 June, the Yonhap news agency reported that the US and South Korea had reached agreement on a new upper range of 300 kilometres for South Korean missiles. The previous limit, set out in a bilateral agreement between the two States, was 180 kilometres. The US could not agree to assist in the development of missiles with a limit in excess of 300 kilometres without violating the terms of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The news agency quoted an unnamed South Korean official as saying: "The US recently accepted our position that the range limit in our missile development needs to be upwardly adjusted to cope with North Korea's missile threats."

Reports: US to let S. Korea develop missiles with 300 km range, Kyodo, 3 June; Japan report focuses nuclear fears back on North Korea, Reuters, 3 June; N. Korea may back out of agreement, Associated Press, 8 June; N. Korea says to continue missile deployment, Reuters, 16 June; Commentary - no one can slander DPRK's missile policy, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), 16 June; North Korea admits selling missiles, Associated Press, 16 June; N. Korea missile sales worries US, Associated Press, 17 June; North Korea - US must lift economic sanctions, Reuters, 22 June; Spokesman for Foreign Ministry on lifting of economic sanctions, KCNA, 22 June.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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