Rice Emphasizes Diplomatic Approach to North Korea Crisis

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - A diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis is still possible, and the U.N. resolution aimed at reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions is not designed to escalate tensions, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

During an October 19 joint press briefing in Seoul, South Korea, with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, the soon-to-be secretary-general of the United Nations, Rice said some of the early reports about the intent of Resolution 1718 in terms of cargo inspections “have been a little exaggerated.”

“[S]ome people seem to be imagining quarantine or a blockade,” she said.  “That is not the intention of the resolution.”

Resolution 1718, the secretary said, calls for “scrutiny” of North Korean cargo that might be involved in nuclear programs.  “But there are many different ways in which this can be achieved,” Rice said. (See related article.)

She said the United States and the Republic of Korea have been engaged actively in container security initiatives and port security initiatives that focus on detection of potential radioactive materials. The United States and other countries also have been engaged in various counterproliferation measures under the Proliferation Security Initiative. 

That initiative, announced by President Bush in 2003, seeks to counter proliferation networks by working with like-minded states prepared to make maximum use of their laws and capabilities to deny rogue states, terrorists and black marketeers access to materials related to weapons of mass destruction-related and to means of delivering those materials.

Rice said the initiative relies very heavily on intelligence.  “It isn't just sort of constant random inspection of ships.  And it relies on international law,” she said, adding that the initiative has been implemented “in a way that has been effective but I think has not been confrontational.”

The United States hopes, the secretary said, that there are “many measures that could be taken to implement Resolution 1718 that have the same character.”

Rice is in Asia to rally support for Resolution 1718 and coordinate efforts to implement it.  Other stops on her trip include Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow. In all her public appearances, she has underscored the importance of reaching a diplomatic solution to Pyongyang’s defiance of the international community.

“I want to emphasize again,” she said in her appearance with Ban, “the United States has no desire to do anything to escalate this situation.  And so the idea that somehow we would want 1718 to be implemented in a way that escalates tensions on the Korean Peninsula, or on the high seas for that matter, simply could not be more wrong.”

In Tokyo, she told the press October 19:   “I want everyone to know that there remains a path open for diplomacy and that we hope that the North [North Korea] will return to the talks, but this time return really willing and ready to dismantle its weapons program.  The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the purpose of those talks.” (See related article.)

A transcript of Rice’s remarks in Seoul is available on the State Department Web site.

For additional information, see International Security and The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.