kim's nuclear gamble

Examining the Lessons of the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Deal

In 1994, the U.S. had been on the brink of war with North Korea over its threat to go nuclear. The Clinton administration negotiated a deal known as the Agreed Framework, in which the North promised to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities in exchange for alternative energy supplies, and eventually, normalization of political and economic relations with the U.S. It was, in effect, the North's first agreement with the outside world. Defenders of the deal argue it averted a devastating war. But critics call the deal an outrage and say it amounts to blackmail and bribery.

In these excerpts from their interviews with FRONTLINE, diplomats and policy makers debate the merits of the 1994 deal and why, in the end, it was never fully implemented.

Home
analyses
who are they?
chronology
discussion
photo of acarter

ashton carter
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy (1993-1996)

read the full interview

In June of 1994, North Korea was preparing to remove some fuel rods from a research reactor which they'd been operating at Yongbyon. [The] fuel rods contained five or six bombs' worth of weapons-grade plutonium. They were going to take those fuel rods and extract the plutonium from them.

We felt that that would bring a potentially hostile nation to the United States across the nuclear finish line and that that wasn't acceptable to us. We were not, by any means, confident that we could talk them out of taking that step, and therefore we looked into the possibility of compelling them by force to set back their nuclear program. We designed a strike of conventional precision munitions on Yongbyon, which we were very confident would destroy the reactor, entomb the plutonium and that we could mount such a strike and carry it out without causing the reactor to create a Chernobyl-like radiological plume downwind, which was an obviously important concern.

It is a Chernobyl-model plant. Correct?

It is graphite-moderated like the Chernobyl plant. It's a smaller scale, but it does have flammable graphite in it so you need to worry that a fire could start and that would sweep all this radioactive junk up from the core and cause a radiological problem downwind. Well, we were very confident we could avoid that.

So this was bombers going in and hitting it with missiles?

You could do it with tactical aircraft, you could do it with strategic aircraft, and you could do it with cruise missiles. Depending on the circumstances, we could have used any one of those or a combination of the three. We analyzed each building at Yongbyon. Particularly the reactor, as I've said, but also the fuel fabrication plant, the reprocessing plant, the reactors under construction, and figured out where, if a precision munition is delivered on that structure, you will destroy the structure -- the objective being to set back their program many years. And as I said, we were absolutely confident that we could have carried out a strike which would have been surgical within its own frame.

So why not do it?

Well, the larger consequences would be far from surgical. North Korea maintains a million men on the DMZ, thousands of artillery tubes that are trained on Seoul and Scud missiles that are trained on South Korea. We've had a war plan jointly devised with the forces of South Korea called Op Plan 5027, which has been in existence for many years, constantly updated for the defense of South Korea against North Korea in the event that those million men and the artillery all spill over the DMZ.

We were also confident in 1994, and I'm sure we're very confident today, that we would within just a few weeks, destroy North Korea's armed forces if they started that war, and we would destroy then their regime. We reckoned there would be many, many tens of thousands of deaths: American, South Korean, North Korean, combatant, non-combatant. So the outcome wasn't in doubt. But the loss of life in that war -- God forbid that kind of war ever starts on the Korean peninsula -- loss of life is horrific.

Everyone could appreciate the magnitude of the damage that North Korea could do, if it chose to respond to a strike on Yongbyon [by attacking South Korea]. Now, if we did it properly, if it came to this option, one would say to the North Koreans in advance, "Yes, you can lash out at South Korea after we mount this attack. That will be the end of your regime." And so after the strike on Yongbyon, the ball's in their court.

So you thought it was feasible to go to war?

It is such a disaster for our security, in many ways, to allow North Korea to go nuclear that we needed to run then, and I think we need to run now, substantial risks to avoid the greater danger of a nuclear North Korea.

photo of perry

william perry
U.S. Sec'y of Defense (1994-1997); U.S. Special Envoy to North Korea (1999)

read the full interview

We had gone over the war contingency plans very carefully and had concluded that in the event of an invasion from the North we would undoubtedly be successful in defeating the North. But how many casualties we suffered would depend very much on well prepared we were. In other words, we could dramatically reduce the casualties if we would do some judicious reinforcement to begin with. So, I presented President Clinton a plan for reinforcing our troops in South Korea, very substantial reinforcement of the troops.

What did he say to you when you presented that plan?

Well, we were literally in the process of giving the briefing to him, laying out the three alterative options, when the call came in from President Carter [in North Korea who] said that he had talked with Kim Il Sung and that Kim Il Sung had told him that he was prepared to stop the program at Yongbyon if the United States was prepared to offer him a light-water reactor, an alternative kind of kind of nuclear reactor.

And after a lot of negotiations you came up with the Agreed Framework. What was the Agreed Framework?

The Agreed Framework [provided] that North Korea would continue this suspension of all activities at Yongbyon, that that freeze would be verified by International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] inspectors at Yongbyon continuously, as well as remote verification equipment. That the allies, in this case United States, Japan and South Korea, would build them two light-water reactors -- with appropriate safeguards to assure that the fuel could not be diverted from those reactors -- and that when the reactors reached a certain stage of completion, then North Korea would dismantle all of its facilities at Yongbyon. And that in the meantime, the allies would provide heavy fuel oil to make up for the electricity that was lost by not having the reactors at Yongbyon operating.

In addition to that there were a number of qualitative statements in the agreement, basically which said that the North Korea and the United States, Japan and South Korea would work towards a harmonious relationship and in particular that they would work toward ending the armistice with a peace agreement, and then work head towards normal diplomatic relations. All of those were spelled out as goals in the Agreed Framework.

photo of gallucci

robert gallucci
Chief U.S. Negotiator with North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 1993-1994

Just after the just after the signing in Geneva of the Agreed Framework, the power balance changes in Washington. And you start to hear a lot of accusations from Capitol Hill. What happened?

read the full interview

Well, the Republicans won the Congressional elections. And committees' chairmanships obviously changed.

You were called to task.

There were many criticisms.

It was pretty harsh.

Pretty harsh. Yeah. We did not get ticker tape parades, as it turned out.

What did you hear?

The criticisms were of the following kinds: first that we had we had submitted to blackmail. The North Koreans were threatening us with a nuclear program, and we gave in and gave them good things. That we were appeasers. That this was a rogue regime. Had we learned nothing about the failures of appeasement to deal with regimes such as this? We also heard that the North Koreans wouldn't stick with the deal, they'd cheat. And didn't we know that they were the kind of folks who would cheat?

There are those now who have come forward from the Clinton administration saying that the deal was basically abandoned by the United States. That's perhaps too strong, but that there was a lack of political will to enforce the Agreed Framework, that in fact, the complaints coming from North Korea that the United States dragged its feet and reneged have some validity.

My own view here is -- and there are disagreements about this -- that in the Clinton administration there wasn't the enthusiasm for everything the North Koreans wanted in terms of the political pay-off from the deal. So the North Koreans were somewhat disappointed. But let's be clear about this. There are hard and soft portions to the deal. A hard portion was they needed to have their [plutonium] program frozen, and under inspection, and they needed to re-can the spent fuel so it wasn't reprocessed. That was done.

Did they hold to their end of the agreement in that sense?

Absolutely. Absolutely. And on our side, in terms of the hard part, so did we. We were obligated to create an entity called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, an international entity -- which was really South Korea, Japan and the United States and eventually the European Union -- to build these 2,000-megawatt light-water reactors. That was a hard point in terms of the deal and we were doing that.

We also had to deliver a quantity every year of something called heavy fuel oil to provide energy replacement for what they were giving up with not having their own nuclear facilities. And did we meet every delivery schedule on the day? No. Did we generally meet the schedule, and were we generally providing what we said we'd provide? Yes. So in terms of the hard performance under the framework, both sides were doing it.

But there was the political opening and the economic opening. The lifting of sanctions. The establishment of liaison offices.

Sure. Liaison offices were not established, but not because we weren't willing to. We were quite willing to. In fact, we had foreign service officers pulled out of rotation and prepared for that. It was the North Koreans that figured out: A) We were not going to have a huge operation up there that we would pay them for, instead, we were gonna use part of the old German Embassy, and B) They were gonna have to have a high bill to pay here in Washington. And they had other reasons why they were reluctant. So the liaison offices didn't happen, but it wasn't our fault.

Second, with respect to the economic opening, lifting of sanctions, that's the area in which they didn't get the pay-off that they thought they'd get. But nothing that you could nail and say, this is what the framework says we didn't perform. We were not as forthcoming as they might have liked. This is not what I would call, to use the current language, a "material breach." A phrase which by the way, doesn't apply to the framework which isn't even a legal agreement.

I think the important thing to focus on in the Clinton administration is, after they tested a ballistic missile of extended range on August 31, 1998, and in the same summer were discovered to have what we thought might be secret sites, we got the North Koreans to allow us to visit one particular site and determine that they were not cheating at that site. And we also got the North Koreans to unilaterally announce a moratorium on ballistic missile tests.

william perry
U.S. Sec'y of Defense (1994-1997); U.S. Special Envoy to North Korea (1999)

On the economic and political side, was the Clinton administration able to hold to their side of the agreement?

read the full interview

Not really. There was in the Congress of the United States unhappiness with the Agreed Framework. Let me remind you, the Agreed Framework was not a treaty. It was an agreement between governments, and because it was not a treaty, it did not require verification by the Senate. Many of the congressmen, many senators in particular, were unhappy that this was not made a treaty so they'd have an opportunity to either ratify it or reject it.

That that's an understatement, right? I mean they were more than unhappy. They were calling the Clinton administration treasonous. McCain called it appeasement. He called the president a traitor.

Whatever term you use, they were very unhappy. Not all senators but a lot of them were. And the prospect of being able to proceed on the other aspects of the Agreed Framework were nil. That is, we would not be able to get, for example, to go to a peace agreement, to go to opening diplomatic representation with North Korea. That would never would have gotten through the Congress. I think that the judgment made by the president and by the secretary of state to not confront the Congress on this was probably the correct judgment. They would have quite clearly been unsuccessful.

Were you personally taken to task by opponants to the Agreed Framework?

I was not the one that had negotiated the Agreed Framework. And so I was not the that primarily had to defend the Agreed Framework. But I did defend it. I had to defend it because I thought it was very strongly in our security interests. And I knew better than anyone, I think, what the alternatives were. [I had] gone through the war plan, and knew what the alternatives were if we could not come to an accommodation on this issue. So I did defend it, and I defended it rather strongly.

Did these congressmen who opposed the Agreed Framework have an alternative, in your view?

The alternative to the Agreed Framework, by the most violent opposition to it, was "Let's overthrow the North Korea regime. It's an evil regime." They would agree that it was not a good idea to start a war with North Korea. Almost nobody was in favor of starting Korean War II. But they had the belief they could overthrow the regime by putting pressure on them, sanctions, economic pressure. That would have been a reasonable alternative if it had a chance of success. I was convinced, and most of the Korean authorities that I talked with, were convinced that this would not be successful.

The North Koreans have been saying that the agreement is not worth the paper it was written on because the U.S. broke the agreement. This is what you, I think, have called the "Devil made me do it" sort of argument: That the Americans' failure to live up to their side of the bargain caused them to have to hedge their bets, go forward with missile program, go forward with a nuclear enrichment program.

Well, that's what they say. I can't tell what was really in their mind. I can say, however, that they even with what we were doing on the Agreed Framework, they had a pretty good deal in it. And up until we stopped sending the heavy fuel in earlier this year I think both sides could have continued with the Agreed Framework. So in a sense, the current crisis was triggered by the stopping of the sending of the heavy fuel, which we did in response to the North Koreans' covert program in enriched uranium.

photo of hubbard

Thomas hubbard
U.S. Ambassador to South Korea (2001-present)

Was the Agreed Framework a good deal in your view?

read the full interview

I think it was the best deal we could have gotten at the time. And it brought some direct benefits. In the absence of the Agreed Framework, if we had not frozen the nuclear facilities under the Agreed Framework, North Korea might have produced as many as 100 nuclear warheads by now.

The Agreed Framework also, I think, laid the groundwork for, created the basis for eight years of relative peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, an absence of tensions. Created the basis for the very dramatic efforts by President Kim Dae Jung to build bridges to the North and carry out his engagement policies. So it brought some very real benefits. But quite clearly it did not fulfill the basic purpose. Our basic purpose was to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. And it has become very apparent over the last year that it did not fulfill that purpose, that the North Koreans are still pursuing nuclear weapons. And in that sense, I think we have to call it a failure.

Why did it fail?

Because the North Koreans apparently still have not given up their hopes and their wish to produce nuclear weapons. The very premise of the Agreed Framework was that over a period of time and through a series of steps and in exchange for some security assurances, as well as economic assistance, that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons program. We were able to monitor their program, their original plutonium-based program at Yongbyon. And that did remain frozen.

But the fact is, we discovered some months ago that the North Koreans were pursuing very, very seriously and at an advanced stage, a covert -- an entirely different nuclear weapons program based on highly enriched uranium. And in that sense, we weren't able to stop that process. The very purpose of the Agreed Framework was ending verifiably North Korea's nuclear weapon's programs. And it did not serve that purpose.

We've spoken to at least one of your predecessors and former defense secretary who say that the United States reneged on that agreement and that was perhaps a factor in sowing distrust in the relationship.

I wouldn't say we reneged. ... The whole concept of the Agreed Framework was, of course, that we would move toward full diplomatic and economic relations with North Korea, solve the various issues of concern to the international community. And they did freeze their nuclear program. But they continued to develop, produce, deploy and export dangerous missiles. They continued to violate all international standards of human rights. And they continued to pose a very serious threat to South Korea through their array of conventional weaponry along the DMZ.

And so the whole expectation was that we would follow a continuum in which as they solved problems we would also lift sanctions, move towards more normal relations. And so I do not, by any means, think we reneged on the Agreed Framework. Things move more slowly than we might have hoped.

But the fact -- let's just get back to the facts here -- is that North Korea was not abiding by this agreement, that years and years ago, as early perhaps as 1995, North Korea was already working on this covert nuclear weapons program that violated the Agreed Framework, as well as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as well as their agreements with the South Koreans.

Another element of the Agreed Framework was the North Koreans were supposed to proceed quickly to dialogue with South Korea, proceed quickly to implementing the North-South Denuclearization Agreement of 1992 in which both sides foreswore nuclear enrichment -- uranium enrichment and production of plutonium and reprocessing. They made no progress at all on that agreement. It was not until Kim Dae Jung came into power in the late 1990s that North-South dialogue began in a genuine way. So I don't put the blame on our side. I think we have fulfilled our needs. We provided every year the prescribed amount of heavy fuel oil. And work was going on as steadily as it could, given the levels of North Korean cooperation work was going on, on the light-water reactors. ...

photo of won

Lim Dong won
South Korean Presidential Envoy to North Korea

The Bush administration today takes a very hard line. And they say that Kim Jong Il cannot be trusted because he signed the Agreed Framework and he proceeded to purchase equipment to enrich uranium in violation of the Agreed Framework. What do you say to them?

read the full interview

Well, the Agreed Framework [addresses] only the plutonium-reprocessing. They didn't say anything about uranium. Of course, in the preamble they said "non-nuclear proliferation"

It wasn't in the letter of the agreement. But the spirit of the agreement was that they were to hold to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

That's right. Yes.

Do you think that the North Koreans kept their side of the deal?

So far. So far under the Clinton administration both the U.S. and South Korea agreed that North Korea has honored that Agreed Framework.

But you don't think they cheated? You don't feel that they cheated [with the uranium enrichment program?]

Every country [tries] to have technology for research and development purposes, you know? But if they don't have facilities and they don't produce then it is not violating the intention of agreement.

photo of perle

richard perle
Defense Policy Board

You called the Agreed Framework a bad deal. The St. Petersburg Times quotes you as saying [in December 1993], "We're being jerked around by North Korea, and we're appeasing them through feckless diplomacy." What did you mean?

read the full interview

It seemed to me, then, that sometimes there are regimes that you cannot reliably enter into an agreement with, and the North Korean regime, at that time, looked to me to be an example. You could have no confidence that they would abide by any agreement that you reached, and it was pretty clear that we were being blackmailed. They would do disagreeable things unless we paid them in some way, and I didn't like the aura of blackmail that surrounded that deal, not least of all because the history of blackmail is that it continues. The price goes up.

What was the alternative?

Well, I rather suspect that we had a wider range of potential responses then than we do today, and that could have included a precision strike to destroy the facility that we were most concerned about. I never looked at the details of how such a campaign would be conducted, so I would certainly not have recommended that at the time, or even now in retrospect, because I haven't studied it closely. But it was certainly an option at the time, and I imagine was considered at the time.

William Perry did, in fact, draw up the plans, but they decided instead to go for sanctions. They felt that the consequence in human lives would be too great.

Well, here we are, years later, and we're facing essentially the same dilemma, except now, arguably, the situation is worse.

So perhaps we should have, at that point, struck Yongbyon?

Well, as I say, I haven't studied the details of what would be a very difficult and sensitive military operation. One of the things that we should have done is use the intervening period, recognizing the fragility of the Framework Agreement, to try to improve our position so that if the North Koreans did violate its essential provisions, as I believe they have now done, we would be in a better position today to respond to that. And I'm sorry to say the evidence is that we did very little either to reconfigure our own presence on the Korean peninsula or to do the other things that one would wish to do to give us a full range of options if we were disappointed, as we now have been.

They did shut down the plant at Yongbyon. They did respect the Agreed Framework to the letter. What they did is they hedged their bets, and some people would say they hedged their bets because they continued to distrust even the Clinton administration, whose attention wandered once the crisis was over and relations soured.

Well, you use the term "hedge their bets." I would use the term they violated the agreement.

Well, that, too, but why did they do it? They did it because they felt that they needed to hedge their bets.

They did it because they only have one thing to offer the world, and that is weapons, including weapons of mass destruction.

The Agreed Framework is effective in that the Yongbyon plant was shut down. [If it had remained functioning,] they could have made 50, 60 or some people say over 100 bombs by now.

Well, if they could have made 50 or 60 or 100 bombs, they will make 50 or 60 or 100 bombs unless we deal decisively with them.

photo of gregg

donald gregg
Former National Security Adviser to Vice President George Bush (1982-89), former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea (1989-93)

1994 to '97, '98 is a key period. What kind of message are the North Koreans getting as to our willingness to keep a deal during this period?

read the full interview

Well, that's a very mixed period, because during that period, the North Koreans send their submarines down the east cost of the Korean peninsula. ... This was a deliberate action showing the North Koreans still had a very bloody-minded tentacle that they were extending toward the South. I think that has stopped. Kim Jong Il apologized after the last sea fight in the Western Sea.

But at that point I think things were not fully coordinated. And that kind of hostile activity inflames Republicans, inflamed the people of South Korea, caused some delay in the oil shipments, and accounted for a lot of the delay in building the light-water reactors, which the North Koreans never acknowledged. They say, "It's all your fault." But it's very good to remind them of these things they did that also contributed to the delay and to a poisoning of the atmosphere.

So they poisoned the atmosphere, but on the letter of the agreement, did they hold to the agreement?

Yes.

The North Koreans held to the Agreed Framework.

They did.

Did the Americans hold to the Agreed Framework? Or did the Americans renege?

... I think there was some foot dragging on our part. I think that the oil shipments came late and there was a real lack of enthusiasm for the issue of getting them off the terrorist list. I wouldn't say we reneged. But it was not implemented with any great enthusiasm.

Were we perceived as reneging?

I think the North Koreans can say with a straight face that, "We think that you have never really been enthusiastic about improving relations with us. We think you have contributed to the delay of the building of the [light]-water reactors. This has contributed to our power shortage. And you are to blame for the sad state of our economy." That's the line I got, both in April and November.

william perry
U.S. Sec'y of Defense (1994-1997); U.S. Special Envoy to North Korea (1999)

The missile firing of the Taepodong [August 1998] results in you undertaking a review of U.S.-North Korean policy. In what state did you find that policy and what were your conclusions in that review?

read the full interview

Let me say first of all that the missile firing was the occasion which triggered a request for a review. But in my judgment then and in my judgment now, the missile firing was a relatively minor event relative to the security of the United States. What made it major was that opponents to the Agreed Framework -- both in the United States and in Japan -- were using that missile firing as a reason for dismantling the Agreed Framework, for stopping the funding in the case of the United States for providing the heavy fuel and in the case of Japan for providing the light-water reactor.

The Agreed Framework is now on the block?

The Agreed Framework was on the block. That's the reason I thought this was important. That's the reason I agreed to become the envoy for President Clinton on this. Because I thought what was at stake here was the Agreed Framework and that if we lost the Agreed Framework, we were gonna be right back to 1994 and right back to facing a war crisis again. So the missiles were always, as I could see it, a minor issue. The major issue was the nuclear weapon program.

What were the conclusions of your policy review?

Read Perry's 1999 Review of United States Policy Toward North Korea

We looked seriously at the approaches which many in the U.S., many in Congress had asked us to consider, one of which was that we should simply put pressure on the North Koreans until their government collapsed. I mean, this is a country that was in desperate economic condition. If we were to go back to sanctions and back to diplomatic pressure, their belief was that we could hasten the demise of the regime, and that's the way the problem would be solved. Many in Congress, in particular, strongly believed in that.

We rejected that alternative for two reasons. First of all, there was no evidence at all that pressure would cause that regime to collapse. They have a iron police state in North Korea, and the misery of the people was not likely, in our judgment, to lead to a popular overthrow of the government. Secondly, we didn't have enough time. Even if that strategy were successful, the most optimistic [projections were that] it would take several years. In the meantime, the North Koreans would get their nuclear program. They would get their nuclear bombs and we would be facing that danger. So we rejected that.

There were also some optimistic people, some in the U.S. but mostly in South Korea, who believed that the North Korean government was in the process of reform and that the reform would solve the problem. It would lead them, eventually, to a democratic market-oriented government, and that would ultimately solve the problem without our taking any action. And again, we felt first of all, there was very little evidence to support the view that that reform was going to be anything other than narrow economic changes. And secondly, again, it would take lots of time at best. So we came down pretty much to the fact that we had to use, of course, diplomacy, which is basically the same alternative we'd come to in 1994 and that if the course of diplomacy were applied thoughtfully and carefully, we could achieve our results through diplomacy without having it explode into a war.

ashton carter
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy (1993-1996)

read the full interview

President Clinton asked then former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry to lead an effort to review our policy and put a whole package together about this odd little place. Bill Perry asked me to be his senior advisor, sort of deputy, in this effort. We looked very hard at the possibility of was there some way that we could undermine the North Korean regime or get rid of it.That didn't look very promising, and ultimately we set that aside. But it's worth asking why.

History, human nature, would tell you that the North Korean regime, can't go on like this forever, this very odd Stalinist throwback government, unable to feed itself, and while that's true, there was no evidence that we could deduce, that you could go into a president of the United States and say, "I don't think they're going to make it much longer." They have amazing staying power. Nor were we able to identify any cracks in the facade into which we could put a crowbar. Most defectors from North Korea, when asked, "Did you ever discuss your feelings about the regime with anyone else," will tell you no

In other words they never discussed dissatisfaction with the leadership.

Right. There was never a conspiracy, never a tremendous fear. This is a society which is now in its third generation of severe political repression, so that children in North Korea have several hours of political education a day. Their parents did and their grandparents did. If you take the other extreme, which is Afghanistan, where you go in and you stir the pot a little bit and everybody rises up against the Taliban, there [is] no evidence that we could deduce that we had any such prospect in North Korea, and additionally, an undermining strategy was, at best, a long-term proposition, and we needed a short-term way of addressing the weapons of mass destruction.

Another possibility was to encourage reform in North Korea, and to suggest that Kim Jong Il take the path of China's Deng Xiaoping -- open up the country, open up the economy. That, too, one could hope for, but we didn't feel that we could recommend it as a strategy because for starters, Kim Jong Il doesn't seem to want to open up. We can hope that he'll take that path. But hope and strategy are two different things. You can't go into a president of the United States and say, "Well, let's sit back and let him do whatever he wants with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and hope that he's going to reform," when he doesn't show any evidence of wanting to reform.

So both undermining and hoping for reform didn't address the urgent problem we had, which is nuclear and ballistic missiles in the hands of this government. And that's why we wrote in the report -- an unclassified version of which has been released -- that we have to deal with the North Korean regime as it is, not as we might wish it to be. And that remains true today as well. Unless somebody knows how to hasten this regime on in history, it can do a lot of damage to our security while it exists.

After the Perry report came out, we began to talk to them.

Yes. Coming out of the North Korea policy review, President Clinton sent Secretary Perry to Pyongyang. I went with him, and we laid out the results of our review. We described for them two paths. We said, "Here is a path in which you knock it off, with weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and ballistic missiles, and on that path, we can see a situation where we keep on in the current way. We don't like you. From listening to your radio broadcasts, you don't like us either. But we have a stable situation here on the Korean peninsula, where if you attack southward, you know that the certain result of that will be your destruction. But you know that we know that's a very violent war and therefore, we're not going to provoke it either. That's a stable situation, in which you can keep running this odd little country, and we're prepared to live with that. We're not prepared to live with you upsetting that situation, and the whole world, with weapons of mass destruction."

These talks are pretty serious. This is tense, I imagine.

Very tense, and particularly when we met with the military leaders. Now, we're expecting that, and that was not a problem for us. We delivered those messages. Secretary Perry and I then left office, and the Clinton administration then went on. I was then not part of the sequel to that. But what happened was some small steps were taken on that path, reversible steps. I don't know whether North Korea would have continued up that path and taken progressively larger steps. Maybe, maybe not. We don't know. Now we're in a rather different situation.

 

 

home : introduction : analyses : the north koreans : chronology : nuclear capabilities
interviews : readings & links : discussion : producer's chat
teacher's guide : tapes & transcripts : press reaction : credits : privacy policy
FRONTLINE : wgbh : pbsi

photograph copyright © afp/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

 

 
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

The Rise of ISISOctober 28th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS