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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2004

Lessons from Libya and North Korea's Strategic Choice: Questions and Answers

John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Yonsei University, Graduate School of International Studies
Seoul, South Korea
July 21, 2004

[Under Secretary Bolton's remarks]

QUESTION: Sir, my name is Choi Woon Sung (phonetic). I teach international affairs here. I have two questions for you, Mr. Secretary. The first is, this withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea is something that North Korea has demanded for many years and North Korea will be the country the happiest when they see the U.S. forces withdrawn. In any case, I think measures should have been taken for a price … The price being that such as we have preserved war we have in North Korea and a large number of civilians who were kidnapped during the Korean War and also there are this long-range missiles (inaudible) on the DMZ (inaudible) and so on, we should have demanded some measures (inaudible) in return for withdrawal of U.S. forces. That is the first question.

Second question concerns the state of the war in Korea. Under international law, the condition in Korea is still in a state of war. This can be terminated only by conclusion of (inaudible) peace treaty participated by the (inaudible) during the Korean War. That means, 16 member states which contributed forces to the Korean War and, on the other side, would be China and North Korea. Last time when this conference was held in Geneva, 19…Okay. 50 years ago, the Soviet Union was invited by invitation, in any case, because the peace treaty must be preceded by the solution of the North Korean nuclear crisis on a CVID basis. So, I want your comments on these two questions. Thank you, sir.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Okay. Thank you, Ambassador. With respect to the first question, I think the most important point is that as the United States, in consultation with the Republic of Korea, considers the most appropriate disposition of our forces on the Peninsula. The absolute prerequisite for us is that there be no diminution in our capability and no diminution in our capacity and determination to uphold our commitments to the alliance. Changing circumstances can mean different location, different amount, different size and equipment for the forces but the underlying commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea remains unchanged. I think how we structure the forces and how we deploy them obviously is for the United States and the Republic of Korea to consider on their own, not to negotiate with the North.

Now, you raise, however, some other important issues, the disposition of North Korean forces north of the DMZ, their capacity to attack the South, particularly with chemical weapons and possibly with other weapons of mass destruction, and the ongoing problem of North Korean human rights abuses over the years. I think we’ve made it plain that we’re not just talking now about how to resolve the problem posed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, but also its pursuit of chemical weapons, biological weapons, ballistic missile technology, the disposition of their forces, and human rights abuses. All of those have to be addressed. I think, in part, what I’ve said addresses your second question about when an armistice can be turned into a permanent peace treaty. Certainly, it’s after all of those issues and many others are resolved.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate on the role played by … (inaudible) Kim of Korea University. I want you to elaborate on the roles played by the U.K. in the negotiations between Libya and the U.S. and, particularly, whether you have some kind of relevant application of the role in the case of North Korea, for example, whether Japan can play such a (inaudible)-taking role in the negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I think the role played by the United Kingdom was critical. In fact, it was the United Kingdom that Libya first approached just a very short time before the onset of military force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, saying basically that he didn’t want to have happen to him what was about to happen to Saddam Hussein. So, really the role of the British was most important from the outset. Of course, the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom with respect to Libya had a number of elements in common, not the least of which was the fact that the Pan Am 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, and that a number of unfortunate civilian victims were killed on the ground as well as U.K. citizens killed in the crash itself. We had worked very closely with the United Kingdom over the years in trying to resolve not just Pan Am 103, but a range of other terrorist actions that the government of Libya had committed.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom was the joint work that our intelligence communities had been doing for several years and following the Khan proliferation network and watching its intimate connection with Libya and other countries and the danger that the continuing activity of Khan’s network posed. So that our action through the Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict the shipment of uranium centrifuge equipment bound for Libya in late October 2003 was a critical element in convincing Qaddafi that we knew what he was doing.

I think the most significant political aspect was that the United States and the United Kingdom came to share the judgment that the Libyan government had made this strategic decision to give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. It was that shared assessment that allowed us to stay closely together in the negotiations. I think it’s fair to say that, so far, in the case of Japan and the Republic of Korea in particular, there’s a shared assessment on the position that the North has taken in the negotiations and the position that we have that we want the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North’s weapons of mass destruction programs.

QUESTION: I am Professor Jun. (inaudible) My question has to do with Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s comment the other day. She said that if North Korea gives up the nuclear program there would be some surprises for them. I just wonder what those (inaudible) surprises (inaudible) would be?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, she’s not here to speak for herself, but I guess I’ll try to interpret it a little bit. I think she had in mind what I tried to elaborate in this speech, that a strategic decision by Libya to move away from the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction allowed a fundamental change in the relationship between the United States and Libya. Likewise, a fundamental shift by the North, which has not yet occurred, could have the same effect. We’ve said this for over a couple of years now. We’ve called it the "bold initiative" and a number of other things. I think that’s what she had in mind. This is not a quid pro quo kind of negotiation. We’re talking about a fundamental choice by the North that reflects the decision that pursuing weapons of mass destruction makes the DPRK less secure not more secure. Once that calculus comes to the right conclusion, then I think what Dr. Rice had to say applies.

QUESTION: My name is Kim Ji-young. I am a student at the GSIS at Kyunggi University. Now, if North Korea refuses to give up its nuclear program and the situation goes to the extreme, do you think the United States will indeed take military action and even stage a war on the Korean Peninsula? Would you accept a war on the Korean Peninsula?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, you’re asking what your professors would describe as a hypothetical question, which you will see I will do everything I can to avoid answering.

What we’re talking about is the peaceful pursuit of the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but it is the central objective of that effort to make sure that North Korea’s capacity in weapons of mass destruction is not enhanced to the point where it can threaten innocent civilians. This is not really a military threat, so much as it is a threat of terror, the threat that can be used as blackmail again civilian populations, in South Korea, Japan, or depending on the capacity of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, other countries as well. It is that kind of threat that we’re seeking to avoid. We think that it’s possible to succeed through peaceful and diplomatic means and that’s why we’re pursuing the course that we’re pursuing now.

QUESTION: My name is Kim Sun-hyun (phonetic) and I’m majoring in politics and foreign relations at Korea University. Within the international community there is word that North Korea could be the second Libya. However, when it comes to the nuclear issue I believe that North Korea has higher stakes compared to Libya. So, the United States points out that, because of its experience with the Geneva agreement of 1994, it cannot trust North Korea, but I think that it goes the same for North Korea as well, in some sense. So, does the United States have any plans to establish another multilateral framework and carry out talks with North Korea to resolve this issue? In other words, for example, maybe establish another organization like KEDO?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The question of the outcome of the talks at this point fundamentally depends on North Korea. We have, in the last round of Six-Party Talks, elaborated points we’ve made before. We’ve packaged them, tried to explain them, present them in more detail, and so far North Korea has not responded. The real issue is not whether at the end of the road there might be another organization like KEDO. The real organization is when North Korea makes a strategic choice to stop pursuing weapons of mass destruction. That is not yet happened. When it does happen, other things may flow from it. That’s the critical point.

QUESTION: Mr. Bolton, my name is Matthew Philips. I’m a student here at Yonsei. My question is (inaudible) and I wondered how important is it to you and the current administration to have South Korea join PSI?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We have a saying about PSI. We say, "It’s an activity, not an organization." It’s an activity, not an organization. What that means is, what we really care about is whether PSI is operationally successful in interdicting international trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and related materials. We can be successful through cooperation among intelligence agencies, military agencies, law enforcement agencies whether countries make and over political commitment or not.

We’d certainly welcome support, political and operational, from every country in the world. We now have 62 that have declared their support for PSI’s statement of interdiction principles, including most recently in Krakow the decision by Russia to join the PSI core group, bringing our total to 15. So, obviously, our effort on a global basis is to garner as much support as we can at the political and operational levels, but ultimately what’s most important is operational, both the physical interdiction of WMD trafficking and the maximization of the deterrent effect that PSI can bring, that we think was despositive in the case of Libya.

QUESTION: Mr. Under Secretary, my name is Kwani Nasiarosya (phonetic). I am a student here at the Yonsei GSIS. As you mentioned previously sir, the Six-Party Talks seemed the right answer to the failure of the bilateral negotiations, but they are not getting any progresses, substantial progresses. Is there any strategy from the Bush administration to move on from the current (inaudible)?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: This is the reason Vice President Cheney said recently that time is not on our side in these negotiations. It’s why we made the proposal that we did in the third round, why we’re looking forward to North Korea’s reaction to it. The fundamental point I come back to again is whether North Korea has decided or will decide that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not actually contributing to its security. Once it comes to that realization, as Libya did, then I think a lot of things are possible. It’s not the talks alone that are going to bring progress; it’s the decision North Korea needs to make to give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Bolton. I am a student at Yonsei GSIS. From the recent visits from U.S. government officials, we can believe that the U.S. has been taking a much softer approach towards North Korea. Can you say that there has been a change in the U.S.’s policy towards North Korea?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I know it’s a favorite subject of journalists and others to say: policy’s gotten harder, policy’s gotten softer, hardliners are up, softliners are up. All I can tell you is that the policy that we’ve been pursuing has as its objective the achievement of eliminating North Korea’s programs of weapons of mass destruction, in the nuclear field, as we call it, complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement. That has been the policy. That remains the policy. We are pursuing it through the Six-Party Talks, which have not made as much progress as we had hoped. That’s one reason why we made the presentation we did at the third round of talks and now the ball is in North Korea’s court.

PROF. LEE: Listen folks, Secretary Bolton’s visit and talk to Yonsei University. Everything that I heard from John was basically quite reasonable, so heaven knows why they brand you as a quote-unquote hardliner. You are a realist and you work very hard for a pragmatic approach to dismantling the WMD on the Korea Peninsula. So, once again, John, thank you so much for visiting Yonsei University and GSIS. We hope to welcome you back in the near future. Thank you very much.

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