CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
ElBaradei Holds News Conference
Aired January 6, 2003 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll have much more on the showdown with Iraq in just a few moments, but we are awaiting a news conference out of Vienna, Austria this hour on the North Korean nuclear problem. With few real options, the International Atomic Energy Agency has opted to give the communist regime in the north one more chance to comply with international safeguards.
We'll go to that news conference live when it begins, but joining me now with all the late breaking developments on the showdown with Iraq as well as the crisis with North Korea are CNN's Andrea Koppel, she is over at the State Department, and Rym Brahimi. She is in Baghdad.
Let's go to Washington first where the North Korean crisis is at the center of talks today. Our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is standing by to set the stage for what's going on -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in about an hour here at the State Department, a high level meeting between the United States and South Korea is set to start. Later this afternoon, there will be another meeting between the U.S. and Japan. The trilateral meeting won't happen until tomorrow, but don't expect to see a U.S. change of heart between now and the end of the day tomorrow as to how to break this impasse. The U.S. will not go to the negotiating table, it says, until the north agrees to freeze its nuclear weapons program again.
That is not what the South Koreans or the Japanese want to hear. Over the weekend, a senior South Korean official arrived in Washington for those talks. In his hand, we're told, a compromise proposal from the South Koreans for the U.S. to offer a nonaggression pact to the north in exchange for Pyongyang's agreement to freeze its nuclear weapons program.
The U.S., for its part, has a more modest goal over the next two days. U.S. officials telling me, Wolf, they hope to get the South Koreans and the Japanese as well as China and Russia on the same page in terms of the public message that's put out there. The U.S. believes that the allies have drifted, in the words of one official, off the reservation, that they are not making clear that the U.S. believes that the situation is where it is today due to the north's starting its secret nuclear weapons program way back in 1994 when it was supposed to have agreed to have frozen that program.
So right now, the U.S. is playing hard ball, Wolf, saying that it expects the north to blink before it takes any move. BLITZER: All right, Andrea, stand by because I want to go to Vienna, Austria. That is where Mohamed ElBaradei, he is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is being introduced right now. He is going to make a statement on what's going on in the North Korean crisis.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Good evening and let me welcome you here to our headquarters in Vienna.
KOPPEL: Yes, I'm here. I'm here. OK. I'm here.
BLITZER: Unfortunately -- unfortunately. It looks like we've lost the audio portion of Mohamed ElBaradei's comments from Vienna. We are going to try to fix that problem. In the meantime, I want to bring Andrea Koppel back, our State Department correspondent as we await fixing this technical problem.
Andrea, it looks like the U.S. strategy might be good cop, bad cop. The U.S. taking this hard ball approach, as you say, very tough line towards the North Koreans. South Korea, Japan, China, more moderate position trying to open the door for some sort of compromise. The strategy perhaps being designed to get some maximum pressure on North Korea by the United States taking this tough line. Is there a sense there at the State Department that this is what it's all about?
KOPPEL: Well, that certainly is one interpretation, Wolf. U.S. officials I've spoken with say that the situation, as it stands right now, is really untenable. Obviously, the United States, like its allies, wants a diplomatic solution, not a military one, to the current impasse. U.S. officials believe, Wolf, that if they were, let's say, to enter back into negotiations with North Korea, sit down at the table and talk, that this would be an excuse for North Korea to continue with its nuclear weapons program and drag things out.
BLITZER: All right. Andrea, stand by. We did fix that little technical glitch. Mohamed ElBaradei is speaking at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on the North Korean crisis.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ELBARADEI: ... key to have a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, but at the same time made it clear that unless DPRK comes into full compliance, DPRK will be declared in further noncompliance with its international obligation, and that means, under our statute, reporting the matter to the Security Council.
I was entrusted by the board to make every effort to, in a dialogue with DPRK, to bring it into compliance and to report to the board as a matter of urgency.
So, in brief, the board is giving DPRK one more chance to come into compliance. The board continued to underline the desire to resolve the issue through diplomatic means, but at the same time makes it very clear that unless DPRK cooperate and cooperate fully with the agency, the matter will be referred to the Security Council. I hope that DPRK will seize this opportunity to come into compliance. I hope DPRK will understand, as I made it clear to the board, that compliance and not defiance is the way for a solution to this issue. I hope they also understand that they need to take that first step into coming in compliance before a dialogue could start with all concerned parties.
That, I think, has been also made very clear by all members of the board, that once DPRK took the first step, the road is the way open for a comprehensive discussion with DPRK on all their security issues and economic assistance.
I will be reporting to the board in the next few weeks, and I hope, by that time, I'll be able to report positively on cooperation by the DPRK. I've transmitted the resolution just adopted today to the DPRK, to the foreign minister, and I hope in the next few days I get a positive reply.
I'll be happy to answer any of your questions.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) last chance for North Korea, but just looking at your fact sheet from the IAEA, it's revealing that the agency says it's never, despite all the negotiations (OFF-MIKE) has been able to have a complete picture regarding North Korea's nuclear activities and never been able to provide assurances regarding the peaceful (OFF-MIKE) of North Korea's nuclear program. Is there any basis now for optimism (OFF-MIKE) better this time?
ELBARADEI: Well, it's hard to tell what to expect. In the past, as you know, we have been very fine (ph) for the last eight years the freeze of all declared nuclear activities in DPRK. True, we did not have a complete picture as how much plutonium they produced in the past .
But according to the Agreed Framework between DPRK and the U.S., they were supposed -- in the next few years -- to come into compliance with regard to the past program and specifically how much plutonium they produced.
But at least we were verifying all existing nuclear activities in DPRK. That came to a halt in the last few weeks when our inspectors were asked to leave, when our cameras and seals were removed or destroyed. And now, we are completely clueless what is happening in DPRK not only with regard to the past program, but even with regard to the current activities.
How much optimism is there is difficult for me to say. As I said, I hope DPRK will hear the clear message of the international community that it needs to comply with its international obligation before any action, any positive response could come from any member of the international community.
QUESTION: The Atomic Energy Agency seems to be caught between a quarrel between the USA and North Korea. Have you been asked to make any suggestions to the USA or have you made any suggestions to ease relations so that you can go back to North Korea and continue your work there?
ELBARADEI: We're not -- I don't think we are caught in a quarrel between the U.S. and North Korea. I think it is clear that the problem is of an international dimension. It's a problem of violating international obligations with regard to Korea's nonproliferation obligations. I think the board was very clear that this is not a bilateral issue; it's a multilateral with dimension that goes beyond any bilateral relationship between the U.S. and North Korea.
The message is coming from the board that the international community is not ready to negotiate under blackmail or under threat, that North Korea has first to fulfill its international obligation.
Once they fulfill their international obligation, particularly with regard to the safeguard agreement they are party to, then there is a light at the end of the tunnel for them.
There was many statement in the board, by many neighboring countries -- Japan, South Korea, the U.S. -- that they are all ready to engage the DPRK in cooperation agreement with regard to their economic needs, with regard to security needs, but only when DPRK takes the first step and come into compliance and not, as I said, through defiance.
I think it's very important that every country understand that not through defiance of its international obligations that it can get political gains or a strategic advantage. It's true it is through dialogue, but dialogue has to be based on respect for international rules.
QUESTION: Mr. ElBaradei, I'm wondering whether you can give us any more of a sense for what urgent means in terms of time. Is it one month? Several weeks? Can you sort of shed any light on that?
And the second question is, I understand this was passed by consensus, which is a distinction from just being passed. Can you confirm that?
ELBARADEI: This is true.
I think the resolution has been adopted by consensus, which in the U.N. parlor (ph) mean that with a general agreement of all the 35 members of the board, I think that's significant. There was no dissent whatsoever on the content of the resolution. Everybody shares the concern, shares that the act of deploring what DPRK has done, subscribed to the game plan or plan of action that is inscribed in the resolution. So that, I think, is significant. It sends a powerful message to the DPRK.
How urgent is urgent? I mean, that's, again, I cannot really put a number on whether it's -- but it's clearly matters of weeks. I mean, I'd like obviously to give diplomacy a chance to work. I'd like to give DPRK time to mull over the resolution and hopefully come with a positive response. But I understand that the board is waiting urgently for a report from me, and I don't think I'll be delayed in providing the board a response at the very near future.
ELBARADEI: Well, I think, as I said, everybody hopes that this problem should be resolved through peaceful means. I mean, that's clearly, you know, an agreement among all parties. In fact, in the international community, everybody is hoping for a diplomatic solution as a first option.
I think, also, everybody is sympathetic that once there is a compliance by DPRK, that they are ready to look into their economic needs, their energy needs, their security concern, there, again, is general agreement.
What is still happening that people are very reluctant to negotiate or to enter into a dialogue with DPRK at a time when DPRK is defying all its international obligation. And I think the message is, to DPRK: You take the first step, you come into compliance, and then all the doors will be open. We are ready to negotiate with you. We are ready to discuss with you.
I said before, the way I see it, that all the pieces of the puzzle are there. I mean, there is no fundamental disagreement that the international community is ready to help DPRK; the international community is ready to engage DPRK in a security dialogue and in a dialogue which focuses on its economic needs, but not under a situation of nuclear brinkmanship, not in a situation when DPRK is defying its international obligations.
So what is needed is the DPRK to take the first step, and then all the other steps will follow. I think what we need is a road map, a road map which starts with DPRK coming into full compliance. Once that steps is taken, then, I think, I see clearly a very smooth transition to an agreed settlement.
QUESTION: Why this double standard with Korean (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the Iraq (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
ELBARADEI: Well, again, I'm not sure that I'm the one qualified to answer that question. It's a question of appreciation by the Security Council, by the Board of Governors.
As you probably have heard, people are making a number of distinctions between the two situations, that in the case of Iraq, Iraq has been in a war situation during the Gulf War, and Security Council decided at that time to impose a program of disarmament on Iraq. Korea, on the other hand, has not moved out of its borders, and therefore the assumption by the international community that it might be better to or preferable to give Korea first a chance through diplomatic means before thinking of other alternatives, before reporting to the Security Council.
But, again, the board today made it clear that if North Korea were to persist in defying its international obligation the next step will be bringing the issue to the Security Council. It's a question, as I said, of political appreciation. It's not just by the agency Board of Governors, but clearly by the Security Council. And as I said, the distinction here is that the question of disarming Iraq came in the aftermath of the Gulf War, and that distinguish Iraq from North Korea, at least that's in one respect.
QUESTION: Sir, I would like to go back to what you said about the timing of this. And I think you mentioned it as a matter of weeks. Am I right to assume that there's no deadline or any such thing?
ELBARADEI: Well, the board have not set a deadline for me. He said I need to report to the board as a matter of urgency. I think that's a question of political appreciation. Obviously, I'll have to watch closely what is going on in the next few weeks, how North Korea is responding, what sort of diplomatic initiatives are being taken, being pursued. And on that basis, I would decide on the time to report to the board.
QUESTION: North Korea has said that it wants to leave the NPT, and in 1993 it also threatened to leave the NPT, and it last 89 days, but it was suspended.
Does that mean that if it announces that it (OFF-MIKE) it only needs one more day because it takes 90 days to read?
And then my other question is, what about the video cards and the tapes that were on 15 cameras that were brought back to the agency, do you have any information?
ELBARADEI: Well, on the question of leaving or withdrawing from the NPT, I hope that North Korea will not take that step because that will simply escalate the situation. And again, a number of members of the board today expressed their view that any escalation will be a threat to peace and stability in the region. It does not -- even if North Korea were to withdraw from the NPT, that does not absolve the Security Council from its responsibility if it considers the situation to be a threat to international peace to deal with the issue.
But as I said, I hope North Korea will continue to be party to the NPT. If they decide to move from the NPT, whether they require the three months under the 322 to effect a withdrawal or not, again, this is something we, you know, lawyers need to look at it. But I hope they will not withdraw because that will not resolve the issue, in fact, it will exacerbate the situation.
On the question of cameras, there was nothing out of the ordinary. I mean, these cameras were there when the facilities were under freeze, and at that time, the facilities were not starting. So there was not unusual recorded on these films.
BLITZER: Mohamed ElBaradei, he is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, answering reporters' questions in Vienna at the headquarters of the IAEA. The news from this news conference following a meeting of the 35-member board of the IAEA. Mohamed ElBaradei says they are ready to give North Korea, in his words, one last chance. Give diplomacy one last chance to resolve this matter before the IAEA would refer the whole matter to the United Nations Security Council.
How much longer will the North Koreans have? It's a matter of weeks, Mohamed ElBaradei says for the North Koreans to take what he says is the first step necessary to resolve this crisis, this nuclear crisis.
Says the North Koreans must accept all of the previous arrangements, must be willing to negotiate, to work with the West, to work with its neighbors, but the West and the neighbors, including the United States, of course, are not going to negotiate under what he calls nuclear brinkmanship. The DPRK, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea, in other words, must take that first step to move forward with some sort of settlement.
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