Bolton Urges North Korea to Follow Libyan Model on WMD

John R. Bolton
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
July 23, 2004
Tokyo, Japan

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We are on the record this afternoon with Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John R. Bolton. When you ask questions, after Under Secretary Bolton makes a short statement, please give your name and your organization if you could, and please speak into the microphones in the front so that our interpreters up in the booth can hear. And with that, Secretary ...

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Thank you. Well I've been here for two days of consultations as part of our regular discussions on international security, arms control, and non-proliferation matters. I've met with the Foreign Minister and a variety of officials in the Foreign Ministry, the Japan Defense Agency and others here in town. As I say, we've covered a wide variety of topics: North Korea, Iran, Proliferation Security Initiative, the follow-up from the G-8 Sea Island Summit, where the G-8 leaders agreed on a number of important aspects of President Bush's initiatives to close the loop-holes in the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Perhaps with that I'll just stop and invite your questions.

QUESTION: I'm Takashi Ono with TV Asahi. According to Japan's LDP official who's in Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said yesterday that the pacifist Article 9 of Japan's Constitution has been an impediment to the alliance between Japan and the United States. Now I know you haven't heard him saying that directly, but supposedly he said that - what do personally think about this comment? Do you really think he made this comment?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, we're in double-hearsay category at this point, and so I'm going to avoid that. Let me see if I can address the issue. There's no question that the subject of amending the Japanese Constitution is a paradigmatic example of the exercise of national sovereignty, and that is a matter entirely for the people of Japan. But all of you are obviously familiar with the U.S. role at the time the Constitution was adopted, and I think I can safely say that a decision by Japan to modify that Constitution would be welcomed and accepted by the United States. But as I say, that is a matter of Japanese sovereignty and not something that we would want to get in the middle of.

QUESTION: My name is Kamal Gaballa. I am the Al-Ahram correspondent in Tokyo. There will be a meeting, six-party meeting, next September in Beijing. What's your expectation, first? Second, you have just arrived from Seoul. There are many American and Korean reports saying there are difficulties and misunderstandings between Seoul and Washington. You are just coming from Seoul. How do you evaluate these reports and what did you see in Seoul? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: To respond to the first question, at the last round of Six-Party Talks, the United States pulled a lot of the thoughts we had had and suggestions we had made about how to handle the North Korean nuclear weapons program together, put it out on the table in the form of a proposal that we have characterized as following the Libyan model of how a state that's been pursuing weapons of mass destruction can forswear that pursuit. At the third round of Six-Party Talks, the North Koreans didn't really give a substantive response. They've said they're studying the matter. They've said that in other communications since that third meeting concluded. I would think the ball is in North Korea's court now, and that we would certainly expect that the fourth round, which hasn't been scheduled yet, but whenever that round is scheduled, that we would get a substantive reaction from the North Koreans. Secretary Powell emphasized in his brief meeting in Indonesia with the North Korean Foreign Minister that we were proceeding on the expectation that President Bush was going to win a second term, and that we'd still be dealing with this issue if it weren't resolved beforehand, so that it would be a mistake for North Korea to stall or to try and stall before our election. We're prepared to proceed with the Six-Party Talks. We do think the ball is in North Korea's court. We'd like to see a substantive response to what we outlined in the third round of talks.

With respect to the U.S.-ROK alliance, you know, this is a broad and deep alliance that covers a whole range of important matters in addition to how to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons program. We're in the midst, I think, of very constructive discussions on the future of the alliance involving some difficult and politically sensitive questions - such as the relocation of our base in Seoul, the possibility of redeployment of our forces and realignment of our forces on the peninsula, the deployment of Republic of Korea troops to Iraq - which are going along well. It's in the nature of a long and complex alliance that these issues have to be addressed, and I think they are being addressed responsibly, if I may say so, on both sides. And with respect to North Korea, I think the most important aspect is that there is no disagreement on the fundamental objective, which is a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula. That's something that we've been pursuing. We've had extensive bilateral consultations at all levels with the government of South Korea, trilaterally with the government of Japan, and I think that we have succeeded in avoiding one of the things the North Koreans would undoubtedly like to do, which is to divide us. So I remain optimistic about the state of the alliance.

QUESTION: Satoru Suzuki with TV Asahi. Mr. Secretary, regarding your proposal that North Korea should follow the example of Libya to scrap its WMD, some people have suggested that Chairman Kim Jong-Il should listen to Colonel Qadhafi, if we are to convince Mr. Kim that Libya's experience could serve as a model for the DPRK as well. Now, is the United States government willing to arrange a meeting between Kim Jong-Il and Colonel Qadhafi, or maybe a telephone conversation between them for that matter? Is there any possibility of inviting Libyan officials to the Six-Party Talks?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, it would make for an interesting conversation, I'm sure. I think the point of the Libyan model is that Colonel Qadhafi, who is the central decision-maker in Libya, as Kim Jong-Il is the central decision-maker in North Korea, took a very calculated look at the status of Libya in the world and made a cost-benefit analysis that came to the conclusion that Libya would be much safer renouncing the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction than trying to pursue them. In fact, that's an accurate calculation on his part, and having made that judgment, he opened up the Libyan WMD programs to inspection by American and British experts. In the course of several trips to Libya, we saw everything there was to see with respect to Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons programs and its ballistic missile program.

It wasn't a matter of long negotiations, but U.S., UK and then subsequently international inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons went throughout the programs in Libya. In an even shorter period of time than we might have imagined, we were able, working with the Libyan government, to dismantle the critical elements of its nuclear weapons program and send them to their new home, in Oakridge, Tennessee. So once the strategic decision is made to give up nuclear weapons, I think the Libyan example demonstrates, you can move very quickly, if in fact that strategic decision is made, and that's what could be the way ahead both for North Korea and for Iran.

QUESTION: Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post. In your speech at Yonsei University a couple of days ago, you seemed to rule out a "freeze" as a first step to dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. At the same time, though, you seem to leave the door open to a "halt" under certain circumstances as a first step. Can you explain the difference, and perhaps clarify that for us?

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Yeah, I don't think there is a difference. I think we've said for some time that a freeze alone is not an end, in and of itself. What we seek is the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs. And that remains the objective. How you get there was the subject of the proposition we put on the table at the third round. The case of Libya demonstrates that once a strategic decision to give up weapons of mass destruction is made, you don't need to freeze. You can move directly from the decision to verification and absolute dismantlement. I think that's one of the significant aspects of Libya that's perhaps not so well understood. We took out canisters of uranium hexafluoride. We took out uranium centrifuge equipment. We took out a complete uranium conversion facility. And not to be too wonkish about all this, but this is the equipment that you need to enrich uranium to weapons-grade in order to make nuclear weapons, and we took it all out of the country. So, once the strategic choice is made, if in fact the strategic choice is made, you can move with great speed.

QUESTION: Steve Herman from Voice of America. I am wondering if, based on the latest information you have, you could assess where you believe the North Korean nuclear program is now. There were comments by the North Korean Ambassador in Washington the other day confirming that they do have a nuclear deterrence. Since we heard all this talk about Iraq and Iran with weapons of mass destruction, I am wondering at what stage you believe the North Koreans are at, and where it ranks as a priority for the administration to get rid of it.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: I don't know, from what the North Koreans say on a day-to-day basis, that we necessarily rest our judgment about their capabilities on what they say, because one day they say one thing and the next day they say another. Now whether that is tactical, whether they are lying on one day or lying on another day, I don't know. It doesn't do wonders for their credibility, and particularly their continued refusal to admit to a uranium enrichment program. They have commented, and I think they commented again recently, that they'd be happy to address these allegations of a uranium enrichment program if only we'd tell them what we know about it, and tell them where it was, and tell them what was involved. Well, needless to say, the North Koreans don't need to hear from us where their uranium enrichment program is. They already know that. The danger, I think from our perspective, is that in learning something of what we know, it would also tell them what we didn't know. And there is a lot of about their program that we don't know. We've never made a secret of that. But we are not eager to aid what is, and has been historically, a very sophisticated denial and deception capability that the North Koreans have. We want them to declare their facilities and programs, and subject them to verification as part of a deal that might be made. That is one subject we've discussed extensively, here in Tokyo and in Seoul as well. So the question of what we are prepared to disclose or not is really part of the negotiation process. I would say separately, I think it's important that much of what we have said about North Korea's program has been collaborated independently by things like A.Q. Khan's confessions of what he and his network sold to the North Koreans. We are continuing to follow that up as well, and I think that question of the Khan network is something that is definitely worth pursuing. And we are pursuing it, and there may turn up very substantial additional information.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Khaldon Azhari, Petra News Agency. I have very brief two questions. First, do you support Israel following the Libyan example of dismantling its nuclear arms? Secondly, what about the nuclear armed countries who are, according to many reports, developing their arsenal on a daily basis? Don't you feel that the United States should take a very leading role to make the nuclear club countries show also some concern about the danger caused by such arms to humanity? Thank you.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, on the first point, it has been a consistent American policy for decades that we favor the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. I'll just say it again, we favor the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, and that remains our policy. With respect to what the five declared legitimate nuclear weapon states under the non-proliferation treaty are doing, I'd be happy to match the record of President Bush against anyone's standards of judgment. Early in his administration, we concluded the Treaty of Moscow with the Russian Federation, which will, over time, confirm the reduction of operationally deployed American strategic nuclear warheads from a range of about 6,000 over a 10-year period down to a range between 1,700 to 2,200, or a two-thirds reduction. That is a very substantial step, something that we worked out together with Russia, and the treaty was signed by the two presidents in May of 2002. I think a two-thirds reduction - a commitment to a two-thirds reduction in operationally deployed warheads, is a very substantial accomplishment, and we will be happy to discuss that in next year's non-proliferation review conferences, as we have so far.

QUESTION: Yosuke Watanabe, Kyodo News. May I ask you about the current tension between Taiwan and China? Reportedly, China is going to start a military exercise soon, and from your point of view, how serious is it? Are you worried about it?

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, you know, Dr. Rice was just out in this region and addressed this question of relations across the Taiwan Strait, and I think our policy on this subject is very clear - that discussions between the two sides of the strait should not be conducted in the context of the threat of the use of military force. We favor a negotiated outcome on that. We don't want a major change in the status by either of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and we are prepared to meet our commitments to the government on Taiwan. I think this is a very sensitive matter, and I think it's going to be a subject of continuing discussion between ourselves and the PRC and Taiwan into the foreseeable future. And it's very important in the context of considerations over a range of other issues, such as the Europeans are engaged in, in terms of potential arms sales to China.

QUESTION: ITAR-TASS News Agency of Russia. If North Korea returns to the system of nuclear nonproliferation, and under the control of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, formally Pyongyang can have its own nuclear program. What is the United States attitude to this point of view?

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: I think one element of any agreement that resulted in the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's programs would be North Korea's unconditional return to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. And in our discussions, here and in Washington with others on this question of verification, I think it's central to our concept of how verification would work that the IAEA would have complete access under a safeguards agreement and the equivalent of the IAEA additional protocol. I think that's a bare minimum. We have a lot of other ideas about verification by the five permanent members of the Security Council, possibly by the other parties to the Six-Party Talks. But I think it's clear in our position that we don't think that there is any peaceful aspect to the North Korean nuclear program, and they've admitted as such in the most recent round of Six-Party Talks, although I don't discount that that might change in the future. But the only explanation that we have for what they've been doing is that it's associated with a weapons program, which is why, when we've talked about dismantlement, we've talked about it in the context of complete dismantlement.

QUESTION: Andrew Morse from the Wall Street Journal. With regards to the matter of Charles Jenkins, how do you think the United States should proceed, and do you think this situation has the potential to become an irritant in U.S.-Japan relations?

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, I'm not here to commit news on Sgt. Jenkins' situation. I think Ambassador Baker issued a statement a few days ago. It's an excellent statement, and I think this is a matter that I can say - as kind of an observer - I think both governments have handled well. It's sensitive on both sides, and there are important considerations, but we've been in very close touch with the government, and I'm sure that will continue, and if we have anything further to say on it, my guess is, you would hear it from Ambassador Baker.

QUESTION: Thank you, your Excellency. My name is Kamal Gaballa again. Are you optimistic there will be a remarkable progress in the North Korea issue before the election, I mean to help President Bush for his campaign? Thank you.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, you know, I'm not really either an optimist or a pessimist by nature, but I think the important point is that one of the reasons that we put the formulation on the table, that we did at the third round of the Six-Party Talks, was to show that we are prepared to try and make these talks work. That has been President Bush's commitment to a peaceful and diplomatic, multilateral resolution of the North Korean issue. So we've put something - we've put the ball in North Korea's court. We want to see what their response is. So far, they have not made a substantive response, but by the time the next round of Six-Party Talks is scheduled, they will have had many weeks, possibly months, to study the proposal and to comment on it, and I think if they want the talks to move forward, it's now incumbent on them to come back with a reaction to it. They may - and many people in the United States and Korea experts around the world think that they may try and stall. I hope they don't. That's not what we're doing, but it's up to them whether they want to make progress or not.

QUESTION: Joe Coleman with Associated Press. I was wondering what the latest thinking is in the administration on the idea of a guarantee that the U.S. would not attack or overthrow the North Korean government. This has come up in Representative Kurt Weldon's talks with senior North Korean officials recently.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: I think our position on that has been quite consistent for some period of time - we've said we have no intention of invading or attacking North Korea. We've put the question of security assurances at an appropriate time as part of our proposition. We have experience historically with how that would work, in the case of Ukraine at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union - its return of strategic weapons and ICBMs to the Russian Federation - at the conclusion of which process, there were trilateral security guarantees given to Ukraine by Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. And I think Secretary Powell has often said we can find a way to put that on paper - if we can get what is the most important thing at this point, which is a strategic decision by North Korea to give up its weapons of mass destruction. And that remains to be seen, whether they're prepared to make such a strategic decision.

Yes sir, you want to do it again?

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm not a candidate for anything.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: I'm not a candidate for anything either, so ...

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I heard in the Japanese newspapers recently that the business federation here, called Keidanren, asked the government and the ruling parties to ease the arms export ban - to ease the ban on exporting arms from Japan, basically. So do you have any comment on this? Do you think that would be good for the Japanese-American alliance if Japan becomes an arms exporter? Thank you.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, there are a number of aspects to that question, and I don't purport to be an expert on all of the possible changes that are being considered here, but one change that could be necessary would be involved in joint development of missile defense systems and components. When you have that kind of joint development, under our formulation of our export laws, you'd have both imports and exports between the two countries as they are doing their joint development and possibly production effort. So, although it doesn't sound like it's a big export-import problem, in fact it does implicate domestic regulations in all of the partner countries. I think that we are very confident about the strength and enforcement of Japan's export controls involving WMD proliferation, and I am not at all worried whatever decision might be taken in some of these things that are under consideration about any diminution in Japan's commitment to WMD and ballistic missile non-proliferation.

QUESTION: Steve Herman from VOA again. We're hearing reports from the Korean government, the South Korean government, today that hundreds of North Korean defectors will come to South Korea next week via a third country. I'm wondering what you've heard about that, and do you believe that there is now some larger than usual movement of people indirectly from North Korea to South Korea? UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: I haven't heard anything about it, so I'm really not in a position to comment.

QUESTION: Satoru Suzuki with TV Asahi again. I'm not quite sure whether you answered my question about possibly Libyan involvement in attempts to persuade North Korea to follow the Libyan model. Is there any possibility whatsoever of Libyans getting involved in any talks with North Korea?

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, I don't know the answer to that. I think one thing that's significant is that part of Libya's commitment not to pursue weapons of mass destruction was its commitment not to purchase weapon systems from North Korea and Iran and other countries. I think that may inhibit conversations between Libya and North Korea on other issues, but that's part of the manifestation of the Libyan government's decision that, in fact, it was going to give up weapons of mass destruction. It's part of the evidence of the extent, the nature of the strategic choice that Libya made. I'll let it go at that.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about speculation that Japanese technology has ever had any role to play in North Korea's weapons development.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, you know, no system of export controls is perfect. I wouldn't say that about the United States. We have a very vigorous licensing and enforcement regime that people working for me administer. It's a difficult and complex system; we think it's pretty effective, but I have no doubt - and it's reflected in criminal prosecutions that we've undertaken - that the system doesn't catch everything, and I have no doubt that Japan's export control system is just as vigorously enforced as the U.S. system. Does that mean that at some point there haven't been exports of sensitive information to the wrong countries? I think it's almost certain that there have been. It's not an indication of difficulty with Japan; it's something that happens. When we find out about it, we exchange information. We work to make our systems better, and if that proves out in this case, I'm sure that will be our response.

QUESTION: Have you found out about it?

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: Well, you know, over the years there have been - we've found evidence of all kinds of things in all kinds of countries, and as I say, there's a lot we don't know about what's going on in North Korea, and I'll just let it go at that.

One more over here, and then maybe ...

QUESTION: Andrew Morse from the Wall Street Journal. Earlier when one of my colleagues asked you about the reported remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, you said that we entered into a double-hearsay situation. I'd like to ask you directly if you had any conversations during your visit with your Japanese colleagues about possible amendment of Article 9. Thank you.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: No, the only conversations we've had have been about the press reports about the double-hearsay. So really, it's not beyond that, and I do think it's a recognition of a debate in the political system here in Japan that reflects the growth and extent of Japan's political maturity and its role in the world, and I think it's entirely natural that the debate is going on, and we'll see how it's resolved, but we'll watch it as observers.

OK, one more time and then that's it.

QUESTON: I'm very sorry, but my duty is covering Korea also. You are waiting and asking for a strategic decision from North Korea. Are you ready for a strategic decision also, I mean, to normalize the relation with the North, to sign a peace treaty with North Korea? I mean, are you ready to do that if they have their own strategic decision? Thank you. My name is Kemal Gaballa.

UNDERSECRETARY BOLTON: I think the importance of looking at this strategic decision is because it tells you whether the country has truly committed to taking the steps necessary to give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and that involves a lot of steps in terms of unwinding the program, opening up to inspection and verification and follow-on measures over the years - of the kind that we have been discussing with Libya, and that Libya has committed to with us, the United Kingdom, the IAEA and the OPCW. What we have said before - what Dr. Rice said when she was here, and what we've said going back several years, in terms of things that have been called the "Bold Initiative" and so on - is that once North Korea, or Iran, makes the strategic decision - and it's required at that level, at that depth, that importance - to give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, all kinds of possibilities are open in terms of their relationship with the rest of the world. Now up until the case of Libya, someone might have said, 'Well, that's just hypothetical on the part of the United States.' But you can see what we've done in Libya. We have lifted certain sanctions. We have opened a liaison office in Tripoli for the first time in decades, and other possibilities exist once we resolve other issues involving support for terrorism. So on the part of the United States, our response is not hypothetical. That's why the Libyan model, we judge, is so important. It's been a success in the case of Libya. It could be a success in the case of North Korea or Iran.

OK, well thank you all very much.