ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned North Korea on Sunday that it needs to live up to its commitments to dismantle its nuclear programs.
“The North Koreans have already agreed to dismantling,” she said. “We expect them to fulfill the obligations that they entered into.” During the now-stalled “six-party talks,” Pyongyang agreed to stop its weapons work in exchange for economic and other incentives.
Clinton, on her first mission overseas as President Barack Obama’s chief diplomat, was en route to Asia for meetings with leaders of Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia.
Today, the 67th birthday of leader Kim Jong-Il, North Korea claimed it has the right to “space development” – a term it has used in the past to disguise a missile test as a satellite launch.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency accused the United States and other countries of trying to block the country’s “peaceful scientific research” by linking it to a long-range missile test.
Last week, Clinton warned North Korea against any “provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric.”
During her plane trip, she implicitly criticized the Bush administration for abandoning the so-called 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, reached during President Bill Clinton’s first term in the White House, which called for the North to give up its plutonium-based weapons program.
The framework collapsed when the Bush team accused Pyongyang of maintaining a separate highly enriched uranium program, about which Secretary Clinton said there was still great debate. As a result, she said, the North had restarted and accelerated its plutonium program, allowing it to build a nuclear device that it had detonated in 2006.
Clinton said Sunday that one goal of her trip was to demonstrate a new U.S. commitment to work with Asian leaders on “problems that no one nation, including ours, can deal with alone.”
The administration’s goal, she said, is to push climate change and the global financial crisis to or near the top of the agenda. Ongoing issues like North Korea’s nuclear programs and human rights in China will remain priorities, she added.
“This region is indispensable to our efforts to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Clinton said aboard her plane before a refueling stop in Alaska.
Her first Asian stop is in Japan, followed by Indonesia, South Korea and China.