View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 11, 1996
                              BRIEFING BY 
                              DAN PONEMAN            

The Briefing Room

1:17 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: I've got Dan Poneman who's the Senior Director of the National Security Council for Nonproliferation Issues is up next.

Just a short while ago, a very important announcement was made regarding the 1994 agreed framework that deals with North Korea's nuclear program, an agreement between the government -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, KEDO, as we call it. And Dan, who is our expert on nonproliferation matter -- things that go boom and things we don't want to go boom -- is here. And he can talk to you a little bit more about the announcement that's made in New York -- why it's significant and how it relates to --

Q Where was it announced, New York?

MR. MCCURRY: In New York, correct?


Q At the U.N.?

MR. MCCURRY: At the U.N.?


MR. MCCURRY: At the offices of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization.

MR. PONEMAN: Thank you, Mike.

This morning the announcement of the signing of the three protocols took place in New York. The parties were, on the one hand, KEDO -- the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization -- whose constituent three charter members are the United States, South Korea and Japan and has a number of other members -- on the other side, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The KEDO signature was signed by Steven Bosworth who's the executive director of KEDO, Ho Jin Yun from North Korea signed for the other side.

The significance of these specific agreements are that they set up the further implementation of the agreed framework between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Specifically, they accord specific privileges and immunities that will permit KEDO to carry out the light water reactor project in North Korea. They establish ways of communication for KEDO to carry out its functions in moving that project forward, as well as providing for means of transportation both to North Korea and then once arriving either by sea or by air into North Korea to the actual reactor side.

I think to understand the significance of this, you have to really look at it as yet another step in a long chain of steps coming out the October, 1994 agreed framework in which the United States secured North Korea's agreement to freeze its nuclear program. That is the five megawatt reactor they already had operating, the construction on the 50 and the 200 megawatt reactors together which could have produced dozens of bombs worth of plutonium each year once they were up and running. It continues the freeze of the plutonium reprocessing facility which could have taken the plutonium out of the spent fuel from those reactors. It continues through the recanning operation which has now embarked -- since April when we began recanning the spent fuel in the fuel pond at Pyongyang. Over 1,000 of the plutonium containing fuel elements have been canned out of 8,000. This operation will continue through the end of the year.

All of this freeze is now under full IAEA monitoring. The IAEA monitors are at the sight. They've just finished technical discussions with North Korea. So, basically, you have a situation in which we faced a couple of years ago, as many of you here recall, a rampant proliferation problem which we now have contained. The freeze continues. Missile talks have now become possible between the United States and North Korea. A round was held in April in Berlin. We expect to have another round of talks to address the missile proliferation threat.

I think the one issue that we need to focus on today, however, is the need that we have in the United States to assure the continued implementation of that agreed framework. And here I refer specifically to the administration request for $25 million as the U.S. contributing to KEDO for the next year, which is absolutely critical to the United States for us to be able to discharge our responsibilities under the agreed framework, which include not only our work with KEDO on the reactor project, but also providing for the heave fuel oil which KEDO has agreed to provide under the agreed framework.

We have been working very hard with the Congress. So far we have not secured their agreement. We have funding caps both in the House bill and the bill now under consideration in the Senate at $13 million. I must emphasize the critical importance to our national security of this modest investment insecuring $25 million from the United States, well within the bounds of the $20 million to $30 million figure Secretary Christopher said in 1995 we would be seeking annually from the Congress. It's very important, not only directly, but because it's critical to leverage the much larger contributions that the South Koreans and the Japanese have offered in terms of underwriting the much larger reactor project.

And that's basically what happened.

Q What happens if you don't get the rest of the money? What are the North Koreans going to do?

MR. PONEMAN: Well, it's hard enough to know what we will do in the future. I've long since given up speculating on what North Koreans would do. What I would say is, it is critically important to us to make sure that KEDO fulfills its obligations under the agreed framework. That includes the provision of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil a year. Right now we have gone around a large number of countries. We've secured contributions from about 20, but it's not going to come up to the $50 million to $60 million we're going to need.

If we cannot get the U.S. contribution, other countries will not contribute, and we will, I will just say, in a much more dangerous situation. I could not speculate on what the North Koreans would do, but I do not think it is prudent for the United States to raise a risk of lack of implementation on our side of the agreed framework.

Q You talked about missile talks are possible. Talks about what kinds of missiles? And are there goals to reach?

MR. PONEMAN: Yes. The North Koreans we have had very serious concerns for a lot of years in two respects -- one, their indigenous missile programs, which obviously threaten their nearest neighbor, South Korea, but also contain the risk of a much further threat beginning with Japan and perhaps further depending on how quickly they proceed. So we have a direct threat. We also have a threat because North Korea is a missile proliferator. We have had longstanding concerns about North Korea supplying missile technology to the Middle East and to countries hostile to our allies in that region. And so our objectives in the talks that began in Berlin in April were to secure North Korean cessation of any export activity, as well as to get a cap on their indigenous programs, which are extremely threatening to our allies.

Q What is their stockpile, do you know?

MR. PONEMAN: The North Koreans -- I couldn't give you specific figures, but they have Scud missiles. They are developing longer-range systems. In terms of exactly how many they have, it's very hard to know the details of what goes on in North Korea, but it is a serious threat.

Q It was reported in South Korea the last couple of days that in fact there had been a new transfer of 370 missiles from North Korea to somewhere in the Middle East. And I'm sorry, I don't know what kind of missiles they were, similar to SCUDs, or something. Do you know anything about that?

MR. PONEMAN : I can't -- we have long been concerned about those kinds of transactions. I'm not going to be able to comment on a specific allegation of a transaction.

Q What do you give up? I mean, when you have a negotiation with the Soviets about SALT I and so on, you were ready to come down to certain levels on both sides. What does the U.S. --what do the allies give us in a negotiation with the North Koreans?

MR. PONEMAN: In a negotiation like this, we would have -- it is not at all similar to the kind of negotiation we traditionally had with the Soviets. This would be much more of a nonproliferation kind of a discussion on the theory not of getting negotiated limits of our stockpiles versus theirs, but to get them to live up to international norms, the principal one in this area being the missile technology control regime.

There is not, therefore, the kind of back and forth you would see. The consideration running in the other direction is, if they live up to international norms in this area, just as in the nuclear area, the kinds of benefits to countries that are no longer pariahs and outlaws could begin to flow, the kind of cooperation and closer links to other countries around the world. But you would not get a kind of tit -for-tat kind of negotiation.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:27 P.M. EDT