Rice Calls on North Korea To End Its Self-Imposed Isolation

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on North Korea to end its self-imposed isolation, saying the United States is prepared to engage the county "in a major way" if the Pyongyang regime abandons its nuclear weapons program.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on January 5, Rice said: "(I)t's a North Korean choice to be isolated, not American policy to isolate them."

She noted that the Six-Party Talks involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States resulted in a statement of principles signed by all parties September 19, 2005, that "makes very clear that when the North Koreans are prepared to give up their nuclear ambitions, that the United States, as well as the other parties, are prepared to engage them and engage them in a major way." (See related article.)

The secretary acknowledged that Pyongyang is "a dangerous regime."

But she cautioned against misinterpreting the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.  "There is a significant deterrent to North Korean activity there," she said.

The secretary said U.S. sanctions on North Korean companies were imposed because of illegal activities such as counterfeiting U.S. currency.  (See related article.)  Rice said that although North Korea recently said it would not return to the Six-Party Talks until U.S. sanctions were lifted, "there hadn't been much uproar from anybody else about the fact that we are engaged in trying to constrain those illicit activities."

The United States, she said, has "no illusions about the nature of the North Korean regime.  We have no illusions about what is happening to the North Korean people and about the need to speak out on those issues.  But if the North Korean regime would be prepared for greater openness, for greater engagement and to denuclearize, I think you would see a totally different situation…."

Rice was asked if constraints on military and civilian nuclear programs are unevenly applied to different nations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

"I think that one of the problems that the Nonproliferation Treaty has is that it assumed that all conditions were going to be identical," Rice replied.  "And I think what we've learned is that conditions are different in different places."

Civil nuclear power in some countries does not arouse concern because those countries "have demonstrated no desire toward nuclear weapons," she said.

But she said the "worst cases" have actually been countries that have placed themselves under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and signed on to NPT obligations, then cheated on those obligations.  She named North Korea and Iran as examples.

Rice said U.S. policies are designed to close the "loopholes" in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"For instance, if you don't have enrichment and reprocessing capability, any state should instead be willing to agree to assured fuel supply," she said.  "So that doesn't speak to the character of the state; it speaks to the status of a state along the fuel cycle…."

"I think the issue that we really face is how to make the Nonproliferation Treaty effective, how to close its loopholes and how to react when states have violated their obligations," Rice said.

For more information on U.S. Policies, see U.S. Policy Toward North Korea and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

See also the e-Journal Today's Nuclear Equation.

More information is available on the IAEA Web site.