D.P.R.K Extends Missile Pledge as U.S. Readies to Resume Talks
Wagner, Alex, Arms Control Today
EASING FOUR MONTHS of escalating tensions in the U.S.-North Korean relationship, Pyongyang pledged May 3 to extend its voluntary missile-testing moratorium until 2003, according to officials from the European Union (EU). A senior U.S. diplomat subsequently indicated that the Bush administration will soon resume talks left unfinished by the Clinton administration that could end North Korea's indigenous missile program and missile exports.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-11 told an EU delegation that visited Pyongyang on May 2-3 that he would continue the moratorium on medium- and long-range ballistic missile tests. At a May 3 press conference in Pyongyang, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, who headed the delegation, said that he had expressed the EU's "very grave concern" about Pyongyang's missile program to the North Korean leader. The EU decided to send a high-level delegation to the Korean Peninsula after the Bush administration announced in March that it would not immediately resume missile talks with North Korea. (See ACT, April 2001.)
In September 1999, after Washington announced that it was planning to ease some economic sanctions on North Korea, Pyongyang reciprocated by vowing not to test missiles as long as dialogue continued with the United States. A year earlier, North Korea had shocked the world by conducting a test-flight of its 2,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-I missile over Japan. Kim reaffirmed his moratorium in October 2000, promising then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the 1998 test was the first and last of the medium-range ballistic missile. (See ACT, November 2000.)
However in March, the North Korean government threatened that, given the absence of any negotiations with the Bush administration, the self-imposed moratorium could not be maintained "indefinitely." At a May 4 press conference in Seoul, EU Secretary-General Javier Solana said that Kim "felt free, once the dialogue was stopped, not to continue with the moratorium." But Solana also said that, by extending the moratorium, Kim was indicating "he would like to express restraint" and continue dialogue with the United States.
It is not clear why Kim gave 2003 as the year the moratorium could end, but the 1994 Agreed Framework, in which North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program, stipulates that lightwater reactors be built in North Korea by a "target date" of 2003. Current estimates of the reactor's construction indicate completion by that time is virtually impossible. By allowing North Korea the option of resuming missile tests in 2003, Kim may be buying goodwill while maintaining some leverage should the United States fail to build the reactor.
However, Solana also said Kim reiterated his long-standing demand that North Korea be compensated for giving up its missile exports. …