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Northeast Asia: DPRK, ROK, Japan


Current Status. Developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have dominated nuclear issues in Northeast Asia in recent years. A crisis over apparent DPRK nuclear weapon-related activities emerged in the autumn of 2002. Direct talks and some cooperative projects between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) had been launched at an historic meeting between the DPRK leader Kim Jong-I1 and ROK President Kim Dae-Jung in June 2000. But relations between the DPRK and the USA worsened after the Bush administration took office in January 2001 and refused to negotiate with the DPRK. In mid-2002 North Korea reportedly stepped up work on a clandestine program to build a uranium enrichment facility. When the DPRK acknowledged that it might have such a program in October, the United States cut off the monthly supplies of heavy oil promised under the 1994 US-DPRK Agreed Framework. North Korea then withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarted its plutonium production and reprocessing facilities.

North Korea said it needed a nuclear weapon program to prevent a US attack aimed at “regime change” given several recent developments: President Bush’s comment that the DPRK was part of an “axis of evil;” the Nuclear Posture Review statement that the United States was prepared to use nuclear weapons against “axis of evil” states; and the US policy of making war on Iraq to change its government. At the same time, the DPRK said repeatedly that it would end its nuclear-weapon program if the United States concluded a formal non-aggression treaty. The United States said it would not meet any DPRK demand because that would amount to “giving in to blackmail” and “rewarding bad actions.”
At the insistence of the USA, US-DPRK talks in 2003–2004 were conducted within a “six-party” framework that also includes China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. Little progress was made in these talks, which were suspended in early 2005 due to North Korea’s refusal to participate.



North-South Joint Declaration (1991). After several years of talks, in December 1991 North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration for a Non-Nuclear Korean Peninsula, in which both Koreas promised “not to test, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.” Implementation of this agreement suffered a major setback when North Korea announced in 1993 that it was withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), only 11 months after it had finally accepted IAEA safeguards. The North-South Declaration remained in force but was overshadowed in subsequent years by the 1994 US-North Korea Agreed Framework.


Negotiating history. The DPRK signed the NPT on 12 December 1985, but did not sign the required safeguards agreement with the IAEA until 30 January 1992. The DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly ratified the agreement on 9 April 1992. During six inspections in 1992–1993, the IAEA visited every DPRK nuclear site except two undeclared waste storage facilities where the DPRK refused to allow inspectors access to check for suspected reprocessing activity. North Korea said these were military facilities outside the IAEA’s purview. The IAEA requested a special inspection of the sites on 11 February 1993, but the DPRK refused and gave notice of withdrawal from the NPT on 12 March 1993.

On 11 June 1993, as the NPT withdrawal was about to take effect and following talks between US and North Korean diplomats in New York, North Korea announced that it would suspend its withdrawal from the NPT while the two sides continued talks. A second round of US-North Korea talks opened on 14 July 1993 in Geneva and ended on a positive note, with North Korea agreeing to consult with the IAEA and to renew contacts with South Korea. In return, the United States promised to assist North Korea’s efforts to obtain light water-moderated nuclear reactors (which produce less fissile material than North Korea’s existing and planned graphite-moderated reactors). DPRK talks with South Korea and the IAEA never materialized, however, and the United States refused to hold a third round of US-DPRK talks until the other contacts resumed.

On 29 December 1993, North Korea agreed to allow a one-time inspection of its seven declared nuclear sites (but not the two disputed sites) as a first step toward renewed IAEA activity in the country. But the IAEA and North Korea could not agree on the details. After more talks between the DPRK and the IAEA and between the DPRK and the United States the IAEA was allowed to conduct the one-time inspection. The IAEA then said that North Korea had prevented its inspectors from conducting all their investigations. The United States refused to meet again with North Korea until the IAEA was allowed to complete the inspections. The IAEA conducted inspections again in May 1994, but with limitations that prevented it from determining either the operating history of the 5-MW research reactor or the amount of plutonium contained in the spent fuel from it {ACR 457eNEN98}.

By early 1994 North Korea had started to remove spent fuel rods from the research reactor without inspection by IAEA personnel, raising concerns that it could easily divert plutonium toward a nuclear weapon program. The United States refused to resume high-level talks as long as the IAEA was unable to carry out its inspections. After the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution criticizing North Korea for failing to comply with its safeguards agreement, North Korea withdrew from the IAEA.

In a crisis during which the United States prepared to bomb the nuclear facilities at issue, former President Jimmy Carter visited P’yongyang and met with then leader Kim Il-Sung, who agreed to be more forthcoming regarding the problem facilities. This led the United States to resume high-level talks, at which North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear activities and allow IAEA inspectors to verify the freeze. The high-level talks began on 8 July 1994, but were suspended when Kim Il-Sung died on 9 July. The talks resumed on 5 August, with Kim Il-Sung’s son, Kim Jong-Il, installed as the new DPRK leader.

On 21 October 1994, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, with four main components:

  • The DPRK would freeze its Yongbyon nuclear research reactor and nuclear reprocessing facility, suspected of producing and reprocessing plutonium for nuclear weapon purposes;
  • IAEA would verify the freeze and eventual dismantling of the Yongbyon facility;
  • IAEA would verify North Korean statements on past fissile material production; and
  • The United States, Japan, and South Korea would replace North Korea’s planned two new graphite-moderated nuclear power reactors with two light-water moderated reactors (LWRs), to be built by South Korea, and to supply of 500,000 tons of fuel oil per year to help meet North Korea’s energy needs until the new plants were completed.
Implementation of the Agreed Framework, 1995–September 2002. In March 1995, Japan, South Korea, and the United States formed the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). Between 1995 and 2001, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Czech Republic, Poland, and Uzbekistan joined the organization. On 19 September 1997, the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) joined KEDO with representation on the KEDO Executive Board for a term to coincide with their support for the LWR project.

Reactor construction. KEDO took over the LWR supply contract negotiations in June 1995, when North Korea and the United States had resolved the issue of which country would provide the reactors. In 1996, KEDO and North Korea negotiated a series of protocols to prepare for construction of the LWRs at the Sinpo site.

Further progress was made in 1997, including the signing of the last two protocols required for site preparation; a protocol concerning action in the event of nonpayment; and a final agreement to allow construction. KEDO and North Korea also agreed on a cost estimate close to $5.2 bn and had 138 workers in place by the end of that year. KEDO opened office at the site for the LWRs and the groundbreaking ceremony took place. However, KEDO members had disagreements over funding and the United States held back funds after an incident on the North-South demilitarized zone (DMZ). EURATOM’s accession to KEDO helped matters, but KEDO was threatened with insolvency by the end of 1997.

In 1998, KEDO’s executive board reduced the cost estimate from $5.2 bn to $4.6 bn. A tentative cost-sharing agreement was reached in July, with South Korea’s share fixed at $3.2 bn (70 percent) and Japan’s share at $1 bn. The split of the remainder between the USA and the EU was unclear. In 1998, Japan withheld its contribution in retaliation for the North Korean test firing of a missile on a flight path that crossed Japan, but later restored its funding. During 1998, due to the many delays in the LWR project, North Korea charged the United States with failing to meet its commitments under the Agreed Framework, and threatened to resume its nuclear program.

In August 1998, the United States detected what it thought were DPRK nuclear weapon related activities in an underground facility at Kumchangni and demanded inspection of the site. North Korea insisted that the Kumchangni site was not-weapon related. In 1999, after extensive negotiations, an agreement on inspecting the site was reached, allowing work under the Agreed Framework to proceed. US inspections of the facility at Kumchangni, which took place in May 1999 and 2000, revealed no weapon-related activity. {18–24.5.99, 25–27.5.00}
In December 1999, KEDO signed a turnkey contract for construction of the LWRs.

Construction quickly fell behind schedule for a variety of reasons, leading to new North Korean threats that it might restart its nuclear program {1.2, 2.2, 1.7}. By 8 August 2002, however, the ground for the two LWRs had finally been fully prepared and the initial pouring of concrete for the foundation was conducted at a ceremony attended by high-level representatives of KEDO members. At that point, the reactors, originally planned to be operational by 2003, were expected to come on line in 2008 or 2009. Despite the DPRK-US nuclear crisis in late 2002 and 2003, work continued on the reactors and was reported to be 30 percent complete by the end of April, with 605 South Koreans, 353 Uzbeks and 99 North Koreans on the site. On 21 November 2003, KEDO announced that reactor construction would be suspended for one year because the DPRK had failed to meet the conditions necessary for continuing the LWR project {DPA 21.11.03}. A year later on 26 November 2004, KEDO announced that it would extend the freeze to 1 December 2005 {WP 26.11.04}.

IAEA inspections. From 1995 through mid-2002, North Korea maintained an ambiguous relationship with the IAEA. As provided under the 1994 Agreed Framework, the DPRK shut down its Yongbyon research reactor and reprocessing facility, stored all the existing spent fuel (8000 rods) in steel canisters in a waste storage pond, and permitted the IAEA to put seals and cameras at all those facilities, which were continuously monitored by IAEA on-site inspectors. The DPRK did not, however, permit a full IAEA survey the Yongbyon nuclear reactor and the spent fuel to verify whether or not any plutonium had been removed prior to the shut down. This type of IAEA investigation, required under the NPT and under the 1994 agreement, takes several years to complete. The 1994 Agreed Framework provides that the full IAEA assessment must be finished before the nuclear cores for the new LWRs will be shipped to North Korea. Expressing skepticism about completion of the LWR project, the DPRK refused to permit the IAEA investigation until the LWR work was much further along. The IAEA, the United States, and other KEDO members, meanwhile, have continually accused the DPRK of violating the NPT safeguards because the full IAEA assessment had not been conducted. Moreover, as LWR work progressed in 2001 and 2002, there were increasing demands from KEDO members that the DPRK let the IAEA investigation begin, so that it would be completed by the time the reactor cores were due to be installed. In late 2002, however, the DPRK halted ongoing IAEA inspections and ordered IAEA inspectors to leave the country {22.12.03 – 30.12.03}.

The US-DPRK Nuclear Proliferation Crisis, October 2002–. During a trip to P’yongyang in October 2002 to discuss possibly resuming US-DPRK negotiations, US envoy James Kelly said that there was evidence that North Korea had a secret gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment program, which would violate the 1994 Agreed Framework (under which the DPRK had promised to freeze its nuclear-weapon efforts). After briefly denying that it had such a program, senior North Korean officials said that the DPRK had a right to have a nuclear-weapon program since the United States had already violated the 1994 Framework by failing to produce the promised light-water reactors on time, calling the DPRK part of the axis of evil (showing lack of good faith in moving toward normal relations), and threatening to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. On 16 October (after Congress had given President Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq), the US government published the details of the Kelly-North Korean exchange. The United States then resumed its long-standing position that holding bilateral talks with the DPRK on its nuclear program and other issues would amount to “giving in to blackmail” and “rewarding bad behavior.” In November, the United States persuaded KEDO members South Korea and Japan, along with the EU, to support a halt in shipments of heavy oil to North Korea starting in December, on the grounds that North Korea had violated the 1994 agreement. (Work on the LWRs, financed and conducted mainly by South Korea, continued steadily {15.5.03}. However in December 2003, North Korea announced plans to reactivate its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. Over the next several months the DPRK took the following steps:

  • 12 December: Formally announced withdrawal from the 1994 Agreed Framework.
  • 22 December: Announced that it would remove IAEA seals and cameras from its Yongbyon facilities (following the failure of the IAEA to implement North Korea’s request that it do so).
  • 23 December: Began to dismantle IAEA seals and cameras at the waste storage pond containing 8000 spent fuel rods.
  • 25 December: Opened the 5-MW research reactor to begin work on restarting it.
  • 26 December: Loaded 1000 new fuel rods into the reactor.
  • 29 December: Warned that its conditional membership in the Non- Proliferation Treaty was “in peril.”
  • 30 December: Ordered IAEA inspectors to leave the country.
  • 10 January 03: Announced withdrawal from Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • 27 February: Restarted the Yongbyon reactor.
  • 8 May: Restarted the coal-fired steam plant at the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, apparently after repairing a leak in the pipes that carry steam into the facility.
  • 3 October: Declared all “technological matters” involved in using the plutonium extracted from nuclear fuel rods to build atom bombs as solved.
  • 4 November: Voted against a UN resolution in support of an IAEA report that cited North Korea in violation of international agreements.
{Sonni Efron in LAT 1.3.03; Korea Times 9.5.03; AP 8.5.03, 3.10.03, 4.11.03}

Through this time, the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China, and representatives of the European Union, the IAEA, and the UN all pressed North Korea to stop its nuclear activities and comply with the terms of the 1994 agreement and the NPT. In addition, the other parties urged the United States to meet North Korea’s demands for one-on-one negotiations and reassurance regarding the North’s fears of US military aggression. Meanwhile the United States reiterated its position that it would not engage in one-on-one talks until the North had dismantled its nuclear facilities and permitted unfettered IAEA verification of that situation.

During 23-25 April, North Korea and the United States participated in preliminary talks in Beijing, with each side making a slight concession in its previous position by accepting China as a third party in the talks. North Korea said that it would end its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for economic aid and normalization of relations, along with a nonaggression pact. At the same time, the DPRK announced that it had finished reprocessing the 8000 spent fuel rods and had nuclear weapons. Because there was no evidence that the Yongbyon reprocessing facility had been working, nor evidence of the existence of any other reprocessing facility, the comments about the state of its reprocessing were widely believed to be another example of North Korean “brinkmanship.” US officials began to discuss the idea of blocking North Korean exports of plutonium or nuclear bombs, rather than insuring that the DPRK had no fissile material.

In August 2003, North Korea and the United States participated in the first-round of six-party talks with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea {27-30.8} Both the United States and North Korea did not concede their basic positions: the United States insisted on the “complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination” of North Korea’s nuclear program before it considered improving relations with North Korea. The DPRK declared that they would dismantle their nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic aid and a nonaggression treaty with the United States.

Other US-DPRK talks. After several rounds of talks in 1993 and 1994, North Korea proposed a new round of security talks in early 1996. The parties met on 28 June 1996 to discuss the nuclear agreement, Four-Party Talks (talks including China and South Korea), and other issues. Bilateral talks resumed in 1997 and liaison offices were established by the two nations {30.1}.

In 1998, North Korea called for negative security assurances from the United States and the end of the US nuclear umbrella for South Korea {6–28.4}. Bilateral US-DPRK contact resulted in agreements to expedite completion of canning fuel rods, to resume Four-Party Talks, to begin missile talks, and to discuss removing North Korea from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism {31.8}. US Policy Coordinator for North Korea William Perry met with DPRK officials in May 1999. On his return Perry recommended a comprehensive and integrated US approach to the DPRK {15.9.99}.

In 2000 a series of high-level US-DPRK contacts held promise of a breakthrough in bilateral relations as well as on peninsular security issues. Following the 15 June summit meeting between Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jong-Il, the United States lifted its 50-year-old trade embargo against the DPRK and began serious talks on ending North Korea’s testing and export of missiles with a range over 300 miles. On 25 July 2000, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with DPRK Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun in Bangkok. In October 2000, First Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission Vice Marshal Jo Myong-Rok visited Washington and held talks with President Clinton. Later that month, Albright visited North Korea and held talks with Kim Jong-Il to finalize the terms of a missile agreement within the framework of a larger treaty that would normalize US-North Korean relations. An expected visit by Clinton to the DPRK and the signing of a treaty did not materialize, however, when, in the wake of the uncertainty about the US Presidential election, the Clinton decided not to go to P’yongyang or sign the treaty.

In March 2001 President Bush announced a new approach to North Korea, which was confirmed by a policy review completed in June. The United States would not offer any quid pro quo for DPRK steps to end its production and export of missiles with a range over 300 miles, eliminate stocks of missiles over that range, open up potential missile production and storage facilities to US challenge on-site inspection, open up all its nuclear facilities to full IAEA inspections under NPT terms, reduce troop concentrations at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border with South Korea, and improve its human rights record. After North Korea had completed those steps, Bush said, the United States would begin talks on normalizing relations, economic aid, and other matters. As a result of this tough position, requiring extensive action to take place before any negotiations, no talks were held between North Korea and the Bush administration until October 2002. At that point, the senior US negotiator, Ambassador James Kelly, visited P’yongyang to explore a possible agenda for talks, apparently signaling a softening in the US position.

Once North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors and officially withdrew from the NPT in January 2003, no bilateral meetings were held between the North Korean and the USA. However, various unofficial channels between North Korean and US officials remained open. On 13 February, USA and North Korean nuclear experts met in Berlin to discuss the type of inspections the United States would require in order to verify progress of DPRK nuclear dismantlement. In early June 2003, the DPRK Counselor to the UN met with US officials in California. On 6 December 2004, the USA confirmed that US officials held two direct negotiations with North Korean officials in New York on 30 November and 3 December. The US officials conveyed to their North Korean counterparts that the USA was ready to resume the fourth round of six-party talks without any preconditions.

IAEA-DPRK Talks. In 1993, one substantive meeting was held {31.8–3.9}. Technical meetings to discuss outstanding issues with the new inspection regime were initiated in November 1994 following the conclusion of the Agreed Framework, and implementation talks for ongoing inspections took place.

From 1996 through 2002, North Korea refused to permit an IAEA assessment of whether any plutonium had been removed from the fuel rods taken out of the Yongbyon reactor (shutdown in 1995 under the Agreed Framework) and potentially diverted to make nuclear weapons. It was widely reported that enough plutonium might have been diverted to make one or two bombs. North Korea refused to permit full-scope IAEA inspections pending fulfillment of US commitments under the Agreed Framework; and IAEA inspectors were limited largely to confirming the shutdown of all facilities at Yongbyon. The United States and IAEA officials repeatedly underscored that the DPRK had an obligation under the NPT (from which it had “suspended” its withdrawal) to permit full-scope inspections. (For developments in October 2002 and thereafter, see the section on the DPRK proliferation crisis above.)

North-South Korea Talks. After Jimmy Carter’s 1994 visit to North Korea, the North and South Korea agreed to hold a summit meeting in July 1994; but Kim Il-Sung’s death put this plan on hold indefinitely. The Agreed Framework called for North-South contacts to resume. The talks did resume in 1995 in Beijing, but no formal negotiations took place in 1996 or 1997 despite North Korea’s expressed willingness {1.3.96} and efforts by UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to facilitate contact. In 1997 North and South Korea held a meeting in the context of the Four Party Talks {7.3}.

In 1998, the two Koreas held vice-minister-level talks for the first time since 1995. North Korea agreed in principle to reunion talks, but refused to set a date {12–19.4}. In 1999, North Korea proposed continuing talks, but attached a number of conditions, including the termination of US-South Korean military training exercises and the abolition of South Korea’s National Security Law. Despite these conditions, the offer was warmly received by South Korea {4.2}.
On 15 June 2000, ROK President Kim Dae-Jung held a summit meeting P’yongyang with DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il. The two sides agreed to work for reunification. Lower-level officials held a series of follow-up meetings. Starting in November, however, a turn for the worse in US-DPRK relations cast a shadow on inter-Korea relations. By March 2001 {14.3}, relations with the new Bush administration had deteriorated to the point that North Korea cancelled further ministerial talks with South Korea. Following Kim Jong-Il’s return from visits to Moscow and Beijing in August 2001, it appeared that North-South talks might resume; but they were again put on hold by the North when the South declared a military alert following the 11 September attacks in the United States.

Toward the end of 2001, North-South contacts resumed, and they continue somewhat fitfully throughout 2002. By the autumn of 2002, contacts were at their most fruitful, with a number of important bilateral projects under way. On 9 November at the Third Meeting of the North-South Committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation, the following points were agreed:

1. The North and South decided to take measures to simultaneously and quickly push the linking of the East and West Coast railways and roads.
(1) First, the two sides will link the East Coast railway and road at the Mt. Kumgang region and the West Coast railway and road at the Gaeseong Industrial Zone and actively take ... measures so that the Mt. Kumgang tourism project...and the Gaeseong Industrial Zone construction can progress....
(2) The two sides will hold a working-level contact for the linking of the railways and roads in mid-November at Mt. Kumgang and discuss and resolve the pending working-level issues.
2. The North and the South will actively cooperate with each other to ensure that the construction of the Gaeseong Industrial Zone starts at the end of December 2002 and proceeds smoothly.
(1) The North will promulgate a law on the Gaeseong Industrial Zone in mid-November and the South will build necessary infrastructure in a commercial way as soon as possible.
(2) The two sides will have working contacts for the construction of the Gaeseong Industrial Zone in early December and discuss and settle pending working issues.
3. The North and the South will hold working contacts at Mt. Kumgang on 19 December for a maritime cooperation agreement allowing the two sides’ commercial vessels to pass through each other’s territorial waters and sail safely, and will hold another round of working contacts at Mt. Kumgang at an early date to discuss allowing South Korean fishermen to use part of the North’s East Sea Yellow Sea fishing areas.
4. The North and the South will effectuate the already agreed four agreements on the institutional guarantee of economic cooperation at an early date by going through their respective legal procedures....
5. The North and the South will exert efforts to realize a visit to the North by a South Korean economic observation team.
6. The fourth-round talks of the North-South Committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation will be held in Seoul in early February 2003.

In late 2002 and early 2003, during the escalating nuclear crisis between the DPRK and the USA (see above), North and South Korea proceeded to implement this agreement, albeit slowly. Over the objections of US military personnel in South Korea, the two sides conducted mine-clearing operations in the two areas where the road and rail links were to be established. The mine-clearing work was completed on both sides on 14 December. Additional work on laying tracks and roadbeds for the eastern link to Mt. Kumgang and the western link to the Gaeseong Industrial Zone continued on both sides in early 2003, with August as a target completion date. In February 2003, 22 tour buses inaugurated a road that linked the two Koreas. Hyundai Corporation announced plans to expand the Mt. Kumgang resort in addition to seven other construction projects in the DPRK {14.2}. In April 2003, North and South Korean cabinet ministers met in P’yongyang to discuss nuclear issues, the ongoing and future inter-Korean economic projects, railroad construction, and the provision of fertilizer and rice to North Korea.

DPRK-Japan talks. Talks on normalizing DPRK-Japan relations stalled in 1992 after eight rounds. Japan was willing to resume the talks before North Korean nuclear issues were fully resolved, and some informal contacts were maintained. In 1995 Japan and North Korea agreed to resume talks, but held no formal meetings. In April 1999, the two sides held informal high-level talks, but no concrete progress was reported {12.4}. The first formal talks since 1992 took place in April 2000 {4–8.4} and were followed by two more rounds later in the year, but proved inconclusive. In September 2002, however, North Korea admitted and apologized for having abducted 11 Japanese citizens decades earlier. Then, on 17 September, Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi visited P’yongyang to launch full-scale talks on normalizing relations, for the first time since 1948. Talks between the two sides continued until late October; the DPRK refused to discuss Japan’s request for additional information about abducted citizens who had died in North Korea, or its request for the release of family members of five abducted citizens who had been returned to Japan. North Korea claimed that it had provided all of the relevant information, and no further talks had been held through the end of April 2003. During six-party talks in August 2003, North Korea and Japan again clashed over the issue of the abducted citizens during their first bilateral discussions, which occurred after a ten month hiatus in negotiations {28.8}. Japan demanded that the DPRK fulfill its responsibility for the abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s—one of Tokyo’s three conditions for helping the Stalinist state’s collapsed economy. The DPRK rejected the demands, countering that Japan had broken conditions by refusing to return the abductees after their visits home to Japan. {AFP 30.8.03}

DPRK-Russia talks. On 9 February 2000, the two states signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation after years of negotiations to replace the 1961 Soviet-DPRK mutual security pact scrapped by Russia in 1995 {9.2.00}. In 2001, talks were held on possible arms supplies from Russia to North Korea, focusing on spare parts for older Soviet systems still in service {27.4}; and North Korea leader Kim Jong-Il traveled to Moscow for the first time (by railroad) {4–5.8}. A joint statement by Kim and Russian President Putin at the conclusion of Kim’s visit underlined the importance of the ABM Treaty for “strategic stability and basis for further reduction of strategic offensive weapons.” Kim and Putin met again in 2002, when Putin was vacationing near Vladivostok. Throughout the US-DPRK nuclear crisis, Russia repeatedly offered to mediate and also encouraged the United States to negotiate directly with North Korea. In 2001 and again in 2002, Russia offered to help North Korea refurbish a power plant that would be used to supply power to one of the rail links that will eventually be created on North Korean territory, which could connect the Trans-Siberian railway with rail links in South Korea. This will facilitate the shipment of goods from the Pacific region not only to western Russia but also to the rest of Europe; and trade over this link is expected to strengthen economies on all sides. Discussing the importance of the rail link to South Korea at a meeting with ten regional governors, Putin said, “If we do not link the railways here, it will be done, ...through the territory of our esteemed and dearly beloved neighbor, the People’s Republic of China” { 24.8.02}.

Four-Party Talks. On 17 April 1996, South Korea and the USA proposed Four-Party Talks with North Korea and China to replace the Korean War armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty. On 30 December 1996, North Korea agreed to a three-party (USA, DPRK, and ROK) “joint briefing” to discuss Four-Party Talks {30.12}. Preparatory meetings for Four-Party Talks were held in 1997 without any substantial breakthroughs. Disagreement over food aid to North Korea and a working agenda for an August 1997 preparatory meeting {15.9} left the talks stalled for a while. In November 1997, North Korea finally agreed to US demands on the working agenda; and the two countries issued a joint statement saying the talks would focus on the “establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula and [on] issues concerning tension reduction there” {21.11}. The talks commenced in December 1997 in Geneva {8.12}. Several rounds of the talks were held in 1997, 1998, and 1999, but achieved no result. The talks did not resume thereafter.

Six-Party Talks. On 10 June 2003, the USA invited North Korea to five-way talks that would include the USA, DPRK, ROK, Japan and China. On 31 July 2003, North Korea agreed to the multilateral talks if Russia was included. The US State Department agreed to this condition. The first session of talks commenced in August 2003, and was followed by a US-DPRK bilateral meeting {27.8}. The DPRK demanded that the US present a roadmap for giving up its hostile policy toward P’yongyang, starting with a nonaggression treaty. Washington ruled out signing a non-aggression treaty. No consensus or formal solution was reached, but the six nations agreed to continue efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula maintaining dialogue. Both the US and the DPRK have not compromised their basic positions. After months of delay and stalemate, North Korea agreed to continue with the six-party talks during a meeting between Chinese premier Wu Bangguo and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il on 30 October 2003. North Korea announced, however, that it would participate only if the USA accepted their package deal. (See the section on the DPRK proliferation crisis above for the US-DPRK basic positions, and the b-section chronology for details on North Korea’s package deal).
The second round of talks, held in 25–28 February 2004, also failed to establish a framework for ending North Korea’s nuclear program because the United States and North Korea both refused to make any concessions. In the third round of talks, 23–26 June 2004, the participants demonstrated more flexibility and willingness to compromise. The parties managed to reach consensus on the first phase of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also approved working document that delegates operational authority over denuclearization processes to a working group. The fourth round of talks, scheduled for September 2004, was postponed due to South Korea’s revelation of past secret nuclear experiments.


Japan. Japan is engaged in a major program to build several dozen nuclear power plants. This concerns North and South Korea and nonproliferation advocates around the world because Japan is building “breeder reactors” that generate plutonium as waste and rely on reprocessed plutonium for fuel. The very large quantities of stockpiled plutonium could easily be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons.

In 1997, US-Japanese negotiations produced revised “defense guidelines” that committed Japan to assist the United States in “situations surrounding Japan” {7.6}. In May 1999, the Japanese parliament passed US-Japanese military partnership legislation that further specified the nature of this cooperation {24.5}. Under these guidelines, Japan will provide logistical support to US armed forces even if they conduct operations far from Japan and have no direct Japanese involvement. Japan is contemplating a theater missile defense system, which it may develop jointly with the United States {ACR 603e3ABM00}. On 10 December 2001, Japan and the USA pledged to work together on sea-based missile defense systems. After the meeting, a Japanese official said that Japan was committed to continue funding research and development for the program, but had not decided whether or not to deploy a system. On 28 August 2003, Japan’s Defense Ministry announced its decision to introduce a US-built missile defense system, and requested Y142.3 bn ($1.2 bn) for FY 2004 funding and procurement. In October 2003, Japan’s Air Force test-launched three Patriot missiles as part of its efforts to build a missile defense system. Joint US-Japan theater missile defense development continued in 2004 {ACR 603e3BMD04}.

China-Taiwan conflict. In 1999, China reportedly expanded a missile base 275 miles from Taiwan to allow the deployment of up to 100 CSS-7 Mod 2 (M-11) short-range missiles. China denied the reports, leaked by US intelligence sources and backed up by Taiwanese officials {mid-October 99}. Tensions in China-Taiwan relations persisted in 2000 and 2001. The missile threat from China prompted Taiwan to consider building a missile defense system {ACR 603e3ABM00}. In 2001, Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-Bian called for a joint US-Japanese-Taiwanese program to develop missile defenses against Chinese missile threats {16.7}. In early 2003, China reportedly test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile believed to carry multiple re-entry vehicle warheads. Shortly thereafter, Taiwanese Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming announced that the Taiwanese military was considering a comprehensive low-altitude missile defense system to defend against China’s ballistic missiles. {AFP 9.2.03; CNA, AFP 27.2.03}


North Korea. For a brief description of the current state of North Korean nuclear facilities, see the section on the DPRK proliferation crisis above.

South Korea. South Korea gets 34.3 percent of its electrical power from 14 nuclear plants, and the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy expected the share to grow to 45.5 percent by the year 2010 (see e2). South Korea is self-sufficient in nuclear power technology. South Korea planned to use mixed oxide fuel in its commercial reactors. This was contingent upon political conditions, including the conclusion of a Korean Peace treaty. North Korea opposed the shipment of South Korean spent fuel to France or Britain, even if no reprocessing would take place {box 31.8.97}. Reports that South Korea had a nuclear weapons research program surfaced in 1999. One US expert believed ROK had such a program in the 1970s but officially disbanded it {box 1.3.99}. In September 2004, the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced government scientists had conducted a series of unsanctioned nuclear experiments, including plutonium enrichment tests between April and May 1982 at the state-run Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute. The Science and Technology Ministry issued a further statement claiming that scientists had also conducted an unsanctioned uranium enrichment test as a by-product of unrelated laser experiments in January and February 2000. Despite ROK’s denial that the tests were for military purposes, the DPRK announced that South Korea’s secret nuclear experiments ruined prospects for a fourth round of six-party talks.

Japan. Japan has as many as 53 nuclear power reactors and 21 research reactors (see e3) and has accumulated 5,000 kg of separated plutonium in addition to an estimated 49,500 kg of plutonium in spent fuel {box 1.3.98}. Under the terms of a US-proposed cutoff on production of fissionable materials for weapons, Japan would be allowed to retain its plutonium-based civilian power network{850-109 27.9.93}. Under a 1988 nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and Japan, Japan sends its spent nuclear fuel (US-origin uranium) to Europe for reprocessing. Under this agreement, the United States approved the transport of MOX fuel from Japan to Europe in 1999 {12.5}. In 1998, Japan and the UK renewed a 30-year-old agreement covering Anglo-Japanese trade and shipment of fissile material {25.2}. During the first quarter of 1999, Japan shipped 5,610 tons of spent fuel for reprocessing in Britain and France {box 1.4}. In September 1999, a severe criticality accident occurred at a fuel conversion plant in Tokaimura, resulting in two deaths, hundreds of injuries and exposure to high levels of radiation in the surrounding community {30.9}. In January 2003, the operators of the Tokaimura facility revealed that 206 kg of plutonium were missing (out of a total of 6890 kg processed since 1977). They said that the plant was under IAEA Safeguards, and the discrepancy had to be the result of measurement errors, not theft. {AFP 28.1.03} The same day, a Japanese court ruled against restarting the Monju experimental fast-breeder reactor “because of flaws in the government’s safety assessment.” The reactor has been closed since an accident in 1995, in which a sodium coolant leak led to a fire. The government is expected to appeal the ruling {FT 28.1.03}.

US nuclear weapons As part of its plan to eliminate its tactical nuclear weapons, the United States removed all tactical nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea by 18 December 1991.


North Korea. For North Korea, see the section on the US-DPRK crisis above.

South Korea ratified the NPT on 23 April 1975. It wanted bilateral inspections as well as IAEA inspections of North Korea’s nuclear facilities {19.6.92, 23.11.93}. In late 1996, South Korea suspended implementation of the Agreed Framework after a North Korean submarine with commandos on board infiltrated South Korean territory {18.9.96}. South Korea agreed to move forward on the Agreed Framework after North Korea apologized for the incident {29.12.96}. In 1998, following a North Korean missile test over Japan, South Korea agreed to coordinate its policy on North Korea with Japan {15–16.12.98}.

When progress in US-DPRK talks on ending the North’s missile program ended with the advent of the Bush administration in January 2001, senior South Korean officials came to the United States several times in 2001 and 2002 to press the Bush administration to resume talks with North Korea

China has expressed its support for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and for an independent, peacefully reunified Korea. In the mid-1980s, when the Cold War rhetoric was peaking, China said DPRK calls for US withdrawal from South Korea were “justified” {850-103 5.9.86}. Since the conclusion of the Agreed Framework in 1994 and the inauguration of Four Party Talks in 1997, which include China as a primary party, China has generally taken a neutral stance in debates between the other parties {21–24.10.98; 5–7.8.97; 17.4.96}.

Japan dismissed fears that it would develop nuclear weapons in 1992 statements and in 1993, promised close cooperation with the IAEA to safeguard its nuclear facilities and materials. In 1998, Japan suggested six-party talks {8.10} and agreed to coordinate its policy on North Korea with South Korea {15–16.12}. The call for six-party talks, involving Japan and Russia as well as the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and China, was repeated in 1999 without comment by the United States {3.5}. In March 1999, Japanese officials met with their South Korean counterparts to review their separate policies towards North Korea {20.3}, and Japan planned to participate in a Coordination and Oversight Group to coordinate its policy on North Korea with South Korea and the United States {23–26.4.99}.

On 31 May 2002, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters on background (not for attribution) that Japan might reconsider the three nuclear weapon principles: not to possess, produce, or permit them on Japan’s soil. When published, this information created great distress in China and South Korea, and among Japanese Parliamentarians. As a result, Fukuda publicly acknowledged making the statement and said that in the context of national debate on the Constitution, “I meant it could be possible that Japanese people discuss the nation’s security on any level in line with international situations and eras...but I did not indicate any direction that the government should take in the future.” Later the same day Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi asserted that Japan would not change the three principles. {Xinhua 3.6.02}

Russia allowed its military mutual assistance pact with North Korea to lapse and replaced it in 2000 with a friendship and cooperation treaty {9.2}. Russia proposed an eight-party (United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, IAEA, UN) conference on regional security {24.3.94, 17.4.96, 18.5.99}. On nuclear energy-related matters, North Korea urged Russia to join KEDO, but the Western participants did not invite Russia to join. Russia has discussed nuclear issues with South Korea {27–30.5.99; see also 612bFIS and 612b1FIS for details on trade issues involving nuclear waste storage and reprocessing}. During his official visit to Moscow in 2001 North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il met with Russian president Putin and confirmed the 2000 joint declaration and the Treaty of Friendship {4-5.8}. In 2002 Russia made numerous offers to try to facilitate US-DPRK talks.

The United States’ position on nuclear non-proliferation in Northeast Asia is covered in the section above on the US-DPRK crisis in 2002–2003.

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