Sorting out conflicting reports of North Korean intentions

November 18, 2002

Over the past weekend, a number of stories emerged regarding North Korea’s commitments to its past policy statements. These statements addressed the missile testing moratorium and the status of a North Korean nuclear weapons program. The following summaries represent the latest information of the status of these issues:

Nuclear Weapons Program

On Sunday November 17, 2002, a North Korean state-sponsored radio station broadcasted that North Korea has a nuclear weapon. This appeared to be a departure from North Korea’s previous statements that said only that it was entitled to have a nuclear weapon.

However, the broadcast may have been in error. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has said that the error may have been a misunderstanding due to the announcer’s accent. Only one syllable separates the two phrases, “kajige tui-o-itta” (is entitled to have) and “kajige tui-otta” (has come to have)1.

Meanwhile, separate reports from North Korea denied that it has violated the NPT or the Agreed Framework.

Sunday, November 17

  • Chosun Ilbo reported on Sunday that Radio Pyongyang broadcasted that North Korea “has come to have nuclear and other strong military weapons to deal with increased nuclear threats by the U.S. imperialists.” This differs from previous statements saying that North Korea was “entitled to have nuclear weapons.” (Chosun Ilbo, November 18)
  • The Rodong Sinmun refuted the United States’ claims that North Korea violated the NPT and Agreed Framework, saying instead that the United States “violated and destroyed the DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework and nullified the north-south joint declaration on denuclearization.” (KCNA, November 17)

Monday, November 18

  • North Korea’s state-run radio station, Central Radio, said that North Korea “is entitled to have nuclear and other strong military weapons due to nuclear threats by U.S. imperialists.” The reports by Pyongyang Radio (from Sunday) and Central Radio differ by verbal tenses. Pyongyang Radio using past tense and Central Radio using present tense. Yonhap news agency, South Korean media that monitors broadcasts from Pyongyang, says that the news anchor may have erred in the earlier report. (Washington Post, November 18)
  • According to the Korea Herald, a South Korean government official said that the Sunday broadcast should not be taken as an official government admission of nuclear weapons. It could have been a news announcer error or a deliberate attempt by North Korea to confuse the security issue. Sunday’s broadcast comes after KEDO (Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization) decided to halt fuel shipments to North Korea because of Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program. (Korea Herald, November 19)

Missile Moratorium

  • Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on November 16 that North Korea will reconsider its missile moratorium because Japan has “backpedalled [sic]” on its promise to compensate North Korea for Japan’s war crimes against the Korean people, including forcible drafting of Koreans, crimes relating to comfort women, massacres, and plunder. KCNA further stated that Japan complicated matters by not allowing the return of abductees to North Korea. (KCNA, November 16) The issues on DPRK’s missile moratorium and Japan’s financial compensation for war crimes are covered in the Pyongyang Declaration. During the process of normalization, Japan and North Korea signed the Pyongyang Declaration on September 17 when Prime Minister Koizumi visited Pyongyang. The declaration’s main points were:
    1. Japan and North Korea will strive towards re-establishing relations;
    2. Japan’s apology and future economic compensation, in the form of low interest loans and grants in aid, for war crimes against the Korean people;
    3. Japan and North Korea will refrain from threatening their mutual security; and
    4. Japan and North Korea will preserve peace and stability in Northeast Asia. This includes promoting confidence building measures, observing international law to solve nuclear issues, and the DPRK’s extending its missile moratorium past 2003 2.

1 “N Korean nuclear ‘admission’ in doubt,”, November 18, 2002.
2 “DPRK-Japan Pyongyang declaration published,” KCNA, September 17, 2002.

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