WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Nonproliferation Task Force and a senior Democratic Member of the Homeland Security Committee, today released series of letters from President Bush and senior Bush Administration officials showing that the Bush White House continued key policies begun by the Clinton Administration to deal with the threat posed by North Korea’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.  In particular, the Bush Administration rebuffed calls for it to abandon a Clinton Administration proposal to transfer two light water reactors to the North in return for an agreement by Kim Jong Il to halt uranium enrichment activities and come back into compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safeguards requirements.

“When it comes to the 1994 Agreed Framework, these documents show that the Bush policy on North Korea has been one of rhetorical hostility and policy continuity,” said Rep. Markey.

Markey continued, “The fact is that the Bush Administration continued the Clinton-era policy of offering Kim Jong Il access to nuclear technology in the hope of weaning him from his nuclear weapons program.  At the same time, the Bush Administration largely abandoned the Clinton policy of engaging in direct talks with the North Korea to seek a diplomatic solution. The Bush White House may have inherited the North Korean problem, but after nearly six years in office they now deserve full credit for the policies that have brought the world to the point where Kim Jong Il reportedly has tested a nuclear bomb.”

Markey added, “The Bush Administration had a chance to reverse the Clinton Administration’s policies with respect to the Agreed Framework back in 2001, and they declined to do so.  They stuck with the plan to give the North two light water reactors, abandoning it only after Pyongyang’s acknowledged its covert nuclear weapons program.  At the same time, the Bush Administration refused to talk to the North Koreans, unleashed a wave of ‘Axis of Evil’ rhetoric that needlessly antagonized the North Koreans, frightened the South Koreans, and made it more difficult to reach a regional solution to the North Korean problem.  Today, we are living with the consequences of the White House’s bungling approach to this complex problem.”

Rep. Markey, who long opposed nuclear cooperation with North Korea, wrote the Administration repeatedly urged over the last five years that the light water reactor program be abandoned, and that the U.S. instead offer North Korea new non-nuclear power plants and economic assistance needed to upgrade their electrical transmission and distribution grid.  The Bush Administration declined to take this step, and instead continued with plans to provide reactors to North Korea until the Pyongyang admitted that it had a covert nuclear reprocessing program and withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The documents Rep. Markey released today revealed that:

On March 7, 2002, President Bush rebuffed a bipartisan plea for his Administration to abandon plans to provide North Korea with two light water reactors and explore alternatives.  In a letter, the President stated that “the Agreed Framework was intended as a mechanism to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and to bring that country into compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).  My Administration remains committed to these goals.”  The President went to promise that the reactors would not actually be transferred until North Korea came into compliance with its nonproliferation obligations, noted that “the Agreed Framework is one element of a broader approach aimed at addressing the threat we face from North Korea” and indicated that “we are working with our allies to charge a step-by-step course that, if implemented by North Korea, would lead to more normal relations and a reduced threat.”

On July 5, 2002, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice rebuffed another bipartisan call for the Bush Administration to suspend all nuclear technology transfers to North Korea, conduct an intelligence assessment of the IAEA’s ability to ferret out all of North Korea’s possible nuclear-weapons related activities during the three-year timeframe then anticipated for IAEA inspections, and halt actual construction of the foundations of the planned light water reactors until it could be verified that North Korea was in full compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations.  Rice stated that, “At present, we are only transferring technology necessary for licensing and safe operation of the completed light water reactors,” and that the Administration would not approve the actual export or re-export of critical reactor components until North Korea came into compliance with its NPT obligations.

In March 2003, the Energy Department revealed that Westinghouse received an authorization for nuclear technology transfers in May 1996 for five years, and “In May 2001, the authorization was extended for another five years.”   “[A]pproximately 3,200 documents have been reviewed for export control concerns.  Of these, roughly 3,100 were approved for release, with the stipulation that they only be transferred when needed, and the balance denied.  Roughly 300 documents have been transferred to North Korea.”  (emphasis added)

Rep. Markey concluded, “Clearly, the Bush kept in place the Agreed Framework’s proposed reactor deal until the point at which North Korea’s violations made the notion of exporting any new nuclear reactors to Pyongyang completely untenable.  At the same time, the Administration walked away from the Clinton Administration’s policy of direct dialogue with the North.  President Bush famously lumped North Korea in with Iraq and Iran as a charter member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, yet now Condoleezza Rice asserts that North Korea is an entirely different situation than Iraq and the U.S. has no intention of invading them.  The U.S. needs to go to the U.N. Security Council to seek a resolution condemning North Korea and providing for imposition of sanctions, while at the same time offering to talk to the North Koreans about ways of peacefully resolving this crisis.”

Copies of Rep. Markey’s correspondence with the Bush Administration on this subject can be here:

Feb 20, 03 iss_nonproliferation_ltr030220.pdf
Feb 19, 03 iss_nonproliferation_resp030221.pdf

Feb 14, 03 iss_nonproliferation_resp030214.pdf

Dec 31, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021231.pdf

Nov 18, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021118.pdf

Nov 14, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021114.pdf

Nov 1, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021101.pdf

Oct 30, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021031.pdf

Oct 22, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltrP021022.pdf
Oct 22, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021022.pdf
Oct 17, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr021017.pdf

Jul 5, 02 iss_nonproliferation_resp020725.pdf
May 31, 02 iss_nonproliferation_ltr020531.pdf
Feb 5, 02 iss_nuclear_ltr020205.pdf

Jan 17, 01 iss_nuclear_ltr010117.pdf

Dec 14, 00 iss_nuclear_NRCltr001214.pdf

October 11, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein