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2/19/03 - NORTH KOREA’S SELF-ISOLATION - 2003-02-20

On February 12th, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that North Korea is in breach of a 1994 agreement to freeze its nuclear weapons program. The I-A-E-A sent its findings to the United Nations Security Council for action.

North Korea’s decision to reactivate its nuclear facilities could make it possible for North Korea to speed up production of nuclear weapons. Many countries are concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. They include China, Russia, the members of the European Union, South Korea, and Japan. All have said they want North Korea to remain free of nuclear weapons. If North Korea continues to ignore these concerns, it will find itself increasingly isolated.

As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said, North Korea has “nothing to gain from acquiring nuclear weapons –- and much to lose.... The people of that country are paying a terrible price for these programs in international isolation and misspent national resources.”

Conditions in North Korea “are appalling,” said Mr. Armitage, “and millions of North Koreans are at immediate risk of starvation.” The U.S. has been the world’s most generous donor of food assistance to North Korea. Since 1995, the U.S. has provided nearly two-million metric tons of food.

But neither the U.S. nor other countries can ignore the threatening actions of the North Korean government. With North Korea, “We are dealing with an unpredictable regime,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, “and a regime that seems to be moving along a ladder of escalation in terms of its actions.”

As Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said, “North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons programs in a verifiable and irreversible manner.” The U.S., said Mr. Armitage, “will not dole out any ‘rewards’ to convince North Korea to live up to its existing obligations. But we do remain prepared to transform our relations with that country, once it complies with its international obligations and agreements. Channels of communication between [the U.S. and North Korea] remain open, but ultimately, it is the actions of North Korea that matter.”