Bush Administration offers talks, food aid to North Korea


The United States continues to make clear its desire to hold talks with North Korea about how it can come into compliance with its international obligations under various denuclearization agreements, says State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.

Unfortunately, North Korea has not indicated any willingness to do so, he added.

At the January 14 briefing at the State Department, Boucher said that when Assistant Secretary James Kelly was in North Korea in October the United States was prepared to take a "bold approach" to the relationship, "and we were prepared to do things as they did things on the issues of concern to us, to resolve some of the other issues in the relationship."

But Boucher said that became impossible when North Korea revealed that it had broken its commitment to cease work on nuclear weapons programs. [W]e have made clear at this point that they need to meet those commitments in the nuclear area and then we'll see. As the President said, we'll have to reconsider how we can proceed on those other matters."

As for humanitarian assistance, Boucher said the Bush administration has not announced any new pledges or deliveries of aid to North Korea for this year because the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution.

A "continuing resolution" is legislation enacted by Congress to provide budget authority for Federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted for the next fiscal year.

"As we get the money, as we get the budget from our Congress, we will look at what we can provide this year." He also said the issue of monitoring distribution of food aid is a continuing concern, not only to the United States but also to other donors and to the U.N.'s World Food Program. "We will continue to work on the issues of monitoring, and we will expect -- we intend to be, continue to be a significant donor to the North Korean food programs," Boucher said.

Following are excerpts on North Korea from the January 14 transcript of the State Department daily briefing:

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Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 14, 2003



-- Food Aid Delivery/Comments by USAID Administrator Natsios
-- World Food Program Monitoring of Food Aid
-- Possible Talks on De-Nuclearization with North Koreans
-- Discussions with Other Nations About North Korea
-- Assistant Secretary Kelly Visit to China 20-21 Under Secretary

Bolton Travel to Asia and Europe

-- Meaning of "No Quid Pro Quo" Statement
-- Light Water Reactors
-- Discussions in Davos


QUESTION: And I hate to do this because I keep asking about it but there continue to be reports about it and I don't know what's going on and perhaps you can clear the air, and I want to ask a very specific question. Has the United States cancelled, halted, arrested, interrupted, suspended, frozen, or in any other way stopped supplying food aid to North Korea?


QUESTION: Then what's going on? Why do these reports continually surface, the latest one is quoting USAID Director by name?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to say -- I know. But he didn't say what he's supposed to have said. He didn't say we'd cut off, interrupted, halted, arrested, or anything else, suspended, our food assistance to North Korea. I have a transcript of what he said. These are the facts and these are the facts that he pointed out.

Last June, we announced our program for last year, made clear at that time our concerns about monitoring. Other donors have made clear their concerns about monitoring. The World Food Program has made clear its concerns about monitoring. And we've been working with those people, with other donors and the World Food Program. We'll continue to work with them to try to get these concerns resolved.

The deliveries for last year, I think the last one finished up as recently as last month. We have not announced any new pledges or deliveries for this year yet because we don't have the funding. We, on a continuing resolution, we don't have our new funding. But as I said, some of the deliveries for last years' tranches arrived last month, so it's not like there hasn't been food going in there since our announcement in June.

And now, we will look at, as we get the money, as get the budget from our Congress, we will look at what we can provide this year. We will continue to work on the issues of monitoring, and we will expect -- we intend to be, continue to be a significant donor to the North Korean food programs.

QUESTION: You don't want to say, "We will be a --"

MR. BOUCHER: We will be a significant donor to North Korean food aid programs.

QUESTION: We just linked it to the -- to improve the access for the World Food Program monitors. Suppose they stonewall as they have been?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we've tried, and we and other donors have tried very hard to take into account to resolve these problems on monitoring and we will continue to do that. Our expectation is that we will be able to do that. That is a concern, though, that's not something particular to the United States. That's something that is widely shared in the donor community and that the donors together, with whatever resources we and others decide to provide, will address with the North Koreans.

QUESTION: But so far as I know the North Koreans are showing no receptivity at all. You contacted them last August and you still have not heard from them.

MR. BOUCHER: That's true. But, as I said, it's not just the United States at this point. It's the United States, it's other donors, it's NGOs, it's European Union, it's World Food Program. We'll all want to see these issues resolved and I hope we will be able to do so. Remember, the bottom line is we want to give food to needy North Koreans. The President referred to this again today. As I've said, we were quite prepared to talk to him about food among other things. But, the point is we need to make sure it gets to the people who need it and that will be an ongoing issue, I'd say.

QUESTION: But the President's remarks indicated that food and energy were part of the bold initiative of last fall which didn't go forward for reasons that we all are aware of. I didn't think that food was part of the package that he alluded to.

MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, food, the continuing supply of food was one of the things we're happy to mention to North Korea whenever we discuss moving forward in our relationship. But we have also made clear that the continuing the supply of food from the United States is based on the needs of people in North Korea, the situation that they face and our desire to help the people of North Korea with food. It's not conditioned on any political factors, nor is it part of a political package that was suspended or the other moves that were not possible because of the nuclear programs.

QUESTION: Well, the President seemed to make a link. Whether he intended to or not, that's the way it came out.

MR. BOUCHER: I -- no. I think the President's been clear on this at different times, and that the fact that food was one of the topics of discussion as we discussed that package doesn't mean, quite obviously, as we've said, that it's suspended like the other parts of the package.

QUESTION: Well, since the President mentioned the bold initiative, are you prepared to say in even in at least in general terms what the administration has in mind if they do dismantle?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's time at this point to go trying to describe it in any great detail.

QUESTION: No, I said in general terms.

MR. BOUCHER: Or even in specifics of generalities. (Laughter). I don't want to start naming areas beyond the ones the President named is what I'm trying to say.

QUESTION: You can't even say trade?

MR. BOUCHER: Generally we know that North Korea has been interested in recognition, respect, economic relations with the world. But what North Korea is finding from us and other people in the world is they're not getting those things because they've embarked on these nuclear programs.

Assistant Secretary Kelly, when he was in North Korea, as we've said, and I think we described it a little more at the time, said that we were prepared to take a bold approach to the relationship and we were prepared to do things as they did things on the issues of concern to us, to resolve some of the other issues in the relationship. But that was made impossible because we found they weren't meeting commitments they'd already made. And we have made clear at this point that they need to meet those commitments in the nuclear area and then we'll see. As the President said, we'll have to reconsider how we can proceed on those other matters.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Chinese Foreign Ministry asking for -- saying it would be a good idea for the US to have talks and offering to host them in Beijing. Do you have any statement as to whether you would be open to such talks and if so, at what level? And I have a follow-up.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on talks beyond what we've said in the trilateral communiqué with the Japanese and the Koreans. We're willing to talk to North Korea. The President said that again this morning. We need to talk about how it's going to resolve the concerns that shared widely in the international community about the nuclearization of the peninsula, about these uranium enrichment programs, about North Korea breaking its agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency on denuclearization, and also on cameras, seals, monitors and things like that. We need North Korea to address those issues. We need North Korea to promptly and verifiably end its nuclearization program.

The question of having talks in Beijing or New York or elsewhere really doesn't arise at this point. We have said we are willing to have talks. I think the Chinese were actually asked, "Would you be willing to do it here?" And they said, "Yeah, sure," or words to that effect. But that's not the issue now. The issue is whether North Korea is willing to address the concerns of the international community and promptly and verifiably end these programs that are such an affront to the agreements that it signed before and to the international community.

QUESTION: So my follow-up is, would you explain why this does not represent a changed position by the administration?

MR. BOUCHER: Because it's what we've said from the start. I can't change something I've said all along by saying it again....

QUESTION: Thank you. Coming back to what you said a moment ago when asked about whether Russia, Chinese, the United Nations or another site might be a venue for talks with North Korea, you said that the question really didn't arise at this point. I wonder if you could clarify the reason for that given the statement last week that you were willing to talk to them about this subject. Have you learned any -- is that because the criteria laid out last week had not yet been met, based on what you've heard from various intermediaries?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The issue is not whether we talk. The issue is not when we talk. The issue is not where we talk. The issue is really what we talk about. And we have made clear we're willing to talk to the North Koreans about how they can come into compliance with their international obligations.

Unfortunately, -- you know, there were discussions with Governor Richardson late last week, over the weekend. Unfortunately the North Koreans did not indicate, did not address the issues that the international community is concerned about. And unfortunately, at the same time, they kept taking steps in the opposite direction by withdrawing from the NPT.

MR. BOUCHER: So the issue is really can we talk about the things that need to be discussed which are the steps that North Korea has taken that go against its own commitments, that go against its own obligations under a number of agreements and international commitments?

QUESTION: So, presumably, have you, other than Governor Richardson, what you've heard from any other intermediaries who've been in touch with the North Koreans reinforced that impression that you've just articulated?

MR. BOUCHER: As I think we've said, what they said to Governor Richardson was more or less, was consistent and more or less contained what they said in public, as well. You're familiar with the press conference in New York and public statements and things like that. There are a number of people talking to the North Koreans and we have coordinated in Pacific fora like Japan-Korea-China discussions, or the discussions among 35 Board Member Countries of the IAEA, or in terms of our bilateral discussions with people like the Russians and the Chinese.

Assistant Secretary Kelly is in China today. And that those, in coordinating with those discussions, we have made clear to others our view and they share our view, I'd say, generally, that North Korea has to understand that its relations with the rest of the world depend on its abandoning these nuclear ambitions. And that point is being made again and again. You're familiar with the Australians, who are on their way to Pyongyang to visit and Jim Kelly has talked to Murray McLean, the leader of the Australian delegation. I think I may have been wrong when I mentioned Seoul because Jim was in Seoul and Murray was in Beijing, but they've talked on the phone.

We've kept in touch with the Australians. The Deputy Secretary was down there. The Secretary discussed this possibility with Foreign Minister Downer. I think the Russians have announced they're sending somebody. There's a UN envoy on its way. So there's plenty of visitors in Pyongyang, and I think all these various parties who are undertaking these visits have made clear in their own public statements, together and separately at times, that North Korea needed to eliminate these nuclear programs for there to be any progress in these relationships. And that's the first message.

The second message is we're willing to talk about how North Korea can do that and that has been made clear, I think very clear, in our public statements.

QUESTION: Richard, on the idea of talks, is it correct that Under Secretary Bolton's second trip to Asia this month is not, in fact, beginning with a transpacific flight, but rather a transatlantic flight?


QUESTION: It is not?


QUESTION: He's not going to London to meet with the --

MR. BOUCHER: He is going to London, but he's coming back here before he departs for Asia.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well then, you want to explain what he's going to London for?

MR. BOUCHER: You asked me a question. I gave you a specific answer. If you wanted to ask me if he was going to London, I would have had to tell you.

QUESTION: Well, this is a new trip, right? This one hadn't been announced before?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Under Secretary Bolton is going to head to London, or is on his way, I think, to London today for talks tomorrow in London on security issues with a couple other members of the Security Council, the French and the British, to discuss security issues before the -- in the context of the Security Council, particularly to talk about North Korea.

QUESTION: And possibly bringing the North Korea issue to the Security Council?

MR. BOUCHER: That's obviously one of the issues that has to be considered and discussed with others. Right now, it's with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Board there. And we'll see what they decide.

QUESTION: And these talks are being hosted by the foreign office?....

QUESTION: Yeah, would you clarify the impression of some that there is a contradiction between saying no quid pro quos and yet, increasingly in the last day or two, discussing the economic benefits of what would be down the road if these discussions led in the right direction?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think it's really increasingly discussing. When he was in Seoul, Assistant Secretary Kelly was asked specifically about a particular private sector project, a Sakhalin gas pipeline, that may or may not cross or involve North Korea. He gave the general answer that we'd always given -- that we had been prepared to take a bold approach, but that that was impossible because of North Korea's nuclear developments; applied it to the case of energy as the President did today.

But I think, as the President made clear, we haven't -- that we were prepared to take that bold initiative and we have to reconsider where we go. But first and foremost, the North Koreans need to resolve the question of their nuclear activities. And that was made clear by Assistant Secretary Kelly. It's been made clear by the President and the rest of us. There is a key difference to saying that where we had been prepared to go is, generally, I can't say precisely, but is, you know, was there and would be there and we'd have -- we could reconsider it. But first, they have to resolve these issues. And the first -- they have to verifiably and promptly dismantle these nuclear programs and return to compliance with their International Atomic Energy Agency obligations for there to be any progress on those other matters and any real reconsideration of those other matters.

Yeah, sir.

QUESTION: Well, the Japanese Government is wishing to have a new consultation mechanism about this issues with the P-5 countries in South Korea and Japan. What do you think about this idea? Is it on the table right now?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we've had very close contacts with the Japanese Government. We will have more close contacts with the Japanese Government when Assistant Secretary Kelly gets to Japan after, I think he'll swing down to Singapore and Indonesia. So, I think we continue to consult with the government of Japan in a variety of for a. As to any particular ideas about configurations, don't have anything in particular to say on them today.

QUESTION: Richard, does North Korea have to agree to talk about freezing its nuclear program for the US to sit down, or does it have to agree to freeze it in order for the US to sit down and talk?

MR. BOUCHER: I've got déjà vu all over again. We get this question every day. I give the same answer. It's the answer that we gave in the trilateral communiqué. We're prepared to talk to North Korea about how it will comply with its international obligations. That's what we're looking to do.


QUESTION: Could you update us what Secretary think about the light water reactor? Is that the best way to give North Koreans the energy capability?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you've seen in the Washington -- excuse me, The Wall Street Journal, wash my mouth out with soap. (Laughter). You'll see in The Wall Street Journal interview that Secretary said that we would have to look at the energy questions and that we might have to have a new arrangement. But, at this point we'll just -- if you're asking, sort of, you know, speculative, down the road kind of questions, that's about all that can be said. In terms of the current construction schedule for the light water reactors, that'll be a matter that the Korean Energy Development Organization Board will have to deal with as they meet again early in the year.


QUESTION: Actually, could I just follow-up on my earlier point? You moved on before I had an opportunity to follow.

MR. BOUCHER: Trying to move faster than you.

QUESTION: Yeah. Could you explain, if you say that it was all laid out in the communiqué, why you say, then, that the issue is not whether, where or when, it's what we talk about?

MR. BOUCHER: North Korea --

QUESTION: Isn't it -- I mean, we haven't agreed on where. We haven't agreed on whether and we haven't agreed on when. So --

MR. BOUCHER: But that's -- there are channels of communication open. Those things are relatively easily decided. Our willingness to talk is quite clear. What we have said is at this point, it doesn't look like North Korea is prepared to address those issues that are of concern to the international community. And so it is a question of whether -- of what we can talk about in those discussions, about what those discussions can produce if they're not going to produce some kind of resolution of our concerns that are shared in the international community.

QUESTION: Okay, you just said a resolution of your concerns. But if you're just saying you want to talk about it --

MR. BOUCHER: I said what they might produce being some resolution of our concerns. We're willing to talk to them about how they will comply. The compliance is the resolution. The talk is about how....

QUESTION: The Swiss Government is saying that its Foreign Minister has talks scheduled with Secretary Powell in Davos. Are you prepared to say whether we're going or not? He's going or not? You're going or not? I'm not going to give him a way to say, yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: I am and you're not.

QUESTION: Strike the royal "we."

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary is looking to travel to Davos for the World Economic Forum. Everything is not pinned down yet, so I don't really have a formal announcement of any travel at this point. But, I just have to leave it at that for the moment.

QUESTION: Has there been any discussion of a meeting with North Koreans in Davos?....

MR. BOUCHER: The answer to your question is no.

QUESTION: There are reports this morning that the North Koreans are actually sending somebody to Davos, surprisingly enough.

MR. BOUCHER: The answer to your question is no....

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