Our top story: North and South Korea reach an agreement to resolve security concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. This follows a public disclosure by Pyongyang that it has an on-going nuclear weapons program in violation of an agreement with the United States. Our Chris Simkins with more on the diplomatic fallout from North Korea’s stunning nuclear revelation.
What will North Korean leader Kim Jung-Il do next? It’s a question leaders and diplomats from the Korean Peninsula to Washington are asking. It all began earlier this month when North Korean officials told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that their military has a secret nuclear weapons program. The admission came after Mr. Kelly confronted the North Koreans with U.S. intelligence evidence that Pyongyang had been working to build nuclear weapons. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.
RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN
“Our analysts became convinced because of a growing body of evidence that North Korea was pursuing a covert uranium-enrichment program.”
In 1994, North Korea signed an agreement with the United States promising to freeze and dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci helped negotiate that deal which provided North Korea with heavy fuel oil and help building two light-water nuclear reactors. Mr. Gallucci says North Korea may be using the nuclear weapons program to secure more economic aid for its troubled economy.
ROBERT GALLUCCI, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE
“I cannot believe the only reason they told us this was in order to put it in our face. I can’t believe there isn’t a plan of some kind that the North Korean’s would like to get somewhere and get something out of this capability.”
Following North Korea’s disclosure Mr. Kelly and other top U.S. diplomats went to Asian capitals, trying to build support to pressure Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear weapons development program. At the same time Mr. Kelly said the United States would not pressure Japan or South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to give up talks and exchanges that have led to improved relations with North Korea over the last few years.
The closer ties appeared to help this week in Pyongyang where some of North Korea’s top leaders and a South Korean delegation agreed to try to resolve concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. However the North stopped short of agreeing to abandon its program and honor its agreement with the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In Washington, President George W. Bush, in his first public comment on the issue, said he believed North Korea could disarm peacefully by working with key Asian nations.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
“I view this as an opportunity to work with our friends in the region and work with other countries in the region to ally against the proliferation of some serious weapons and to convince Kim Jung-il that he must disarm.”
Analysts say China is one of the countries’ that could influence North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Chinese President Jiang Zemin has a warm relationship with Kim Jung-Il and China is one North Korea’s few remaining communist allies, providing more than a third of foreign aid to the country.
North Korea is expected to be on the agenda when President Bush and President Jiang meet for the third time at Mr. Bush’s ranch in Texas on Friday. Later the two will join other leaders at the summit of Asia Pacific nations in Mexico.
Analysts say North Korea’s nuclear weapons program revelations will only add to tensions on the Korean Peninsula, a region where North and South Korea are technically still at war.