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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Deputy Secretary of State > Former Deputy Secretaries of State > Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage > Remarks > 2003

Weapons of Mass Destruction Developments on the Korean Peninsula

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
February 4, 2003

As Prepared

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee.

Thank you for inviting me to discuss recent developments on the Korean Peninsula. Much has happened, even in the short space of weeks since the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Marc Grossman, briefed your colleagues in the House, and since I briefed many of you and your fellow Senators on the 16th of January. I welcome this opportunity to complement those closed sessions and to update you, as well. We value, as always, your good counsel and will continue our close consultation.

Mr. Chairman, in just a few months, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the Armistice that effectively ended the Korean War, which had by then claimed some 4 million Korean lives – and the lives of more than 34,000 Americans. In the years since, the combined efforts of the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) have deterred further conflict and preserved the security of the South Korean people.

The Republic of Korea has without question prospered in this time. Indeed, today, we look to South Korea as a key partner in the region – strategically, but also as a flourishing democracy and a free people.

Mr. Chairman, I have tremendous faith in the ineluctable force of democracy and a liberal economy. I have faith in the basic human longing to live free. I have no doubt that if we, working with the international community, handle the current situation correctly, that the people of Korea will prevail.

North Korea’s (Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, or DPRK) programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are a fundamental obstacle to that appealing vision for the future. They are also a threat to the international community, regional security, US interests, and US forces, which remain an integral part of stability in the region.

It is time for North Korea to turn away from this self-destructive course. They have nothing to gain from acquiring nuclear weapons -- and much to lose. Indeed, every day, the people of that country are paying a terrible price for these programs in international isolation and misspent national resources.

Mr. Chairman, I know that your constituents and the constituents of every Member of this Committee are deeply concerned about this situation, particularly when juxtaposed with events in the Middle East. So, I want to be clear today on how the President sees the situation and the course he believes is correct for the United States.

President Bush and Secretary Powell have said repeatedly that when it comes to defending our nation, all options must remain on the table. Both have said that in this case, at this time, we believe that diplomacy is our best option. We intend to resolve the threats posed by North Korea’s programs by working with the international community to find a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

As President Bush said in his visit to South Korea last year, the United States has no intention of invading North Korea. Secretary Powell reiterated this point most recently in Davos, Switzerland, where he also stated that we are prepared to communicate this position to the North Koreans in a way that is unmistakable.

Indeed, we are prepared to build a different kind of relationship with North Korea. Last summer, in consultation with South Korea and Japan, the United States was ready to pursue a bold new approach with Pyongyang. That approach entailed a number of steps toward normalcy in our relationship, including political and economic measures to help improve the lives of the North Korean people.

This bold approach was derailed, however, by our discovery of a covert uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons, which North Korea had been pursuing for years in egregious violation of its international obligations.

We cannot change our relationship with the DPRK until the DPRK changes its behavior. North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons programs in a verifiable and irreversible manner. Specifically, North Korea must return immediately to the freeze on activities at the Yongbyon complex and dismantle the plutonium program there. Second, North Korea must dismantle its program to develop nuclear weapons through highly enriched uranium – and must allow international verification that it has done so. Third, North Korea must cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Finally, North Korea must comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and adhere to the safeguards agreement that is part of that treaty.

The United States will not dole out any “rewards” to convince North Korea to live up to its existing obligations. But we do remain prepared to transform our relations with that country, once it complies with its international obligations and commitments. Channels of communication between our countries remain open, but ultimately, it is the actions of North Korea that matter.

And North Korea needs to act soon, for the sake of its people. Today, conditions in that country are appalling, and millions of North Koreans are at immediate risk of starvation. The United States sees this as a critical international humanitarian issue, and we are, in fact, the most generous donor in the world of food assistance to the DPRK. Since 1995, we have provided 1.9 million metric tons of food, valued at $620 million. For the 2002 World Food Program (WFP) operation in North Korea, the United States contributed 155,000 metric tons of food commodities, valued at $63 million, over half of what the WFP actually received last year.

President Bush has stressed that we will continue to provide this emergency assistance to the people of North Korea – we will not use food aid as a weapon. But we do have concerns and we do face challenges with this assistance.

Specifically, the DPRK places onerous restrictions on the distribution of food. The DPRK requires that the WFP provide six-day’s advance notice of visits to food distribution sites and does not allow the WFP to employ Korean-speaking staff. The DPRK also denies access to the WFP to about 20 percent of North Korean counties.

These restrictions prevent us from being certain that the food we donate to North Korea is going to the people who actually need it. No other nation in the world places such excessive restrictions on food aid.

Mr. Chairman, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that as we sit here today, 800 million people around the world are going hungry. 38 million people in Africa are facing a hunger crisis. There are people here in our own nation who do not have enough to eat.

In addition to meeting the needs of our own people, the United States provides food aid to over 80 other countries. We will again provide our share of food aid to the North Korean people, but these competing demands naturally will have to factor into our decision about exactly how much aid to give North Korea. We look forward to close consultation with the Committee on this issue.

We will also keep in close contact with you on the issue of our involvement with KEDO.

We are consulting with our KEDO partners – South Korea, Japan, and the EU – about KEDO’s future, including the fate of the light water reactor project. In the meantime, the Administration has asked Congress to appropriate $3.5 million in FY03 to fund the US contribution to KEDO’s administrative account, should we decide it is in our national interest to do so. I want to stress that no part of that funding would go to heavy fuel oil shipments, which the KEDO Executive Board suspended in October, or to light water reactor construction. But the ability to make a contribution to the administrative account will give us flexibility in working with our KEDO allies to achieve our shared nonproliferation goals. Given the fluidity and dangers of the current situation, flexibility is going to continue to be crucial.

Positive relations with our partners and allies in the region and beyond will also continue to be crucial, because the bottom line is that this is not a bilateral issue. While the United States is willing to talk to North Korea about how to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, this is not just a problem between our two nations.

The threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programs sends ripples of instability across the region – and around the globe. The Republic of Korea and Japan, but also China, Russia, Australia and the other nations of this neighborhood have a direct and pressing interest in this matter. We share a concern with all of these nations about North Korea’s programs and we share a commitment that the Korean Peninsula remain free of nuclear weapons.

While the nations in the neighborhood must play a starring role in resolving this problem, this is also an issue of international and multilateral interest.

For example, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) requires that states and organizations upholding it, notably the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), must be involved in this issue. We are pleased that the IAEA and its Director, Dr. El Baradei, continue to stress this point.

Last month, the 35 member nations of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unanimously condemned DPRK actions. Specifically, the Board issued a statement “deploring” North Korea’s suggestion that it will resume nuclear activities at the Yongbyon complex, its disabling of the monitoring equipment installed there, and its expulsion of IAEA inspectors.

The IAEA also announced that it is no longer able to “exercise its responsibilities under the safeguards agreement, namely, to verify that the DPRK is not diverting nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices…” The IAEA called on the DPRK to act urgently to restore international confidence by complying with safeguards and resuming surveillance at Yongbyon.

Unfortunately, North Korea rejected the IAEA resolution, announcing its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and suggesting that the nation may resume flight testing of long-range missiles.

Unless North Korea takes some immediate action to reverse course, the IAEA Board of Directors is likely to find at its next meeting that the DPRK is in further noncompliance and report this to the UN Security Council.

We are working with our international partners and allies to make North Korea understand the potential consequences of these dangerous and provocative actions. Secretary Powell speaks regularly to his counterparts in the region, but also in the EU and the P-5, as well to his counterparts in other governments. Without exception, they share our concerns and our commitment for a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.

Japan, in particular, has major interests at stake, and we coordinate very closely on a bilateral basis, as well as trilaterally with South Korea. Japan has stated that it will not complete normalization with North Korea without an end to the nuclear weapons program.

Of course, our consultation with South Korea is especially close.

We will continue to deepen and strengthen our alliance with the Republic of Korea. We look forward to having a very close and effective working relationship with the new South Korean administration of Roh Moo-hyun, as we have had with President Kim Dae-jung. Indeed, today, President-Elect Roh’s special envoy, Mr. Chyung Dae Chul, is meeting with senior Administration officials to discuss how we can best work together to promote our share nonproliferation goals on the Korean Peninsula.

Last month, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs James Kelly both had extremely useful meetings in South Korea – and in other nations in the region.

We have communicated consistently our support for dialogue between South and North Korea as part of the international community’s effort to find a diplomatic solution. Most recently, we strongly supported the visit to the DPRK by President Kim’s Special Envoy, Lim Dong-won. During his meetings with North Korean officials last week, Special Envoy Lim emphasized the international community’s grave concerns about the North’s nuclear weapons program, and he urged the North to respond to those concerns.

We remain well aware that for South Korea, this is more than a matter of contiguity, this is a matter of consanguinity. These two nations share a border and blood ties, and we understand that South Korea has much to lose from continued DPRK intransigence and hostility – and much to gain if the North turns away from its present course. We will continue to work closely and consult constantly with our partners in the ROK, as well as Japan and our other friends and allies in the region, who are most directly affected by North Korean decisions and actions.

We will also continue to work closely with the Members of this Committee as we seek a diplomatic solution to this situation. Our interests as a country on a matter of such seriousness are best served by a concerted US policy, and we are committed to our ongoing consultation with Congress.

Released on February 4, 2003

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