- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Rep. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, the Republican chairman of the House International Relations Committee, yesterday backed President Bush's hard-line stance toward North Korea, threatening to block completion of a 1994 nuclear deal unless the North clearly reveals its nuclear past.
Mr. Hyde said the nuclear deal, in which the United States, South Korea and Japan promised the North two modern atomic power plants, depends on the North explaining its earlier manufacture of plutonium "in quantities sufficient to build nuclear weapons."
The "Agreed Framework," as the deal is known, "got us past the 1994 nuclear crisis," Mr. Hyde said.
"It did so not by resolving the dispute between North Korea and the [International Atomic Energy Agency], but rather by postponing resolution of the dispute to a point well into the future."
If the dispute is not resolved, Mr. Hyde told the American Enterprise Institute, "and we continue to insist on verification, then under the terms of the Agreed Framework the reactors should not be completed."
Mr. Hyde offered the warning as North Korea abruptly canceled Cabinet-level talks with South Korea. Mr. Hyde and other knowledgeable officials in Washington say Mr. Bush's harsh warning last week that the United States would insist on "verification" of all deals with the North prompted the last-minute cancellation by the Pyongyang government.
The Bush administration's chill toward North Korea followed a year of North Korean overtures toward both the United States and South Korea, including visits to Pyongyang by Madeleine K. Albright, the secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.
"If there has been no break with the past, President Bush's insistence on verification will make it very unlikely that the nuclear reactors will ever be completed in North Korea," Mr. Hyde said.
Mr. Hyde proposed that Congress and the Bush administration form a "Bipartisan Accord on North Korea" to cement in place verification demands made by the United States.
"If the North Korean government is genuinely interested in improving relations with the United States, it too must accept that it needs to give us signs of reassurance and understanding.
"What we need is a signal of a genuine break with the past and a commitment to cooperation in the future.
"The best way for the North Korean government to send such a signal, perhaps the only way for it to do so, is to acknowledge the need for verification, to cease resisting its existing verification obligations, and to positively embrace the concept as a way of demonstrating to the world that it no longer has anything to hide."
Mr. Hyde also said any North Korean willingness to conclude a future agreement to stop missile production or proliferation must be verified.
In addition, he said that any U.S. launch of North Korean satellites part of a missile deal now being offered by Pyongyang must not allow the transfer of sensitive technology.
The United States negotiated the Agreed Framework in 1994 for North Korea to freeze its nuclear weapons programs in return for the provision to build twin light-water nuclear power plants and supply fuel oil until the plants were completed.
But Republicans opposed the deal because it did not allow full verification of how much plutonium the North already had produced as potential bomb fuel.
Yesterday, Mr. Hyde said Republicans had in the past slowed the framework process by delaying shipments of fuel oil.
"There is probably no more contentious foreign policy issue than this over the past decade," said Mr. Hyde, who projects considerable influence in the House. He called for a bipartisan agreement on future policy toward the North.
The Clinton administration signed the nuclear deal when worries about the North's nuclear program "gave rise to a crisis that some say almost led to war in the spring of 1994," Mr. Hyde said.
"Skeptics in Congress had few means to slow down the nuclear project, because [the reactors were] not funded by the United States [but by South Korea and Japan]. So … we restricted U.S. funding for the purchase of heavy fuel oil under the Agreed Framework."
It was not clear how North Korea would react to any attempt to block construction of the nuclear power plants, which were said earlier to be of a design that makes it difficult to extract nuclear weapons fuel.
Some officials have suggested offering conventional coal or oil-fired power plants instead. Others suggested simply selling or giving them electricity generated in South Korea.
The unraveling of the Agreed Framework comes as the Bush administration tacked sharply away from the previous administration's accommodating stance in recent days, with one official calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a "despot."
Mr. Bush's shift came as South Korean President Kim visited Washington last week seeking support for his own dovish "sunshine policy" toward the North.
Yesterday's brief announcement by North Korea that it would not attend scheduled ministerial talks the latest in a series of high-level meetings since the leaders of North and South met in Pyongyang in June was seen by some as a reaction to Mr. Bush's strong condemnation of North Korea last week.
Kim Sung-han, a North Korea expert at South Korea's state-funded Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, speculated in Seoul that the cancellation was "an indirect protest of the results" of the Bush-Kim summit, the Associated Press reported.
However, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher dismissed any link between a tougher U.S. policy toward the North and the cancellation as "pure speculation."
"They didn't specify any reasons for postponing the South-North ministerial," Mr. Boucher told reporters at the State Department.
"There's no reason to believe that as has happened in the past when these things have been postponed that this ministerial will not be rescheduled."


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