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Statement of Chairman Tom Lantos at Full Committee Hearing, “North Korea: The February 13th Agreement”

Feb 28, 2007
Press Release

Verbatim, as delivered

The Six Party deal announced in Beijing two weeks ago represented an all-too-rare victory for diplomacy. Too often, the wise words and sound counsel of America’s top diplomats have been drowned out by the strong unilateralist voices echoing through the hallways of the White House.

Through skillful diplomacy and compromise, the Beijing agreement has the potential to kick-start the long and arduous process of de-escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula. Henry Kissinger once wrote, “A crisis does not always appear to a policymaker as a series of dramatic events. Usually it imposes itself as an exhausting agenda of petty chores demanding both concentration and endurance.”

Our distinguished witness, Ambassador Christopher Hill, has had no shortage of concentration or endurance as he has engaged in the often painful process of negotiating with the North Koreans. I know, because I have done it myself. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for working to bring about this agreement, and for your extraordinary service to our nation.

To be sure, the February 13th agreement is not a panacea for the North Korean nuclear threat. The success of the deal is entirely dependent – and I want to repeat this and underscore it – entirely dependent upon the good intentions of the North Korean leadership, good intentions which have been in remarkably short supply in Pyongyang during the three years of the Six Party discussions.

The first 60 days of required actions under the Beijing agreement are clear and measurable. But beyond the first two months, I am concerned that North Korean obfuscation might work to undermine the effectiveness of the denuclearization agreement.

What will happen if the North Koreans fail to provide us with a complete list of all of their nuclear activities? Who will verify the list? If the list fall short, will Pyongyang continue to receive the fuel assistance it has been promised?

We must also recognize that the Beijing deal is not comprehensive. The critically-important issues of destabilizing missiles, human rights, democracy and refugees have yet to be tackled. As I have made crystal clear in all of my discussions with the North Koreans, the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea can never have a fully normal relationship absent progress on these important fronts.

With these reservations aside, it would be profoundly unwise not to recognize the enormous significance of this deal. Having traveled and spent two very fascinating periods in North Korea, I am convinced that there will never be a one-time, comprehensive peace and denuclearization agreement with North Korea. We will only achieve these objectives through a step-by-step, verifiable process in which all sides dig out from the decades of mutual distrust and misunderstanding.

For that reason, I am particularly pleased that Secretary Condoleezza Rice has agreed, in principle, to meet her North Korean counterpart in Beijing in April to discuss implementation of the agreement. And it is very positive that our two countries have agreed to establish a working group to focus on the normalization of relations.

Given the decades of hostility between the United States and North Korea – and North Korea threatening nuclear and missile tests – it would be folly to believe that normalization will come quickly or painlessly. But this process of determining the right sequence of events that could lead to normalization must begin, and it must begin now.

Mr. Ambassador, you have been beaten bloody by some in this town since your return from Beijing because of the similarities between this deal and the 1994 Agreed Framework. While there are differences between the two agreements, one cannot escape the fact that the North Koreans will receive significant quantities of fuel oil in exchange for nuclear concessions.

But it is important to remember that the much-maligned Agreed Framework stopped nuclear fuel production at the Yongbyon facility for more than eight years, fuel which could otherwise have produced dozens of additional nuclear weapons. If the deal you have negotiated in Beijing has a similar impact, you, Mr. Ambassador, should be extremely proud of it.

As we look toward implementation of the Beijing agreement, we should not be naïve. It is possible that Pyongyang made this deal to get Beijing off its back, and to give itself breathing space to further develop its destabilizing nuclear and missile programs. But in a land of few good policy options, a promising diplomatic accord is indeed a welcome development.

So I congratulate you, Mr. Ambassador, on job exceptionally well done.

Let me now call on my good friend and distinguished colleague from Florida, the Ranking Republican Member of the Committee, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

 

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