THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON THE WORKING VISIT OF PRESIDENT KIM DAE JUNG OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA The Briefing Room
4:50 P.M. EDT
COLONEL CROWLEY: Okay, shifting gears to a different theater, we now have Senior Administration Officials Number 2 and 3, who will talk about today's discussions. Senior Administration Official Number 2 will start with a brief statement.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. President Clinton met today with President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea for an official working visit at the White House. During the two hours of meetings, the two Presidents discussed ways in which the allied nations can advance our strong political, security and economic relationship.
President Clinton and President Kim affirmed that the U.S.-ROK security alliance is strong and healthy. The United States supports President Kim's policy of engagement with North Korea. At the same time, the United States and the Republic of Korea -- Republic of Korea, South Korea, that is, of course -- share concerns about recent actions by North Korea.
Both sides agreed that a missile test would pose a serious obstacle to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and have serious consequences for improvement in relations with North Korea. President Clinton expressed his hope that the North Korean leaders will respond to ROK initiatives, and use the channels of communication already in place for our talks about the future of Northeast Asia.
The two leaders also discussed economic matters during a working lunch. President Clinton congratulated President Kim on the ROK's progress with economic reform and restructuring. The ROK's experience sends two powerful messages: opening markets leads to economic growth; and open societies are resilient in dealing with the challenges of globalization.
The opening of the ROK's markets and society is not complete, however, and President Clinton affirmed his support for President Kim's continued reform and restructuring efforts to accelerate the ROK's economic recovery. The Republic of Korea's long-term prosperity will be built on the foundations that are laid in the coming year.
Free and fair trade is essential to economic prosperity and to maintaining support for open markets here and abroad. President Clinton noted the importance, in particular, of reversing the surge in steel imports, and guarding against unfair trade practices.
The United States and the Republic of Korea share a commitment to democratic values. In this connection, President Clinton warmly congratulated President Kim on receiving the Philadelphia Liberty Award, a fitting tribute to a lifelong championing of democracy. President Kim will travel from Washington to Philadelphia to receive the award on the Fourth of July.
That concludes the prepared remarks. Both I and high Administration Official Number 3 will be happy to take any comments or questions you've got.
Q I note in your statement you refer to a missile test, and not to a North Korean missile test.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I'm sorry. I meant a North Korean missile test. I thought that was obvious from the context. It referred to a North Korean missile test.
Q Could you tell us about any discussions about South Korea's own missile program?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I can't.
Q Did the President ask President Kim to exercise some restraint as far the South Korean missile tests, given what's been going on with the North Koreans?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There may be some confusion here. The concern has been about a North Korean missile test. The media has been full of speculation about that -- the possibility that they would test a long-range missile, as they did last August 31st. I'm not sure exactly what kind, but something like that. And there was discussion about U.S. and South Korean efforts to deter the North Koreans from doing that, or to respond to the North Koreans if that deterrent should fail. That discussion also included coordinated efforts with Japan and reflects discussions that all three countries have been having over a period of time about that issue.
Q I guess my question is, did the President, in order to ratchet down tensions, encourage the South Koreans to show restrain as far as their own tests in order to not antagonize the North Koreans?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was no discussion of a South Korean missile test.
Q You've gone from "very serious consequences" to "serious obstacle to peace" in describing what would happen if the North Koreans tested -- the "very serious consequences" was in recent days, and now you've just used the phrase "serious obstacle to peace." Can you say why the change in wording -- things don't happen automatically. And, number two, was there any discussion about what response the two countries would take in the event of a test?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would not attribute significant meaning to the change in wording; there were different authors of these, different wordings, so they came out of different bureaucracies. They were intended to convey the same message.
In terms -- your second question was?
Q Did they talk about the response of two governments, Seoul and Washington, in the event of a test?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They did at the level of principle. There was not a discussion of concrete measures. That kind of discussion tends to take place at a more specialized level and, in fact, has been taking place at a more specialized level. This was more a matter of leaders indicating that they thought very much the same way on the need to have a coordinated response, a response that would be taken as serious and strong, and yet -- but that did not extend to a discussion of the actual measures that would be taken.
Q When you got into this discussion of how they might respond, was there any specific discussion of whether a missile test would result in either delay or cancellation of the KEDO project, and was there any discussion whether or not the North Koreans were being informed of that in advance?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, the discussion remained at a general level. I think it is fair to say that the U.S., South Korean and Japan, all three governments recognize the value of the agreed framework of which the KEDO project is an integral part, and would not wish to do anything to disrupt the implementation of the agreed framework, including the construction of the light water reactors. So I think that you should keep that in mind, centrally, when you think about how we would respond to a North Korean missile test.
There are a lot of other things that can be done that would not violate the agreed framework. I do not think that any of the three governments would wish to take steps that would violate the agreed framework.
Q At the spray at the top, the President said he wanted to wait until after the meeting to make a decision or to say what he felt about the request for a longer-range South Korean missile. What is his decision on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know the answer to that. I don't think, frankly, to be serious, I don't think there was a specific decision -- there wasn't a decision to be made at this meeting. I think he was asked some question about the South Korean missile development. He indicated that that would be discussed and he, therefore, didn't want to give a response now. If asked at this point after the meeting, I don't know whether he would choose to give a response or not, but I am not.
Q But you just said it wasn't discussed.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry?
Q The South Korean missile program. If I understood you right, before you said it did not come up.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think -- how did you phrase your question, about a South Korean missile test or something?
Q If we're not talking about the missile test, let's talk about the missile program for a second. Discuss the South Korean missile program?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me be very clear, concise and full in my response. I am not prepared to discuss anything about a discussion of the South Korean missile program, period.
Q What role, if any, is China playing in trying to dissuade the North Koreans from the missile test?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One of the top officials of North Korea, a man by the name of Kim Young Nam, just visited China in the last few weeks. That was the highest-level official visit between those two countries in quite a few years. The Chinese, during that visit, endorsed the South Korean policy of engagement to the North, encouraged the North to avoid raising tensions on the Peninsula, and encouraged tension reduction.
They announced all of that publicly to be sure that everyone understood where China stood on those issues. The north did not suggest that China's public stance differed from its private stance. I think that was yet another indication that the Chinese do not wish to see the North raise tensions on the Peninsula through another missile test or through other kinds of very provocative activity. They would like to see tensions reduced on the Peninsula and be stable. And their public, and I believe their private, positions support that set of objectives.
Q You had mentioned that if North Korea was to go through with a test, that you would not want to do anything that would disrupt the agreed framework. To maintain the agreed framework, you have to maintain relations, you have to maintain aid, you have to maintain oil shipments to North Korea. What other things -- as serious consequences, what other things could be done to show serious consequences to North Korea if they were to go through a missile test?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me -- I want to turn to my colleague here to answer part of this. But let me just broadly say that I don't want to get into a discussion here of particulars of a response. I think that is to be laid out at an appropriate time, through appropriate channels. But it seems to me that there are a wide array of things that can be done, that do not directly violate the agreed framework. We have a lot of other kinds of things that we, the Japanese, and the South Koreans discuss with the North Koreans, and do with the North Koreans. But let me ask whether my colleague has a comment to add to that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just clarify. You made some broad, sweeping statements about what the agreed framework does or does not call for.
Very specifically, on the United States' part, for its obligations, it is to provide 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil each year, until the light water reactors come on-line. Now, we would intend to continue that. That's part of the obligation.
In the general scope of keeping, as best that we can, to the construction schedule that the South Koreans, the Japanese and we are responsible for, that would continue. You may have noticed that the Japanese, in the last week, have passed the KEDO funding through the Upper House, with only one dissenting vote. The South Koreans, likewise, are now prepared to move on through the National Assembly for the funding of that. We would anticipate that that would continue.
So those are the parameters that we're talking about. There is a natural inclination to talk about in terms of relationship, but the specifics of that are the heavy fuel oil and the light water reactor construction schedule. For their part, the North Koreans should be wrapping up very soon the very last cleanup for the fuel rods that are being canned at Yongbyon.
Q With regard to the role of China, they obviously have a separate track, vis a vis the DPRK, and that somehow there's a -- you obviously have means of understanding something of what they're doing as well as they're following what we're doing here. I wonder if those mutual relations, whatever they may entail, have been affected negatively in the hiatus between the U.S. and Chinese relations, more generally, on this issue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good question. The answer is no, they have not. So that we continue to talk with the Chinese about North Korea, our perspectives on it, what our concerns are, they continue to talk to us about it. That channel has not been disrupted.
Q At the beginning of the pool spray -- not at the beginning, but President Clinton invited President Kim to make a statement, and during that statement, President Kim cited the close U.S.-South Korean ties and said that this should send a message to North Korea. Can you amplify on what the message is and why this forum was chosen to do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't tell you why President Kim chose to make that statement here; you'd have to ask his party. But broadly speaking, it is our belief that a recognition by the North that the U.S., South Korea, Japan and let me add China in parallel fashion, all seek similar goals on the Korean Peninsula at this point in time. Tension reduction, do not want to see an arms race develop, do want to see a process that will lead to normalization of relations, do want to see the people of North Korea able to live at a higher standard of living. We think the fact that North Korea can observe us standing together on that array of issues may enhance the chances that North Korea will move on that path.
The fact that North Korea knows that all of us, or at least the U.S., South Korean and Japan -- I won't speak for China -- would respond negatively if North Korea were to engage in large-scale provocations or launch a missile, do something quite dramatic, hopefully helps to deter them. That is different from if we had very different views on the North, could conceivably find some daylight between us.
Q Maybe I stumbled over my question, but really, what I meant was, what is motivating the need from the North Koreans, from our perspective, to make this statement? What are the North Koreans doing? Do you have signs that they're going amount to a major provocation, as you put it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we don't have signs that they are going to announce a major provocation, but I do think that there is a broad concern about North Korean missile development. And without getting into details, as Secretary Cohen and others have stated very clearly, we do not want to see a long-range missile test by North Korea, and we would react very negatively to that.
Q Is it solely focused on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In broad terms -- again, remember a review of policy by former Defense Secretary Perry has been under way for sometime. In broad terms, we would like to both encourage the North to move toward a more positive set of relations throughout the region and give them incentives not to go in the other direction and try to use muscle in order to extort, whatever term you want to choose, but in order to elicit concessions from others in the region.
And so I think the highly consultative approach that Secretary Perry has taken, a consultative approach that's maintained outside of the Perry initiative itself, I think helps to focus that deterrence, make it more credible to the North. That is, in part, aimed at deterring a North Korean missile test, but it's much more broadly aimed at encouraging North Korea to do the right thing.
Q But there is no indication whatsoever that they are responding to these incentives that are being offered by the U.S. and by South Korea. There are a number of people this time who view the North as a bunch of shakedown artists who today, are trying to milk the South Koreans for 200,000 tons of fertilizer and who point out that they got 400,000 tons of food aid in May from the U.S., and at the same time make no concessions themselves. How do you respond to that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me do a little bit of a review if I can, go back just a few years, two or three years down the road, and the situation that we faced then. Channels of communications were not open with the North Koreans. The previous South Korean administration had a different policy than President Kim Dae Jung has now. So we have, in the last couple of years, particularly since President Kim came to office, is a new approach in terms of engagement with the North Koreans, not only by the Japanese and their attempts to revise their bilateral contacts -- although it is going slow.
The Republic of Korea has reengaged, they've had talks a year ago in April in Beijing, didn't go anywhere. They have been able, though, to maintain the contacts to develop what has been going on in Beijing in the last couple of weeks, at the vice ministerial level, still slow going. But that's the nature of dealing with North Korea.
We, on the other hand, have had a series of contacts with the North Koreans. But it is very painstaking to lay the groundwork for that. It took us, well, almost a year after the former Republic of Korea President, Kim Young Sam, and President Clinton offered in April of '96 four-party talks. I mean, that took excruciating negotiating with the North Koreans just to be able to get them to agree to come to those. We have now had five complete rounds of four-party talks.
You're asking, what's the tangible progress? Well, I would point to, we're moving in that direction. And with the North Koreans, it is not a turn-on, turn-off situation.
But the contacts are greater. The communication channel is more open. The possibilities exist there. And we are suggesting, I believe, as President Kim did in the statement at the pool spray, there's opportunities out there. We're inviting the North Koreans to take hold of them.
Q You mentioned the Perry initiative. Do you mind just taking this opportunity to tell us where that stands right now? Where do things stand with Secretary Perry?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think he's in the latter stages of reaching the recommendations that he'll present to the President. Keep in mind that this has involved, among other things, extensive consultations in the region, including a trip to Pyongyang. And this was to hear ideas, to float some concepts and see what kinds of responses they got, in order to refine his own recommendations.
I do not have a date certain for him to submit those recommendations. But I would imagine that it will not be terribly long from there.
Q Are you talking weeks or months or days?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't want to speculate how long. But I can guarantee that it's before the end of the year, and I think very much before the end of the year. (Laughter.)
Can you record that I smiled when I said that, please? Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q -- in the event of another missile test, what would be the status of this integrated and complicated -- in the event of the missile test? That is the first question. And the second question is, last year, after the first long-range missile test, Japanese government suspended the KEDO funding and in the event of another missile test if, suspension of the KEDO funding is acceptable or sanctioned for the U.S. administration -- this is a Japanese government decision. Is this acceptable for the U.S. administration?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you're very right -- let me take your second question first. You're very right that the approach to KEDO is done government-by-government. The Japanese Diet has approved KEDO funding. It is now up to the Japanese Ex-Im Bank to work out the actual agreement to provide that funding, and that will be done, I presume, over the course of this summer.
It is our position -- I believe it is also the position of the Japanese government, although it is up to them to state their posture -- that if there is another long-range missile test we still would not wish the response to that to be one that undermines the agreed framework. Let us keep in mind what the agreed framework accomplishes. It shuts down North Korea's ability to produce fissionable material suitable for nuclear weapons. And it remains a high priority goal of the United States, I believe of Japan, and of South Korea to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, from producing nuclear weapons.
So we don't want to give up that goal in response to something that North Korea does outside of the agreed framework. The agreed framework does not extend to missiles, so that's an additional item and we'd like to respond outside of the agreed framework.
Q Have you gotten clear assurance from the government of Japan that they will continue to honor the agreed framework, even after another missile test by the North Koreans?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We've had ongoing consultations with the Japanese government and we have sought to reach a coordinated position on this. I'll leave it to the Japanese government to state exactly what their position is.
Q Was it a mistake not to include missile tests within the agreed framework and if so -- if not, why?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That predates my time in government by so many years that I don't feel that I can fairly give you a judgment on that.
I think the agreed framework was designed to respond to what was a very pressing, immediate need in 1994. And that was our perception that North Korea was reaching an ability to have enough plutonium to build a nuclear weapon. And the situation was eroding rapidly, in terms of whether we could maintain peace on the peninsula, given that developing reality. And the agreed framework was designed, I believe, to call an immediate halt to that, and then to work on other aspects of the relationship.
Do you want to expand on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just briefly. I think the point is, in hindsight you can lay anything down that you'd like. But in reality, at the time, the focus was on the North Korean capability to produce and reprocess plutonium. That's what the agreed framework was designed to do. And quite frankly, that's probably the extent for which we would have been able to reach any kind of an agreement with North Korea at that point in time.
It did not include conventional weapons, nor biological or chemical or missiles or anything else. It took care of the most pressing problem. And that's what it's designed to do, and is still doing today.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Alex, last question.
Q Are you confident that the North Koreans are not working outside of this agreed framework, to develop a secret nuclear program? Because there was this underground facility, that's my first question. My second question is, are you confident they did not, before they shut down the facility that was underneath the KEDO agreement, they did not reap enough plutonium to build four or five nuclear weapons, before they went into this agreement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say, without going into any detail at all -- and I'll let you take any of this speculation up with a different agency, on what the Koreans do or do not have -- but the thrust of your question is, as an example, at Kumchang-Ri, where we had suspicions that we needed to clarify, we were able to meet with the North Koreans, and over almost a six-month period, maybe a little bit longer, negotiate, that allowed us to eventually visit that facility, which in their words was a sensitive military facility. It did not contain the material. We've got a press statement out on that.
So the point being is that we have no credible evidence at this point that there is a secret nuclear program or anything going on. And the counterpoint to that is, the United States, if and when we have any concerns at all -- as we did with the Kumchang-Ri area -- would bring that matter up with the North Koreans. It's not one in which there's some degree of blind-eye, and we're sticking strictly to the agreed framework. That's not that case.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Thank you very much.
Q Thank you.
END 5:16 P.M. EDT