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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

Clinton Statement on North Korea

'Statement by the President,' The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, December 28, 2000.

"For several years, we have been working with our East Asian allies to improve relations with North Korea in a way that strengthens peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. We have made substantial progress, including the 1994 Agreed Framework, which froze North Korea's production of plutonium for nuclear weapons under ongoing international inspections, and the 1999 moratorium on long-range missile tests. I believe new opportunities are opening for progress toward greater stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula. However, I have determined that there is not enough time while I am President to prepare the way for an agreement with North Korea that advances our national interest and provides the basis for a trip by me to Pyongyang. Let me emphasize that I believe this process of engagement with North Korea, in coordination with South Korea and Japan, holds great promise and that the United States should continue to build on the progress we have made.

Our policy toward North Korea has been based on a strong framework developed at my request by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and carried out by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Special Advisor Wendy Sherman. We have coordinated each step forward with our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan. The engagement policy of President Kim Dae Jung and his personal leadership have spurred this process and earned the world's admiration. Taken together, our efforts have reduced tensions on the Korean Peninsula, improved prospects for enduring peace and stability in the region, and opened an opportunity to substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the threat posed by North Korean missile development and exports.

This past October, when DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Il invited me to visit his country, and later when Secretary Albright traveled to Pyongyang, Chairman Kim put forward a serious proposal concerning his missile program. Since then, we have discussed with North Korea proposals to eliminate its missile export program as well as to halt further missile development. While there is insufficient time for me to complete the work at hand, there is sufficient promise to continue this effort. The United States has a clear national interest in seeing it through."

Note: in an interview with the Associated Press on December 21, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stressed that there was a real opportunity for the new administration to reach an agreement on missile issues with North Korea - 'What is out there is the genuine possibility of their limiting further their missile testing and further production and export of various technologies in exchange basically for our launching civilian satellites." (A deal with N. Korea is possible, AP, December 21.) Earlier in December, a letter to President Clinton from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and other senior Republicans, expressed concern over the possible military benefits to North Korea of providing such space-launch assistance: "No one is more alarmed about the North Korean missile program than we. But any hurried or ill-considered deal with North Korea could be worse than no solution at all. ... [Providing satellite-launch assistance may entail] very serious risks of technology transfer... [The outgoing administration should not seek to] bind...the incoming administration to a new policy toward North Korea." (A deal with N. Korea is possible, AP, December 21; Bush says he won't interfere with Clinton trip to North Korea, Wall Street Journal, December 19.)

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.