Armitage Says Normal Relations Start With North Korea's End of "Self-Destructive" Ways
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2003 An immediate cost to North Korea for normal relations with other nations is to stop trying to commit suicide and blackmail, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said today.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, Armitage discussed North Korea's continued development of nuclear weapons and its "onerous restrictions" on food aid distribution that threaten the lives of millions of its citizens.
"It is time for North Korea to turn away from this self- destructive course. They have nothing to gain from acquiring nuclear weapons -- and much to lose," he said. "Indeed, every day, the people of that country are paying a terrible price for these programs in international isolation and misspent national resources."
Despite the North's lies for nearly a decade about its efforts to gain nuclear weapons and its current stubbornness to continue them, Armitage reminded the committee that the president and State Department have said diplomacy is the best option at this time.
"We intend to resolve the threats posed by North Korea's programs by working with the international community to find a peaceful, diplomatic solution," he said. "Indeed, we are prepared to build a different kind of relationship with North Korea."
He recounted events last year that derailed a "bold new approach" the United States intended for normal relations with the North. That plan had been crafted last summer in consultation with South Korea and Japan, he said.
Among other things, the plan called for political and economic measures to help improve the lives of the citizens of North Korea, where millions have already died of starvation over recent years or who are at risk now of imminent starvation, but only after the North Korean government abandoned its nuclear weapons programs in a "verifiable and irreversible manner."
He discussed conditions on North Korea that would meet U.S. approval: the immediate freeze on activities at the Yongbyon complex and the plutonium program there; the dismantlement of its program to develop nuclear weapons through highly enriched uranium; the international verification that it has done so; and it full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Armitage said North Korea would also have to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the treaty's safeguards agreement.
"The U.S. will not dole out any 'rewards' to convince North Korea to live up to its existing obligations," Armitage said. "But we do remain prepared to transform our relations with that country once it complies with its international obligations and commitments. Channels of communication between our countries remain open, but ultimately, it is the actions of North Korea that matter. And North Korea needs to act soon, for the sake of its people."
He discussed unusual restrictions North Korea places on the distribution of food aid. It requires that World Food Program officials give six days' notice of visits to food distribution sites. It does not allow the WFP to use Korean-speaking staff. It also denies the WFP access to about 20 percent of North Korean counties, he said.
"No other nation in the world places such excessive restrictions on food aid," he said.
Armitage said the restrictions prevent the United States from being certain that its donated food, which the WFP distributes, actually reaches the starving North Koreans who need it.
"We do have concerns and we do face challenges with this assistance," he said, adding the North Korean government puts continued food aid at risk.
America is and has been for years the world's biggest contributor of food aid to North Korea, he told the senators, but it's also obliged to feed its own hungry and has commitments to help over 80 other countries.
President Bush has stressed the United States will continue its emergency food aid and will not use food as a weapon, "(Our) competing demands naturally will have to factor into our decision about exactly how much aid to give North Korea," he said.
Armitage said the United States is willing to talk to North Korea about how to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, but threat posed affects the entire region. South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Australia and other neighbors have reasons to be concerned.
"The threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programs sends ripples of instability across the region -- and around the globe," he said. The U.S. government hopes to increase relations with international partners and allies to make "North Korea understand the potential consequences of (its) dangerous and provocative actions."
Secretary of State Colin Powell, he said, speaks regularly to his Asia-Pacific and European counterparts, and those of other nations. "Without exception, they share our concerns and our commitment for a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula," he said.
Armitage said the United States will continue to seek dialogue between South Korea and North Korea as part of the "international community's effort to find a diplomatic solution."
His appearance and remarks in the Senate come just months before the 50th anniversary of the Korean Armistice. Signed July 17, 1953, the armistice effectively ended the Korean War, in which more than 4 million Koreans and some 34,000 U.S. service members died.