North Korea: A Shared Challenge to the U.S. and the Republic of KoreaJohn R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Remarks to the Korean-American Association
Seoul Hilton, Seoul, Korea
August 29, 2002
Distinguished guests, it is a pleasure to speak to you today. I am here representing Secretary Powell to reinforce, indeed celebrate, the rock-solid alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea. We have stood with you shoulder-to-shoulder in times of peace and war, as you have done with us. We will continue to do so. As President Bush remarked last February during his visit here:
America will stand firmly with our South Korean allies. We will sustain our obligations with honor. Our forces and our alliance are strong, and this strength is the foundation of peace on the Peninsula.
At that time, the President also thanked the people of South Korea for their support in the U.S. war on terrorism in the aftermath of the tragic days of September 11. Almost one year since we were attacked, your continued support in the war on terrorism proves that our alliance is also regional and global. Our cooperation in combating this evil is living testimony to our shared values.
Sadly, the defense of freedom by our joint forces also sometimes exacts a heavy toll. As Secretary Powell's representative, I want to reiterate today my country's profound sorrow and heartfelt apology for the deaths of two young girls who died during a joint training exercise on June 13. The United States Government takes full responsibility for this tragic event, and is working closely with the Government of the Republic of Korea to ensure that we do everything to prevent such a tragedy from ever recurring.
The Republic of Korea has blossomed as a democracy, as a cutting edge high-tech economy, and as an example of impressive social change, not only for Asia but in many ways for the world. This November, the people of this great country will showcase your remarkable democratic transformation by hosting the Community of Democracies meeting. My boss, Secretary Colin Powell, is very much looking forward to participating in this seminal event. There is no better vindication of the Secretary's buoyant optimism about the future of mankind than South Korea's achievements over the last two decades.
In sharp contrast, as the Secretary has said, North Korea is a self-created and self perpetuated tragedy. For decades Pyongyang has strangled its own economic development and starved its people while building a massive military force armed with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Without sweeping restructuring to transform itself and its relations with the world, the North's survival is in doubt.
Recently, we have seen hopeful signs of potential change. The revival of North-South dialog and the beginning of discussions with Japan on steps that could lead toward normalization have captured headlines. Perhaps even more importantly the D.P.R.K. has begun to implement some initial steps at freeing prices and allowing private markets to exist. Whether all this flows from their desperation or their inspiration still is an open question. However, if such reforms continue and expand, the future of the North Korean people could be much brighter.
As Secretary Powell has said,
The past does not have to be the future for Pyongyang and its people. We believe that the light of transformation can start to shine where darkness currently prevails....To move this process forward we believe the North should quickly live up to its standing agreements with the South -- for example, extending a rail link to the South, establishing free trade zones at Kaesong and elsewhere, as well as reuniting separated family members.
President Bush has repeatedly emphasized that we support dialog between the North and the South. He has also made clear that our deepest sympathies lie with the oppressed and starving North Korean people, for whom we have provided the largest amount of humanitarian assistance this year, including 155,000 metric tons of grain.
The North must also begin implementing military confidence-building and tension reduction measures. Some 30 kilometers from where I stand lies one of the most dangerous places on Earth -- the demilitarized zone. The 38th Parallel serves as a dividing line between freedom and oppression, between right and wrong. The brave forces of our two countries stand ready to defend against an evil regime that is armed to the teeth, including with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. It is a regime that has just a few miles from Seoul the most massive concentration of tubed artillery and rocketry on earth. We in America must always be cognizant of this enormous conventional threat to the South, and especially to the people of your thriving capital.
Change in the North's diplomatic, economic, and security posture is necessary, but not sufficient, for it to join the community of nations. Today, perhaps our gravest concern is Pyongyang's continuing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and exporting the means to deliver them. I must say personally that this administration has repeatedly put the North on notice that it must get out of the business of proliferation. Nonetheless, we see few, if any, signs of change on this front. Too frequently, North Korea acts as if the world will keep looking the other way. Unfortunately, the global consequences of its proliferation activities are impossible to ignore.
Since I am Secretary Powell's senior advisor on Arms Control and International Security, let me provide a panoramic view of North Korea's WMD activities -- chemical, biological, and nuclear as well as the export of missiles and missile technology -- and thus explain to you here in South Korea why we are so concerned and the nature of the challenge I believe we face together.
In regard to chemical weapons, there is little doubt that North Korea has an active program. This adds to the threat to the people of Seoul and to the R.O.K.-U.S. frontline troops. Despite our efforts to get North Korea to become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, they have refused to do so. Indeed, dating back to 1961, when Kim Il-sung issued a public "Declaration of Chemicalization -- North Korea has flouted international norms. Both of our governments recognize this threat. In a recent report to Congress, the U.S. Government declared that North Korea "is capable of producing and delivering via missile warheads or other munitions a wide variety of chemical agents." A recent Defense White Paper published by the South Korean Government concurred, noting that North Korea has a minimum of 2,500 tons of lethal chemicals, and that North Korea is "exerting its utmost efforts to produce chemical weapons."
The news on the biological weapons front is equally disturbing. The governments of both the United States and South Korea are aware that the North possesses an active bioweapons program. Indeed, at times the North has flaunted it. In the 1980s, the North Korean military intensified this effort as instructed by then-President Kim Il-sung, who declared that "poisonous gas and bacteria can be used effectively in war."
Both North and South Korea became signatories to the Biological Weapons Convention in 1987, but only the South has lived up to its commitments under this treaty. Just last month, your country made a historic decision to go further and withdraw from the reservation clause in the Geneva Protocol and wholly prohibit the use of biological weapons.
But what can be said of North Korea? The U.S. Government believes that North Korea has one of the most robust offensive bioweapons programs on earth. North Korea to date is in stark violation of the Biological Weapons Convention. The United States believes North Korea has a dedicated, national-level effort to achieve a BW capability and that it has developed and produced, and may have weaponized, BW agents in violation of the Convention. North Korea likely has the capability to produce sufficient quantities of biological agents within weeks of a decision to do so.
The North’s Nuclear Weapons Program
Let’s turn our attention now to the nuclear question. The U.S. has had serious concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program for many years. In a recent report to Congress, the U.S. Intelligence Community stated that "North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two nuclear weapons." Moreover, "Pyongyang continued its attempts to procure technology worldwide that could have application in its nuclear program."
It is true that North Korea has frozen plutonium production activities at the Yongbyon facility as required by the Agreed Framework of 1994 and has allowed a large number of spent fuel rods that could otherwise be used to make nuclear weapons to be stored safely under international supervision. Still these important steps are only part of the agreement. Outstanding concerns remain. To signal our concerns about these unresolved questions, President Bush, for the first time since the signing of the Agreement in 1994, this year did not certify to the U.S. Congress that North Korea is in compliance with all provisions.
The fact is that North Korea has not begun to allow inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to complete all of their required tasks. Many doubt that North Korea ever intends to fully comply with its NPT obligations. Whatever one thinks, the bottom line is that North has delayed for years bringing the required safeguards agreement into force.
Pyongyang's record of the past 8 years does not inspire confidence. It has gone so far as to demand compensation for lost power generation, when its self-constructed barriers are largely to blame for construction delays. If the North has nothing to hide, then full cooperation with the IAEA, as required by its Safeguards Agreement and under the Agreed Framework, should be an easy task. Opening up to IAEA inspectors is the best way to remove suspicions and ensure the delivery of the light water reactors in a timely fashion.
The math is simple. Earlier this month, concrete was poured at Kumho, the facility where the light water reactors are to be built. Construction of a significant portion of the first LWR is now scheduled to be complete by May 2005, at which time the construction schedule calls for delivery of controlled nuclear components. The problem is that key nuclear components to power the reactors cannot and will not be delivered until the IAEA effectively accounts for North Korea’s nuclear activities -- past and perhaps present. The IAEA estimates that these inspections will take at least 3-4 years with full cooperation from North Korea. It is now late summer 2002. Every day that the North fails to allow unfettered IAEA inspections necessarily pushes back the possible completion of the light water reactors.
Continued intransigence on the part of Pyongyang only begs the question: What is North Korea hiding? The concerns of the international community are only deepened by the clear discrepancy between the amount of plutonium that may have been reprocessed at the Yongbyon facility and the amount Pyongyang declared to the IAEA in 1992. The IAEA declared the North’s explanations inadequate. As you recall, when the IAEA wanted to inspect waste sites in North Korea in 1992 to help construct the history of the North’s nuclear program, the sites were deemed off-limits. If the North’s IAEA declarations were accurate, then why not allow verification to occur?
The North could easily answer this question if it complied with the IAEA inspections required under the NPT. In a notable step backward just this past June, however, North Korea withdrew its agreement to discuss the Verification of Completeness and Correctness of the initial declaration of plutonium with the IAEA. This must be changed. If the North is serious and not just using delaying tactics, then it must let the IAEA do its job.
North Korea needs to fulfill its pledge to Seoul when it committed itself to a nuclear free peninsula by signing the Joint North-South Denuclearization Agreement of 1992. That accord mandated random reciprocal inspections and committed both North and South to a nuclear-free peninsula. The South has lived up to its end of the bargain and the North has been handed a real opportunity to improve the welfare of its people and stability on the Peninsula. If the North is serious about peace and reconciliation, then it will do the same.
North Korea’s Global Missile Threat
In addition to its disturbing WMD activities, North Korea also is the world’s foremost peddler of ballistic missile-related equipment, components, materials, and technical expertise. As the CIA publicly reports: "North Korea has assumed the role as the missile and manufacturing technology source for many programs. North Korean willingness to sell complete systems and components has enabled other states to acquire longer range capabilities." It has an impressive list of customers spanning the globe from the Middle East, South Asia to North Africa, with notable rogue-state clients such as Syria, Libya, and Iran.
President Bush's use of the term "Axis of evil" to describe Iran, Iraq, and North Korea was more than a rhetorical flourish -- it was factually correct. First, the characteristics of the three countries' leadership are much the same: the leaders feel only they are important, not the people. Indeed, in North Korea, the people can starve as long as the leadership is well fed. Second, there is a hard connection between these regimes -- an "axis" -- along which flow dangerous weapons and dangerous technology.
Let us use the case of Iran. For some years now, North Korea has provided Iran -- arguably the most egregious state sponsor of terror -- with medium-range ballistic missiles known as No Dongs. Iran has used this assistance and technology to strengthen its Shahab-3 program. The proliferation relationship may work in reverse, and the fruits of this cooperation could be offered for sale on the international market. Exports of ballistic missiles and related technology are one of the North’s major sources of hard currency, which fuel continued missile development and production.
North Korea today faces a choice. If North Korea wants to have a brighter future, it needs to fundamentally shift the way it operates at home and abroad. After all, the Soviet Union had 30,000 nuclear warheads and in the end it still collapsed due to its own contradictions.
Working in lockstep with our allies, South Korea and Japan, the United States is prepared to take big steps to help the North transform itself and move our relations toward normalcy. However, our actions in large part will be incumbent on the D.P.R.K.'s positive movement across a number of fronts. Among other steps, we insist that the North get out of the missile proliferation business. As President Bush has said, "We cannot permit the world's most dangerous regimes to export the world's most dangerous weapons." Also, the North must open up to IAEA inspection and show that it is committed to a nuclear free peninsula. This is what the Agreed Framework was intended to achieve. If the D.P.R.K. fails to do so promptly, the future of the Agreed Framework will be in serious doubt.
Last, but certainly not least, simple decency demands that the North alleviate the suffering and malnutrition of its citizens. To help the people of North Korea, the U.S. remains committed to the World Food Program’s operations in the D.P.R.K. With much better monitoring and access, we could do even more. But international charity alone can't save the North Korean people from tragedy. Economic and political transformation are vital.
During his visit in February to South Korea, President Bush made our intentions clear. He stipulated that we have no intention of invading North Korea. Rather, he said, "We’re prepared to talk with the North about steps that would lead to a better future, a future that is more hopeful and less threatening." We continue to stand by this offer of dialogue -- anytime, anyplace.
Today, however, as President Bush stressed, the stability of the Peninsula is built on the successful and strong alliance between the R.O.K.-U.S. No matter what the future holds, we will stand by the government and people of South Korea.
Released on September 3, 2002