U.S.: N. Korea arms pact effectively dead
From Kelly Wallace
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House considers a 1994 agreement in which the United States provides energy assistance to North Korea in exchange for that country freezing its nuclear weapons program effectively dead, senior Bush administration officials said Sunday.
The acknowledgment comes after North Korea admitted to a top U.S. diplomat two weeks ago that it was working on a secret nuclear weapons program.
The most immediate impact of the U.S. withdrawal would be to stop the annual shipment of 500,000 tons of fuel oil from the United States to North Korea.
Publicly, the Bush administration is not announcing that it has decided to withdraw from the agreement, while it consults with Japan, South Korea, Russia and China about ways to put maximum pressure on North Korea.
But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that North Korea has "blown a hole in this political arrangement."
In addition, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that during a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials in Pyongyang, the North Koreans blamed the United States for their actions and then said the agreement was "nullified."
"An agreement between two parties, one of whom says it's been nullified, makes it sort of a nullified agreement," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."
What is unclear is what impact pulling out of the 1994 agreement would have on the North Koreans -- whether it would encourage the Pyongyang government to pursue its nuclear program even more or cause it to take steps to freeze or dismantle the program to get aid from the West.
North Korea's collapsed economy gives the United States and its allies the diplomatic leverage to convince the communist regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, Rice said.
"North Korea has been signaling and saying that it wants to break out of its economic isolation," Rice told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." "It has to break out of its economic isolation.
"This is a regime that in terms of its economic condition is going down for the third time. Its people are starving."
But Rice said, "It's not going to break out of that isolation while it's brandishing a nuclear weapon."
U.S. officials have launched a "full-court press of consultations" with other countries in the region to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to give up the nuclear weapons effort, Rice said.
The North Korean disclosure comes as the Bush administration faces a possible military confrontation with Iraq over its efforts to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he considered North Korea's nuclear ambitions and missile capability a bigger threat to the United States than Iraq.
Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged the White House to rethink its priorities.
But Rice said Iraq's history shows the Baghdad regime is harder to contain than North Korea.
"These are not comparable situations," she said. "They're dangerous, both of them dangerous. But we believe that we have different methods that will work in North Korea that clearly have not and will not work in Iraq."