ICAS Special Contribution

No. 2001-0313-HJH

Verification is Crucial to Korean Framework

Henry J. Hyde

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

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Biographic Sketch:Henry J. Hyde

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge a generous contribution, with a written permission, of this paper of Congressman Henry J Hyde to ICAS. He delivered this remark at the conference on North Korea, March 13, 2001, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Washington, D.C. sjk]

Verification is Crucial to Korean Framework
The Honourable Henry J Hyde
U S House of Representatives Committee on International Relations

I welcome this opportunity to express my views on one of the most difficult national security challenges facing our country, the question of how to deal with North Korea.

There has probably been no more contentious foreign policy issue than this over the past decade. It has given rise to bitter debates between Republicans and Democrats, and between the Administration and Congress. These disagreements and the resulting mistrust have undercut our diplomats and diminished the ability of our nation to favorably influence events in the region. It is my fondest hope that, with a new Administration, we can put most of these disagreements behind us and move forward with a new approach toward North Korea that can command broad support here in the United States and among our allies.

The lynchpin of U.S. policy toward North Korea for the last six and a half years has been the Agreed Framework. It is critically important to remember why the Clinton Administration entered into this agreement. It was because the International Atomic Energy Agency found incontrovertible evidence through on-site inspections that North Korea was violating its legal obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. According to the IAEA’s measurements, North Korea had separated plutonium from the fuel rods of its nuclear reactor in quantities sufficient to build nuclear weapons, and was concealing this fact in its official declarations to the IAEA.

North Korea denied these allegations, but the Clinton Administration rejected these denials, and this gave rise to a crisis that some say almost led to war in the spring of 1994. The Agreed Framework got us past the crisis. It did so not by resolving the dispute between North Korea and the IAEA, but rather by postponing resolution of the dispute to a point well in the future.

Against this background – essentially one of alleged violations of international agreements in the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction – many of us in Congress became increasingly concerned after 1994 about the unseemly enthusiasm in certain quarters to construct nuclear reactors in North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal once analogized this to the story told in The Bridge on the River Kwai: British POWs, ordered by their Japanese captors to build a bridge, became so caught up in the project that they almost forgot whose side they were on in the war.

Over the years, many of us in Congress came to perceive that a similar psychology had taken hold with regard to the Agreed Framework. Skeptics in Congress had few means to slow down the nuclear project, because it is not funded by the United States. So instead we used the only leverage available to us: we restricted U.S. funding for the purchase of heavy fuel oil under the Agreed Framework.

In retrospect, this probably reinforced the Bridge on the River Kwai mindset that had taken hold among champions of the Agreed Framework. And the more determined they seemed to be to get on with nuclear reactor construction in North Korea, the more worried we became that they would not allow concerns about North Korean compliance to stand in the way of completing the nuclear reactors.

I am pleased that President Bush has cut through much of this mistrust with a single word that we have heard frequently over the past week: verification.

I do not understand the President to mean by this merely our ability to technically verify any agreement. While essential to any agreement, technical verification reveals little of the real intentions of those signing the accord. Far more important is the demonstrated willingness of the North Korean government to embrace and abide by adequate verification measures.

We are frequently advised that, if there is to be progress in our relations, we must be prepared to repeatedly give the North Korean government signs of reassurance and understanding. But this is a two-way street. 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. Specifically, 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.

So long as the North Koreans view verification as a problem, as something to be resisted, we can only suspect that there has been no break with the past, and no commitment to genuine cooperation in the future. And 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.

This is because, under the terms of the Agreed Framework, the reactors are not to be completed until North Korea and the IAEA resolve the dispute that gave rise to the crisis in the first place. Either the IAEA must be persuaded that its measurements were wrong, or North Korea has to admit that it has been misleading the world for years and reveal the full extent of its nuclear weapons program. If neither of these things happens, and we continue to insist on verification, then under the terms of the Agreed Framework the reactors should not be completed.

Indeed, I would go so far as to predict that if the Administration continues to insist on strict verification – as I expect it will – we will not have to ask the North Koreans to substitute conventional power plants for the nuclear plants, because eventually they will ask us to make this change.

The Administration also is correct in raising concerns about verification of any agreement that might be proposed regarding missile proliferation and deployment by North Korea. The track record of North Korea in this regard is very clear. Accordingly it would be foolhardy to enter such an agreement without provisions allowing on-site monitoring and inspection at least as intrusive as that permitted under our various arms control agreements with Russia.

I have two additional concerns about any missile agreement with North Korea that should be taken into account. To the degree any such deal involves the launching of satellites for North Korea, we need to make sure there is no technology transfer. The purpose of any such agreement would be to terminate North Korea’s missile program, not to run a seminar for them on how to build missiles and launch payloads into space. But if such an agreement were not structured properly, it could easily become a seminar for them, just as our space launch activities in China helped upgrade Beijing’s missile capability.

In addition, I worry a great deal about the compensation that North Korea is demanding in connection with an agreement on missile proliferation. Reportedly they have said we need to pay them $1 billion per year to stop proliferating.

I understand that this may just be an opening position in a negotiation, and it is unclear what the source of such funds would be. Additionally, North Korea has demanded reparations from Japan as a precondition to normalizing diplomatic relations. Such reparations could ultimately total in the billions of dollars. Also, there is the prospect of lending from international financial institutions.

Access to any of these sources of money could effectively guarantee the survival of the North Korean regime. We need to carefully consider the implications of allowing the West to become the principal prop holding up North Korean regime.

With the Bush Administration’s strong emphasis on verification, I believe it is now possible to achieve a consensus over policy toward North Korea between Republicans and Democrats and between the Administration and Congress. Indeed, I would encourage the Administration and Congress to consider entering a "Bipartisan Accord on North Korea" to cement this consensus in place.

The precedent for such an approach is, of course, the "Bipartisan Accord on Central America" that Secretary of State James Baker negotiated with Congress at the beginning of the first Bush Administration. That Bipartisan Accord successfully got us past a foreign policy logjam between the Administration and Congress similar to the one that we have had on North Korea.

We today have Democrats in the House like Congressman Ed Markey, who have been leaders on this issue and who I know would be pleased to join in such an effort with regard to North Korea.

With a domestic political consensus in place, our diplomats could approach implementation of the Agreed Framework with new assurance and with a solid foundation from which to address missile proliferation and other looming issues with North Korea.

* delivered at the conference on North Korea, March 13, 2001, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

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