Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday she won’t apologize to North Korea for calling it an “outpost of tyranny” and she ruled out incentives for the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program like those being offered to Iran.
“You would want to be careful with the North Koreans on front-loading incentives, because we know that story, we know how that worked out last time,” Miss Rice said, referring to a 1994 nuclear deal Pyongyang made with the Clinton administration.
“They took the carrots and … started breaking their obligations,” she told editors and reporters in an hour-long interview at The Washington Times. This was her first newspaper interview since taking office six weeks ago.
On North Korea’s demand that Miss Rice apologize before it will resume negotiations over its nuclear program, she said:
“I don’t think there is any doubt that I spoke the truth, and I don’t know that one apologizes for speaking the truth.”
In her Senate confirmation hearing in January, Miss Rice called North Korea — along with Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Burma and Belarus — “outposts of tyranny.”
Miss Rice said yesterday that she was “heartened” by the support of key countries in the Middle East for a U.S.-French effort to expel Syrian forces from Lebanon.
As she prepared to leave Monday on her first trip to East Asia as secretary, she said that North Korea is not worthy of the economic gestures Washington is extending to Iran as part of a joint effort with Europe to resolve a nuclear standoff with Tehran.
She referred to initiatives announced yesterday that include an agreement to license spare parts for Iranian civilian aircraft and enabling Iran, if it abandons its efforts to enrich uranium, to apply for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
North Korea, under the 1994 accord known as the Agreed Framework, froze its plutonium program in exchange for heavy fuel oil and civilian light-water reactors from the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.
In the late 1990s, U.S. intelligence discovered that the Pyongyang government had begun a secret program to enrich uranium, which like plutonium, can be used to make atom bombs.
Miss Rice said yesterday that some incentives, such as “multilateral security guarantees” and helping the North to “meet its energy needs,” were offered during the last round of stalled six-nation talks last summer.
“Thus far, nobody has been able to convince them that this is a good idea,” she said.
In visits to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing next week, the secretary will look for ways to bring the North back to negotiations, which also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
“You can resolve the near-term problem of the North Korean nuclear program, but we can’t do it at the expense of being afraid to speak out about what’s actually going on in North Korea,” she said.