- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

North Korea has broken pledges made to the Clinton administration to give up its nuclear weapons program and has signaled it no longer will abide by the 1994 anti-nuclear accord, the Bush administration said last night.
The North Koreans are in "material breach" of the 8-year-old Agreed Framework, White House spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, referring to the cornerstone accord under which Pyongyang promised to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for U.S. help in building two nuclear power plants.
The startling revelation seems certain to place a major strain on U.S.-North Korean relations, which plummeted when President Bush ordered a full-scale review of the Clinton administration's engagement policy and last year included the communist regime with Iraq and Iran in the "axis of evil." State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said last night that arms control chief John Bolton and James Kelly, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, are traveling to the region to confer with allies.
North Korea's secret nuclear weapons program "is a serious violation of North Korea's commitment under the Agreed Framework as well as under the Nonproliferation Treaty [and] its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement."
A U.S. official told The Washington Times that senior Bush administration national security officials met on Tuesday to discuss the North Korean nuclear program and whether the 1994 Agreed Framework could be salvaged.
The official said the framework likely will be jettisoned since it was supposed to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
U.S. intelligence agencies have detected signs in the past several years that North Korea was covertly seeking nuclear-enrichment capability.
In 1999, U.S. intelligence agencies detected efforts by a North Korean trading company to purchase enrichment technology from a Japanese manufacturer. An intelligence report, first disclosed by The Times, stated that the technology could allow North Korea to develop the capability to produce fuel for nuclear weapons within six years. The sale of the equipment was blocked at the time, U.S. officials said.
In August, construction began on the concrete foundation for the building in Kumho that eventually will house a light-water nuclear reactor that is to be delivered in 2004 under the Agreed Framework.
The disclosure also places a major obstacle in the path of improved relations between North and South Korea, where South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has pursued a rapprochement with the poorer North in a bid to end a half-century of division on the Korean peninsula.
In Seoul today, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-sik said South Korea has consistently pursued the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in line with international agreements.
"We urge North Korea to abide by its obligations," he said. The Japanese government issued no immediate response. Japan and South Korea are treaty allies of the United States.
Administration officials said North Korean officials acknowledged during Mr. Kelly's visit to Pyongyang earlier this month that they were pursuing a uranium-enrichment program. U.S. government arms control specialists contend that the enriched uranium can be used only for nuclear weapons.
The Agreed Framework has been a matter of sharp dispute within U.S. arms-control circles, with many conservatives suspicious of the ability of U.S. monitors to police the secretive North Korean regime's compliance with the agreement.
Skeptics of the Agreed Framework in Congress have pressed the Bush administration to declare North Korea in violation of the agreement, while supporters of the accord have accused the administration of seeking any pretext to declare the agreement null and void.
Despite the skeptics, Jack Pritchard, the State Department's special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, was sent to North Korea to attend the Aug. 7 foundation-laying ceremony for the first nuclear reactor promised by the United States under the framework accord.
North Korea has maintained that the United States has failed to follow through with promised economic benefits that are supposed to be the compensation for Pyongyang's agreement to halt its nuclear research.
Mr. Kelly's Oct. 3-5 trip to Pyongyang involved the first high-level talks between U.S. and North Korean officials since Mr. Bush took office.
In public statements after the meeting, both sides signaled that the conversations had been difficult.
The Pyongyang talks "were frank as befits the seriousness of our differences, and they were useful, too," Mr. Kelly told reporters in Seoul, where he briefed South Korean officials on the day his visit to North Korea ended.
Mr. Kelly said he raised Washington's concerns about the missile and weapons programs and about North Korea's human rights record, adding that no immediate plans were made for additional meetings.
The State Department emissary did not mention in his brief public remarks the North Korean admission cited by Mr. McCormack last night.
North Korea labeled Mr. Kelly "arrogant and high-handed" in his talks with senior officials there.
Last night's announcement by the White House left many questions unanswered, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and a supporter of the 1994 accord.
"Based on what little we know, it's very unclear whether the evidence presented by the administration really does constitute a breach by North Korea of the agreement," he said. "If there is a new crisis regarding North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the Bush administration bears a heavy responsibility to try and resolve it."
Under the 1994 agreement, North Korea promised to give up its nuclear program and to allow inspections to verify that it did not have the material needed to construct such weapons.
Mr. Kelly's trip to North Korea had been expected to explore the issue of the ostensibly frozen nuclear program as well as missile technology and conventional forces.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide