The President's Trip to the Japan, Korea, and Guam

Office of the Press Secretary
(Seoul, Republic of Korea)

For Immediate Release November 21, 1998


Shilla Hotel
Seoul, Republic of Korea

5:40 P.M. (L)

MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. The President's NationalSecurity Advisor, Samuel Berger, will brief you, give you a read-out on thePresident's bilats with President Kim and answer your questions. And thenI'll come up afterwards if you have any other questions. Thanks.

MR. BERGER: Good afternoon. Let me just quickly go through my notes ofthe bilat and summarize them for you. President Kim began by talking aboutthe APEC meeting from which he just returned. He said that he was, ofcourse,disappointed that the President had not been able to attend but was veryimpressed by the contribution of the Vice President to the meeting, andsaidthat there was a clear consensus at APEC that the American leadership wasindispensable to the solution of the Asian financial crisis.

He expressed disappointment that there was not consensus on the tradeinitiative. As you know, there was refusal in the final analysis of theJapanese to agree with one element of that, but a decision by the ministers torefer it to the WTO, but he was pleased that the APEC leaders had agreed toother steps to deal with the crisis.

The President talked in general about his ideas about theinternationalfinancial crisis, the need in the short term for both dealing withindividualsituations, setting up aprecautionary facility, the work that we've done with Japan inproviding money for Asian businesses and Asian banks that needwork-out assistance.

They talked a bit about Japan and the economic challenges.President Kim asked President Clinton about the trip to Japan andthe meetings with Obuchi. The President said that they hadtalked about the economic challenges laid before Japan andrecounted for President Kim the discussion that they had hadspecifically about Korea and KEDO and the North Korea problem.

The discussion then turned towards North Korea. PresidentKim laid out what he basically described as the three principlesof the South Koreans towards the North: One, they will nottolerate provocations that undermine or threaten the security ofSouth Korea; two, they will not seek to undermine North Korea;and three, they seek co-existence with North Korea. And hedescribed his conversations with President Jiang recently and theconvergence between South Korea and China on handling of NorthKorea.

The President said he strongly supported the policy ofPresident Kim -- the engagement policy -- and the challenge wasto continue that policy in the face of actions by the North thatare provocative. He told President Kim, as he indicated at thepress conference, that we have asked former Secretary Perry to bea special advisor to the administration in dealing with NorthKorea, helping us assess our North Korea policy.

Talked about the agreed framework. The President said thathe believed that we had gotten a good deal out of the agreedframework. Again, as he said in the press conference, thatwithout the agreed framework, North Korea would have spent thelast several years producing a good deal more plutonium thatwould have been available for nuclear weapons than without it,but that now we needed to deal with the underground site in theNorth, the suspect site, where there are suspicions about itsintended use but not conclusive evidence, a view that was sharedby President Kim.

Also talked about the North Korean missile program and theimportance of containing that missile program, which really nowupsets the balance not only in the Korean Peninsula but in theregion, as the Japanese look with apprehension at the launchingof missiles over its head. And clearly indicated, as we have inour conversations with the Japanese, that these matters arematters that need to be dealt with very closely between the SouthKoreans -- so very disconcerting to watch you all watchtelevision -- can you just fill me in from time to time what'sgoing on? I mean, is it a soap opera?

Q It's a fashion show.

MR. BERGER: A fashion show, oh -- I just wanted to knowwhat I was competing against, that's all. I mean, your eyes areriveted, particularly the male eyes. (Laughter). I think I'vejust undermined my own briefing here, but anyhow.

President Kim said that he agreed with the President 100percent on what he had said about the North, the importance ofdealing seriously with our concerns about whether the agreedframework is in fact being complied with, that we must requireaccess; if it is a nuclear-related site, we should call for it tobe shut down. That he had been briefed on Ambassador Kartman'srecent discussions with the North Koreans in Pyongyang, and whilethose discussions did not produce a resolution they also leaveroom for further discussions.

President Kim then talked about the positive -- he said,would you like my assessment of North Korea and gave kind of thesame rack-up that he gave in the press conference, the positivesteps being -- the negative steps being the infiltration of theNorthern submarines into South Korea's waters, the suspectedunderground site, the missile launching. Those are all sourcesof considerable concern.

At the same time, conflicting signals, the tourism projectthat he referred to with President of Hyundai and the NorthKoreans now taking South Korean's up to see some natural sites inNorth Korea; the fact that Kim Jung-il had specifically beenengaged in the development of that project; the fact that therewere journalists now and more cultural and political leaders whowere going to the North, he saw that as a slight change; thetalks that are going on with the United States, both on missilesand on the nuclear program; and the changes in the DPRKconstitution, which provide for limited private property andmarket economy; and the expanded number of North Koreans that arenow permitted to go abroad for training.

And he basically described this as kind of a mixed picturethat he sees in the north, but that his objective is to promotesecurity and cooperation at the same time, essentially to offerthe North the kind of choice that the President I thought putquite starkly at the end of the press conference, either a choiceof trying to -- a fruitless decision to try to dominate thesituation militarily or a choice to try to reach accommodationwith President Kim, who is clearly reaching out to the Northshould they be prepared for some kind of reconciliation.

On the bilateral relationship, they both agreed it was instrong condition, which after six years I've never been in abilateral in which the leaders agreed it was in a weak condition.The President urged completion of the cost-sharing agreement withthe South on the cost of our forces. The strains on the SouthKorean economy have caused a delay in completing the cost-sharingarrangement, renewing it.

And then the conversation went to the economic area. ThePresident said that he had been very impressed by the economicrecovery program that had been persistently pursued by PresidentKim. Don't forget, President Kim arrives in office and findsthat the roof has fallen in before he has had a chance to reallyunpack his crates. The President said he hopes that we have beenhelpful through the various things that we have done in the IMF,our bilateral assistance, OPIC, Ex-Im.

They talked about the one remaining -- or perhaps the mostserious remaining problem in the South Korean economy, and thatis restructuring the so-called chaebols, the large conglomerates,particularly the five large conglomerates. Now, in order tounderstand the magnitude of that problem, you have to understandthat 40 percent of the Korean economy are these five companies.So the restructuring of these five companies and streamliningthem and the economic efficiency and world competitiveness ofthese companies is very important to the economic recovery. Andthis is an area where I think President Kim agreed they have madethe least progress.

There was some discussion of trade issues -- beef,pharmaceuticals, steel, the investment treaty. On all of thoseissues, President Kim indicated that they would try to beforthcoming. We then went into an expanded bilateral, whichbasically, since the limited bilateral had covered everything,was somewhat truncated. But there was mainly a discussion of theeconomic situation and the desire of the South Koreans now tobegin to attract again foreign investment. We're trying tonegotiate a bilateral investment treaty with the South Koreans.

There was some discussion of Y2K, something that we've beenworking on with the South Koreans, and they've now formed aworking level public-private committee. And it's interesting,this is an issue that really -- totally obscure issue that no onehad even heard about or understood a year ago, which is nowincreasingly on the bilateral agenda between the United Statesand the countries that we deal with.

Finally, they talked about a Forum on Democracy that wasannounced at the press conference. This is a joint project thatwill be undertaken between the United States and Korea to startsomething which will basically ultimately evolve, hopefully, intosomething like our National Endowment for Democracy.

Talked about Burma, where President Kim has been a stalwartsupporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, and a very outspoken critic of thegovernment; and a bit of a conversation about climate change,where Korea has signed the Kyoto Protocol, and although it hasnot yet agreed to mandatory targets, has agreed to voluntarytargets.

So that's basically not as attractive as the show, butthat's it.

Q Don't sell yourself short.

MR. BERGER: Okay, thank you.

Q Sandy, President Kim used the words -- and you echoedthem today -- will not tolerate these provocations. PresidentClinton didn't use those terms. I'm wondering what it means fromthe United States' point of view, how far you go in terms of willor will not tolerate obfuscation on this inspection issue. Wouldthe United States, for example, consider taking this issue to theU.N. Security Council seeking some sort of resolution demandinginspections?

MR. BERGER: These are very serious matters, and I think weconsider them very serious. Let me take first the nuclear issue,and then the missile issue.

In the nuclear area, we reached an agreement with the NorthKoreans in 1994, after a long negotiation and quite aconfrontational period in which we were about to go to the U.N.,as you will recall, for sanctions against the North, by which theNorth Koreans agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle itsnuclear graphite reactors in Yongbyon, a five megawatt reactorand a 50 megawatt reactor that it was also constructing, plus areprocessing plant. Essentially, this was, from a nuclearweapons point of view, an engine for nuclear material -- afactory for nuclear material -- even though it had, presumably,electrical generating capacity.

Now, that agreement has been complied with. And we knowthat because there are IAEA inspectors who are at the site andwho are physically monitoring the site. The five megawattreactors have been closed down; the reprocessing plant is underseal; the spent fuel rods have been canned; the construction hasstopped on the 50 megawatt reactor. So, by and large, that'sbeen a good thing, because were that not stopped, for the lastthree years they would have been continuing to generate thesefuel rods, reprocessing them, presumably creating the fuel thatgoes into nuclear weapons.

Now, we have had information more recently on, in particularone site in the North, the purpose of which is not absolutelyclear, but raises questions, raises serious questions. Seriousenough that we believe that we need to have the opportunity toinspect the site. And that is the request that we have made tothe North. We need to determine in the first instance whether itis inconsistent with the agreed framework in which the Northagree that they will not build other nuclear graphite reactors orreprocessing facilities.

If this turned out to be a facility inconsistent with theagreed framework, obviously that would be a serious matter and wewould demand the site be closed, but it would call into questionobviously the viability of the agreed framework. But I thinkit's premature to reach that conclusion. We need to pressforward with the North Koreans to gain access to the site.

Q Sandy, there has been a published report that plutoniumhas been found in the soil and water around these sites in Korea.Can you confirm that?

MR. BERGER: As far as I know, the report that you'rereferring to is a South Korean -- is based upon a South Koreanpress report. The South Korean government has said that is anincorrect report. Beyond that, these are obviously intelligencematters, and I can't comment.

Q I have a question on the same subject. If that suspectsite is a hole in the ground, as the President just described it,how would going to inspect it help resolve the question of whatits purpose is -- if there is nothing there?

MR. BERGER: Well, it's a complex hole in the ground -- putit that way. (Laughter.) It is -- I don't want to describe thesite, but we believe physical inspection of the site would helpus ascertain its purpose, and presumably not only once, but overa period of time. So let me leave it at that.

Q When the subject is the missile test, theadministration says -- correct me -- that's not covered by theagreed framework. When it's the challenge inspections to see thesite, that's not covered by the framework.

MR. BERGER: The fact is we don't know what the -- we don'thave conclusive evidence with respect to the intended purpose ofthe site. If the intended purpose of the site were to build agraphite reactor or to build a reprocessing plant, it would beinconsistent with the agreed framework.

Q I meant the inspection. But the question is, why doyou point to the agreed framework as a centerpiece of all policyif it doesn't cover these problems -- these additional problemswith North Korea?

MR. BERGER: I'm not sure that I used the term "centerpiece"of all policy. I mean, let's back up here. North Korea is not abenign government. We have lots of problems with North Korea.They have had a nuclear weapons program that we have beenconcerned about, that we have controlled at least to some extent.They have a missile program both with respect to its owndevelopment and with respect to exports, which is destabilizing-- destabilizing in Asia, destabilizing to the countries to whomit is selling technology. So we have many problems with NorthKorea, and we have to deal with North Korea I think on arealistic basis.

What President Kim has said, and I think what PresidentClinton was agreeing with, is that North Korea now is at acrossroads. On the one hand, it can seize the opportunityafforded by the fact that the President of South Korea, PresidentKim, is extending a hand to North Korea and is probably moreinclined to engagement and reconciliation than any President inSouth Korea's history. It can choose that path, rejoin theinternational community, perhaps build an agricultural economythat is not based on starvation. This is an economy that -- anagricultural economy that fails year after year. We're thesecond largest food donor to North Korea. That's one path. Orit can continue to be a totally isolated, self-contained entitywhich obviously is failing economically and seeks to preserve itsplace in the world only through military means.

I think the President was saying, given our securityrelationship with South Korea, the latter course is not asuccessful course for North Korea -- because we will come toSouth Korea's defense. If North Korea believes that it can evergain military dominance or somehow prevail against South Korea,it is ignoring a bilateral security treaty that South Korea haswith North Korea.

So I think the President was saying, here is another option.It's an option that is embodied in that tourist ship going up thecoast; it's an option of re-engaging with the world; it's anoption of re-engaging with the South; it's an option that has alot more promise than the other one.

Q Can you explain why President Clinton supportsPresident Kim's sunshine policy of engagement when the WhiteHouse does not support it for other hostile governments such asIraq, or even to a lesser extent, Cuba? And secondly, could youalso explain what is the special relationship between PresidentClinton and President Kim that gives President Kim's engagementpolicy extra cachet? People have talked about a special trustthat Clinton has.

MR. BERGER: I don't think it's a question of cachet; Ithink it's a question of strategic judgment. I mean, PresidentKim has made a strategic judgment that he is going to pursue anengagement policy, but it's an engagement policy undergirded bystrength. It's a policy that basically says, we seekreconciliation with the North, but we are also not going totolerate provocations from the North, and we're also obviouslygoing to remain strong; we're also obviously going to sustain oursecurity relationship with the United States. It's a verysensible policy.

To try to draw comparisons between this and Iraq or Cuba Ithink is very difficult. In terms of why does President Kim havemoral authority or -- I'm rephrasing your questions, obviously --President Kim is a remarkable man. I think we're living in atime when you look around the world and you look at NelsonMandela and Vaclav Havel and Kim Dae-Jung, three men who spentmost of their lives fighting their governments, went to prisonover the authoritarian policies of the government, were brutallypunished for the stands they took, and now these are three menwho are, in fact, the Presidents of their respective countries.I think that's a remarkable set of stories.

And Kim Dae-Jung is someone who I think deserves respect fortwo reasons: one is because of what he stands for, and thesecond is because he has been able to make a transition frombeing a leader of a movement to a leader of a government underthe most adverse circumstances. I mean, we all know that one ofthe hardest transitions for people to make is being leaders ofopposition movements suddenly to be thrust into power. Historyis filled with failed episodes -- with people in that situationthat have failed.

Kim Dae-Jung not only has led a life -- a principled lifethat has been instrumental in his country obtaining of democracy,he has then come into the government, ironically, at the timewhen the economy collapsed. I'm sure that when he was sitting injail he did not think that he was going to spend his first twoyears, if he ever got to be in power, trying to rebuild acollapsed economy. But he's done that. He's taken on some veryhard decisions. And Korea, as with Thailand, as with othercountries, is beginning now to see the benefits of the very toughdecisions that he made. So I think he deserves a lot of respectfor both reasons.

Q Sandy, did the issue of the convicted spy Robert Kim inthe United States come up at all during the bilateral meeting?

MR. BERGER: It did not come up.

Q Sandy, both you and the President have outlined some ofthe sticks in the U.S. and the South Korean policy toward theNorth, but can you outline some of the carrots that would beavailable if North Korea follows the course that you're talkingabout?

MR. BERGER: We have a wide range of sanctions against theNorth Koreans, the easing of which, I suppose, become carrots.But those require, obviously -- some of those relate to theirsupport of terrorism, some of them relate to their human rightsrecord. In some cases, these derive from particular elements ofthe North Korean regime. But I think, clearly, if North Koreachose a different path -- chose a path of reconciliation with theSouth, chose to deal with its missile development program andexport program in a responsible way, chose to forgo clearly andunequivocally a nuclear weapons program, obviously that wouldmake it possible for us to improve our relationship with NorthKorea.

Q Sandy, North Korea's record for the last four years isnot to choose A or B, but to have a little bit -- sort of salamitactics of giving a little bit but not as much as you want. Whatmakes you think that they're going to make this choice?

MR. BERGER: I think there is -- I suppose saying a fork inthe road is a bit, perhaps, too dramatic. But there are somebasic paths here that they can choose. They can choose a path,essentially, of reconciliation or a path of confrontation. Atthe time that they decided to enter into the agreed framework andgive up the programs at Yongbyon, that was obviously a steptowards accommodation with the rest of the world.

But again, this is a very impenetrable government, a veryimpenetrable leadership. I think we know less about what reallytakes place in Pyongyang than almost any other capital in theworld.

Q What happens next, in terms of our policy to NorthKorea? President Clinton has made this kind of public commentson it, but do we have a diplomatic initiative that's going there?How do you get off the dime when it comes to North Korea?

MR. BERGER: There are at least three venues here, threeavenues to pursue. Number one are the four-party talks whichPresident Clinton and President Kim Young Sam launched aboutthree years ago, which include China, North Korea, South Korea,and us. We have met several times. At this last meeting therehas been a modest agreement to set up subcommittees to deal withvarious issues involved with improvement in relations,confidence-building measures. So that's one path we want topursue.

Second, we've had now, I believe, two rounds of discussionswith the North Koreans with respect to this suspect site.Ambassador Kartman just completed his last discussions. Theywere not -- certainly were not conclusive in terms of progress,but they will lead to further discussions.

And, finally, there are the missile talks with North Koreain which we've raised a range of issues relating to their missileprograms.

Q Will the U.S. ever be willing to give millions ofdollars to the North Koreans to allow for the inspection of thehole in the ground?

MR. BERGER: No, I think we certainly would not pay for theright to inspect these sites.

Q Sandy, North Korean -- to allow inspections of thesesites. How are you going to selling the agreed framework toCongress?

MR. BERGER: Well, let me not jump ahead. We've insistedupon access. We hope and expect the North Koreans to give usaccess. And I'm not going to speculate beyond that.

Q Sandy, can you talk a little bit about the differencein the atmosphere now versus when President Kim was in the UnitedStates this summer? At that point there was lots of talk aboutthe Korean President pressing the United States to liftsanctions. Now the talk seems a lot less advanced, or a lot lessabout progress and more about pushing back.

MR. BERGER: Well, there was, I think, too much made when hewas in Washington of him pressing us to lift sanctions. Butputting that aside, there was no disagreement whatsoever betweenPresident Clinton and President Kim with respect to the twoelements, essentially, of the policy that President Kim ispursuing, that we support -- that is consistent with our policywith respect to North Korea.

Q You described it as a complex, suspicious hole in theground in North Korea. What is it about this hole that makes itsuspicious? What is it about this hole that makes it complex?

MR. BERGER: Well, those again are intelligence matterswhich I'm not going to get into.

Q Can you give us any guidance as to what it is thatraises your antenna about this stuff?

MR. BERGER: No, I will simply say that there is informationthat we have that raised questions that we believe requireanswers.

Q Sandy, how much time did the two Presidents spendrelatively on economic issues and on the security -- North Koreamatter?

MR. BERGER: I would say a little more than half the time onsecurity issues, the rest of the time on economic -- maybe 60/40security/economics.

Q Why was the President so tentative this morning or thisafternoon in his remarks? Isn't this the kind -- the Air Forcedocument and the other things the Iraqis are balking at, isn'tthis the kind of defiance that we have said would be met withaction on short or no notice?

MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, I don't think the Presidentwas tentative. The state of play is as follows. UNSCOM is nowback in the country. They are beginning to restore theircameras; they're beginning to do inspections. Now, at the sametime, they sent, I believe, three letters to the iraqisrequesting certain documents.

They received back a letter from the Iraqis -- probably 9:00p.m. or 10:00 p.m. last night our time. That letter is -- thatanswer is insufficient in the judgment of UNSCOM. UNSCOM hasoutlined its insufficiencies in a communication to the SecurityCouncil and intends to seek further production and furtherclarification from the Iraqis.

We have been consulting -- either today or yesterday,depending on where you are -- with other members of the SecurityCouncil. We obviously back UNSCOM in this request and itsinspections. We believe that there is an affirmative obligation,as the President said, on the Iraqis to comply with theirobligations under the resolutions.

But we just received the letter. Butler has just analyzedthe letter. He's gone back to the Security Council. Butclearly, in our judgment, Iraq has an obligation to produce thedocuments that UNSCOM is seeking and we will support UNSCOM inthat effort.

Q Does the same warnings of military action apply now asapplied before?

MR. BERGER: We've said all along that the issue here iswhether Iraq will meet its obligations under the Security Councilresolutions and whether UNSCOM is able to do its work. If wereach the conclusion that the answer to those questions isnegative, we obviously are prepared to act.

Q Sandy, did the North Koreans really just try a bluntshakedown with relation to this inspection, or was theresomething more complicated than that? It almost boggles the mindthat a country would say, give us X million dollars to inspectthis site. Was there some other, more complex system they wantedto set up, or was it just a blunt shakedown?

MR. BERGER: Can I say "yes"? I'm looking at Ken here tosee whether I start a war if I say "yes." I would not choosethat phrase. (Laughter.) But I don't think there was much moreto it than that.

Q The reported figure of $300 million that North Koreahas demanded coincidentally is similar to the reported figurethat North Korea had been demanding to stop its missile exportprogram. Is there any relationship --

MR. BERGER: Let me say, having now been engaged for almostsix years in negotiations with the North Koreans, this is notuntypical of North Korean negotiating tactics, but it is not --there is nothing much more to it than, you know, we'll let yousee the site if you give us $300 million.

Q Sandy, the basic choice that the administration haspresented to North Korea, either gradual steps towards engagementor continued isolation and the United States pursuing acontainment policy -- that basic choice has been laid out for atleast four years, since '94, right? Wouldn't we know if theexperiment was working?

MR. BERGER: Look what President Kim said. Basically hesaid there is a mixed picture here. Again, this is a verycomplicated regime with a very complicated leadership picture,and you see conflicting signals. On the one hand, you see Northallowing South Koreans to travel up to visit North Korea. Yousee a greater degree of cultural exchanges. You see the otherthings that President King indicated.

On the other hand, recently, in particular, since the launchof the Taepodong missile and with questions that have been raisedabout this site, you see the other side as well. I don't thinkyou're going to see for some time perhaps a clear picture ofwhich way North Korea goes.

But ultimately -- listen, ultimately North Korea is asociety, is a country in trouble, a country in internal --certainly with serious internal problems -- is a country thatcan't feed itself, is a country that is isolated from the world.It is a country whose economy is in miserable shape. It's acountry where tens of thousands of people are hungry, if notstarving, depending on what reports you listen to.

And it's also a country that has roughly a million forcesposed along the DMZ 17 miles from where we're sitting, and thatmakes it rather dangerous. And we have to bear that in mind.

We have 37,000 troops in this country. We have a securityrelationship with this country. I think this is a problem thatwe have to deal with in a very steadfast, deliberate, steady,firm way.

Q I'm confused by your reticence about talking about thesite that you call suspect. Large elements of your ownintelligence community say that it's not suspect, but that it isin fact intended to help produce nuclear weapons. The people whohave seen some of this evidence on the Hill -- not justRepublicans -- basically agree with that assessment.

The North knows, itself, what it is doing. Why shouldn't weconclude that your reluctance to talk about it is essentiallyintended to cover up your own embarrassment at what's happening?

MR. BERGER: The fact that there is not conclusive evidencehere is a judgment not only that I have made but is a judgmentthat the intelligence community would also concur in.

Q Why can't you share a little bit of this discussionwith us?

MR. BERGER: Because these involve sources and methods, interms of how we know what we know. And there's no particularadvantage -- I'm sorry, with all due respect -- to sharing thatinformation with you.

That's not you, personally. (Laughter.). You I would shareit with, but nobody else.


Briefings - November 20, 1998

Briefings - PreTrip

The President's Trip to the Japan, Korea, and Guam

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E