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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, in October 2006, the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Il culminated years of provocative military action by conducting a nuclear test. In the years preceding that test, North Korea expelled international inspectors, restarted nuclear facilities, and reinvigorated its plutonium production program, this, following the pledge by North Korea, under the agreed framework in 1994, to freeze and dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for our assistance.

I am glad that following this test in 2006, the international community joined the United States in condemning that test, and the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution requiring North Korea to halt their nuclear tests and dismantle their nuclear weapons program.

In February of this year, our State Department negotiators and Bush administration officials heralded a breakthrough agreement with North Korea. On February 13, the six-party negotiators, including the countries of the United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan, China, and North Korea, concluded an agreement to end North Korea's nuclear programs.

President Bush stated he was ``pleased with the agreement reached'' by the six-party talks. He acknowledged that under the agreement, North Korea committed to take several specific actions by a 60-day deadline, and President Bush made clear that the cooperation on economic, humanitarian, and energy assistance to North Korea would be provided ``as the North carries out its commitments to disable its nuclear facilities.'' In other words, there was going to be a step-by-step process by which they disabled their nuclear facilities, that they would then get economic, humanitarian, and energy assistance in North Korea.

Pursuant to the February 13 deal, North Korea was required to take a series of actions within 60 days. This included a freeze of its nuclear installations at Yongbyon, including shutting down a nuclear reactor and plutonium processing plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna was to be allowed to monitor the freeze at Yongbyon. To no one's surprise, that 60-day deadline that was negotiated passed with no action by the North Koreans. The Yongbyon facility was not shut down. The International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were not admitted, reminiscent of the pussyfooting with North Korea that went on during the 1990s.

Rather than comply with their commitments under the agreement--then we know what North Korea did, something that was not even negotiated--North Korea proceeded to demand the release of assets frozen at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia.

The approximately $25 million was frozen by the United States Treasury Department in 2005 once it was discovered that these funds came from a range of fraudulent and illegal activities by the North Koreans; simply stated, counterfeiting of U.S. currency and money laundering.

So what was our response to the North Korean demand? Did we refuse to negotiate the BDA funds until North Korea demonstrated their commitment to follow through on their obligations? I am sorry to say the answer is no. We allowed them to pussyfoot around, as they have done so often.

Our team of negotiators began working on a way to yield to Kim Jong Il's demands, once again accepting their pussyfooting.

Keep in mind, under the terms of the February 13 agreement, North Korea had the unambiguous responsibility to take the first step, which North Korea did not do. In addition, the BDA frozen funds were not stated in or a part of that February 13 agreement. So how do we get to the point of responding to their pussyfooting that they demand something that is not in an agreement that was already agreed to? What good are agreements? Not only had the North Koreans not followed through on their commitment by the 60-day deadline, they were now reopening the agreement by demanding the release of these frozen funds.

So rather than force North Korea to fulfill its commitments, our negotiators were looking for ways to respond to their pussyfooting, their unwillingness to act, and then work to get those frozen funds unfrozen.

Here again Uncle Sam becomes Uncle Sucker for some tinhorn dictator. And we wonder why we are not respected around the world.

In June, after weeks of back and forth between the State Department and Pyongyang, the funds were unfrozen and our own Federal Reserve System was called in to transfer the funds. How illicit these funds were in the first place is the fact that they went to banks all over the world to try to transfer them. They even went to Russia, and Russia would not touch it.

But once again Uncle Sam is Uncle Sucker and our Federal Reserve System was willing to pass on that tainted money.

Before North Korea showed even an inkling of followthrough on their obligations, we conceded on an issue that wasn't even a part of the agreement that they were supposed to start dismantling their nuclear program. So it begs the question of whether the BDA funds were part of a side deal that our State Department negotiators had chosen to agree to but not include in that formal agreement.

In addition, in pushing the BDA issue as a precondition for implementing the initial phase of the six-party agreement, Kim Jong Il had succeeded in rendering the timelines of the agreement useless. In other words, what was supposed to happen in 60 days after the February 13 agreement did not happen in 60 days, and more pussyfooting by Kim Jong Il, as we saw in the 1990s and we are seeing again now. Do we ever learn a lesson?

In addition to pushing the BDA issue as a precondition of implementing the initial phase of the agreement, he had in fact pulled one over on the United States. These deadlines, starting February 13, were touted by the six-party negotiators as evidence that North Korea would finally comply with the demands to give up its nuclear program and that they would be held accountable to strict deadlines. Neither of these things happened, and people in North Korea are laughing at Uncle Sucker again.

In recent days and weeks, North Korea has begun to signal that they will take concrete steps to shut down and seal the Yongbyon facility and accede to verification and monitoring procedures of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill recently visited North Korea and described his positive discussions with the North Koreans and their intentions to fulfill their obligations.

I wonder if he bothered to discuss with them why they didn't keep their word. Is their word worth anything? I mean, after all, you have an agreement. Can you trust people who sign a name to a document?

It is difficult to understand the positive reaction to the signals now being sent by North Korea 3 months after they were required. In other words, in 60 days things would start to happen. Nothing happened until 3 months after the 60 days. Nonetheless, the International Atomic Energy Agency has, in recent days, determined the scope of its inspection regime and is expected to be back in North Korea within weeks.

But once again, there is no target date for shutting down the Yongbyon facility. It appears that all we are getting from North Korea's leadership is the same old footdragging--pussyfooting around. And while the North Koreans have said they intend to shut down and seal the Yongbyon facility in the near future, do you know what they are doing now? They are putting more demands on us ahead of time. They are now tying those actions to the delivery of heavy oil.

Now, this bears repeating, because, here again, we have more pussyfooting. Before shutting and sealing the nuclear facility at Yongbyon, North Korea is demanding the delivery of heavy oil, and even other assistance, without any significant action on their part. Mr. President, to use a quote from baseball's great Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again.

My great concern is that North Korea is in the process of exploiting, time and again, our willingness to concede to their demands for assistance, regardless of whether they ever actually comply with their commitments of the February agreement in the first place. In other words, if they can sucker us again, they want to sucker us for all they can get out of us.

I understand the angst of North Korea with allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in and the freezing of the Yongbyon facility, but these steps are rather small compared to the future requirements. If Kim Jong Il ever complies with the first phase of this agreement, the next phase will require them to make a complete declaration of all nuclear programs, including their uranium enrichment activities.

It also requires the complete disablement of all nuclear facilities. Keep in mind, no timetables, no deadlines have been agreed to for the implementation of this phase. It is during those future steps, when the real heavy lifting will be required, that we will see the true nature of Kim Jong Il.

I haven't seen any change, and I don't expect a lot of change, but I expect the United States to just continue to be suckered and suckered and suckered. And if Kim Jong Il has no intention of giving us his nuclear weapons program, which many believe, it will be crystal clear at that point when real commitments come due.

I am afraid we will likely see more of the same patient back and forth, so-called confidence building--those are words our people use--that our negotiators seem so compelled to pursue. It seems that nothing has been learned during the process with North Korea. Have the diplomats at Foggy Bottom not learned anything from the mistakes made by this administration now, by the Clinton administration previously?

Have we learned nothing from Kim Jong Il's perpetual tactics of agreeing to terms, only to demand then further concessions, as though written agreements mean nothing? We have been down this road before. When are we going to recognize we are being made a sucker, much the same way President Clinton was played along with? When will we say to Pyongyang that enough is enough? When will this Bush administration stand its ground?

I support the international effort towards a diplomatic solution on this matter, but I also think it is imperative we learn from past mistakes. I was deeply skeptical of North Korea's willingness to follow through on the 1994 Agreed Framework, and I am deeply skeptical they will follow through on the February 13 agreement.

If Pyongyang continues to demand assistance without complying with the terms of the February 13 agreement, I hope the President--the present chief executive, President Bush--will quickly realize the deja vu tactics of Kim Jong Il and put an end to the policies of concessions without compliance. If not, President Bush will have done nothing more to address North Korea's nuclear problems than President Clinton.

I yield the floor.

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