Speeches

Washington, D.C.- Senator John McCain spoke to the Heritage Foundation today regarding the North Korean Agreed Framework, and gave the following remarks: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to offer my views about the framework agreement with North Korea to such an informed audience. I suppose I should refer to it as the new framework agreement since we have just agreed in Kuala Lumpur to a slightly modified version of the original agreement. I may surprise a few people today by saying at the outset that I am not very disturbed by our recent concessions to North Korea about how we will refer to the provider of the two, $4 billion light water reactors promised to North Korea under the terms of the agreement. South Korea will provide them, and everyone knows that. The KEDO statement confirms that. Apparently, President Clinton's letter to President Kim confirms that. The fact that a joint U.S./North Korean statement issued from Kuala Lumpur makes no mention of the South Koreans, and implies an exaggerated American role in the construction of the reactors than is really the case seems to me to be a relatively minor concession. However, I need a more accurate measure than I presently have of how much damage has been done to-our alliance with South Korea to form a firm opinion on the gravity of these latest concessions. Neither am I terribly exorcized over our agreement to underwrite the cost of selecting and preparing the site for the reactors. After all, $15 million is hardly on par with North Korea's usual larceny. We did not -- as of yet, anyway -- accede to Pyongyang's demand that we provide an additional $1 billion to build a power grid to distribute the energy produced by the new reactors. Compared to the magnitude of the concessions we previously yielded when confronted by North Korean brinkmanship, these latest offerings seem, at first glance, almost -- almost – inconsequential. Now, having expressed my most benign view to date on the Administration's efforts to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, let me explain why I am convinced that those efforts are doomed to fail. Assistant Secretary Gallucci once described my opposition to the framework agreement as a belief that the Administration "could have given less and received more." I don't think it will surprise Bob too much if I extend our disagreement over the Administration's North Korea policy to dispute his perception of the essence of that disagreement. I do indeed think the Administration "could have given less and received more." However, the "less" which I had in mind is "nothing". And the "more" would be nothing short of North Korea's full compliance with the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. It is not merely the framework agreement that I fault, but the framework for the negotiations that arrived at the agreement. And it is that point which this latest re-negotiation illuminates so clearly. North Korea's threat to reprocess its 8000 spent fuel rods unless the Administration contrived some means to relieve them of the indignity of confronting South Korea's technological superiority represents, by my reckoning, the tenth time Pyongyang reneged on a commitment to the United States. No one should have been surprised that North Korea sought to renegotiate the terms of the framework agreement less than a year after it was concluded. By October 1994, North Korea's utter lawlessness regarding the NPT and various other international commitments was a well know fact of life. Its repeated, blatant violations of the NPT and its threats of more egregious violations were routinely rewarded with concessions by the United States. The concessions were invariably followed-by new acts of bad faith from North Korea. Given their long record of broken promises, treaty violations, and brinkmanship, why would we expect the North Koreans to pay any greater heed to their obligations in the framework agreement? Perfectly consistent-with their past behavior, North Korea's recent threats are even more disturbing as indicators of future performance. Many harder--questions remain unresolved -- the safe storage and transfer of the fuel rods and challenge inspections of suspected nuclear sites to name but two. The framework agreement is structured to provide most of the benefits to North Korea before it is required to begin dismantling its existing nuclear program. Five years may pass before North Korea is required to meet its most fundamental obligations as a signatory of the NPT. No doubt we will again be forced to address North Korea's demand for an additional $1 billion to finance the construction of a power grid. And it is also improbable that we have heard the last of their concerns about the provenance of the new reactors. The North Koreans are unlikely to change their behavior for one very simple reason: it works. And given that most of the important North Korean obligations under the terms of the framework agreement do not come due for five and eight and-ten years, the tantalizing prospect of again reneging on their commitments -- after they have acquired most of the benefits accorded them by the agreement -- may prove to be too powerful an attraction for Pyongyang to resist. The regime is constitutionally disposed to treachery. We are confronting this grim prospect because no serious attempt was ever made to penalize North Korea for its earlier bad faith. When the Administration's appeals to the Security Council for half-hearted sanctions were disrupted by former President Carter's turn as an innocent abroad in North Korea, we scrapped the whole idea of sanctions, and never invoked their specter again. In the place of sanctions we are forever negotiating with North Korea. In a way, the framework agreement is a renegotiated, bilateral Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. I submit that if history teaches us anything about modifying the behavior of totalitarian regimes it is that the efficacy of incentives depends on the simultaneous employment of disincentives. To get a mule to move, you have to show it the carrot and hit it with a stick at the same time. Despite the many reverses that have plagued the Clinton Administration's North Korea policy, one quality of their diplomacy has remained constant. Their approach to the crisis has always reflected the mirror opposite of North Korea's. Our diplomacy employs only carrots; theirs, only sticks. Whenever our carrots have failed to prevent North Korean transgressions, the Administration has limited its choice of sticks to the withdrawal of the carrot. The North Koreans repeatedly raise then withdraw a threat, masking their forbearance as a carrot. Using sticks such as their latest threat to reprocess their fuel rods, the North Koreans have consistently sought and received a better deal. I do not blame their tireless pursuit of an ever elusive lasting agreement with the North Koreans on the naivete of Administration officials. I am sure Bob Gallucci is far more familiar with North Korean treachery than am I. I suspect that their acquiescence in North Korea's game of kick the can is premised on their presumption that the bankrupt North Korean economy will force the regime's collapse before the worst consequences of the framework agreement are realized. Unfortunately, the North Korean economy may be salvaged during this interim period by agreement's promise of trade relations with the U.S.; greater trade, aid and investment from Japan and South Korea; and the provision of millions of tons of oil to compensate North Korea for the loss of energy it incurred by freezing its nuclear program. of course, the extent of that loss is substantially less than the compensation since North Korea's only operational reactor was never connected to an electrical power grid, and, thus, never fueled a single North Korean light bulb. For about ten years, North Korea is only obliged to freeze the operation of its reactor at Yongbyon and its fuel reprocessing plant, as well as halt construction of its two new reactors. Dismantlement of its program will not begin, -- let me repeat, it will not begin -- until after the first light water reactor is operational. I strongly believe that this arrangement will almost certainly expose North Korea's contempt for its treaty obligations by tempting it to keep its reactors after the receipt of the first light water reactor. The agreement's vague provisions governing the disposition of the 8000 fuel rods which were discharged from the Yongbyon reactor in violation of the NPT also concern me. Should their fuel be reprocessed they would provide North Korea with enough weapons grade plutonium for four to six additional nuclear weapons. The rods are to be stored safely using United States technology until after North Korea receives the first light water reactor when they are to be transferred to a third country. At the present, the rods are still corroding in cooling ponds. Unless, they are soon stored, North Korea may use their corroding as an excuse to reprocess the fuel in order to avoid an imminent ecological disaster. Or perhaps they will just raise the prospect of necessary reprocessing to further renegotiate the terms of the agreement. At a minimum, I have grave doubts that Pyongyang will ever allow the transfer of the rods to a third country. As you all know, we believe the North Koreans already possesses enough plutonium for two nuclear weapons. President Clinton once assured the nation that North Korea would be denied possession of a single nuclear weapon. That assurance was false. Nothing in the framework agreement requires North Koreans to relinquish their nuclear arsenal. They have consistently denied possessing any weapons grade plutonium. Our once adamant intention to open their undisclosed nuclear sites to immediate international inspection so that we might prove their diversion of fuel in 1989 was abandoned in exchange for their vague commitment to allow challenge inspections after most of the first light water reactor has been constructed. I am as certain as I am of anything that when that moment arrives -- probably about five years hence -- Pyongyang will again deny IAEA access to their nuclear waste sites. If this Administration remains in place at that time, I suspect a denial of challenge inspections will occasion additional renegotiations. Before I conclude these brief remarks so that I can take your questions, I would be remiss if I did not express my concerns about how our tolerance of Pyongyang's bad faith is affecting our ability to defend our interests elsewhere in the world. I fear that what I am about to say will sound uncharitable, and I have tried to refrain from saying uncharitable things today. However, I believe the following statement to be true, and if it is true to avoid making it would represent negligence on my part. I cannot say with any certainty how greatly our accommodation of North Korea has weakened the world's perception of American resolve and ability to defend our interests wherever they are at risk. All I know is that is in 1992, with the Soviet Unions's collapse, and our victory over Saddam Hussein achieved, the United States stood at the zenith of its power and prestige. In the last two years much of that prestige has been squandered and an impression has taken hold abroad that the United States has become much easier to intimidate. I think its safe to assume our policy toward North Korea has contributed to this problem. Like so much of the Administration's foreign policy, the framework agreement with North Korea mistakes resolving a crisis with postponing its apogee. In this instance, the Administration's approach threatens to endanger our most vital security interests in Asia for a generation or more. But even if fate eventually smiles as benevolently upon us as the Administration expects it to, wishful thinking is still an awful premise for a superpower's statecraft. # # #