U.S., North Korea May Hold Talks on North's Missile Sales, MTCR Status

By Medeiros, Evan S. | Arms Control Today, February 1996 | Go to article overview

U.S., North Korea May Hold Talks on North's Missile Sales, MTCR Status


Medeiros, Evan S., Arms Control Today


IN RESPONSE to repeated U.S. attempts to engage North Korea in a bilateral dialogue on missile proliferation issues, Pyongyang has agreed in principle to hold talks with Washington on curbing its missile sales and joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). If it joins the regime, Pyongyang would have to cease exporting ballistic missiles and dismantle its existing arsenal of medium- and longrange missiles.

The MTCR is a voluntary export control regime that aims to limit the spread of missile systems, as well as associated technology, that can deliver a 500-kilogram payload over a distance of 300 kilometers, or that are intended to deliver weapons of mass destruction regardless of range and payload.

One of the several U.S. conditions for supporting a country's membership in the MTCR is that it not possess any missiles with capabilities above the regime's 500kilogram/300-kilometer threshold. (This U.S. condition would not apply to China, which is not a full member of the MTCR.) The regime is not intended to impede national space programs as long as they do not contribute to the production of delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea Seeks Linkage

According to a State Department official involved in North Korean policy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Thomas Hubbard sent a letter in early January to Pyongyang suggesting that both sides revisit the missile issue. North Korea's Foreign Ministry responded positively but, according to the official, sought a further easing of U.S. economic sanctions before setting a date and venue for the missile talks.

The State Department, which rejected the linkage, has said the United States will not consider the further easing of sanctions until there is progress in the areas of missile sales, forward-deployed conventional forces, terrorism, direct North-South talks and accounting for the missing in action from the Korean War.

In January 1995, Washington eased economic sanctions on Pyongyang, allowing limited financial transactions, telecommunications and information trade and the U.S. import of magnesite from North Korea. The State Department hopes that the recent U.S. grant of $2 million in emergency food aid to North Korea may motivate Pyongyang to follow through with missile talks.

Concern Over Future Transfers

Missile sales are a major source of hard currency for the economically isolated North. …

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