REPORT ON CODEL TO NORTH KOREA (House of Representatives - September 03, 1997)

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Florida [Mr. Goss] is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GOSS. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report to my colleagues in the House on a precedent-setting House CODEL visit to North Korea last month during our recess.

[TIME: 1900]

I was honored to lead a bipartisan delegation of seven members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in traveling on oversight business to Asia. Our trip happened to include 3 days and 2 nights in North Korea, and I will include for the Record the formal written statement of our delegation released about that portion of our trip.

Mr. Speaker, the simple fact that the North Korean leadership welcomed a delegation of the size, seniority, and breadth of our seven-member group is very telling and somewhat remarkable, in my view. Crises is forcing the reclusive and anachronistic North Korean regime to reach out to the United States for assistance and pull back slightly on the veil of secrecy that has shrouded that nation for decades.

Even though our trip was obviously carefully managed by our hosts, we saw the signals of collapse during our visit. People really are starving; the infrastructure is crumbling; power shortages are routine; proregime propaganda is rampant; and the leadership, while refusing to concede failure, is tightening control and grasping for leverage.

After spending 48 hours in that isolated country, I felt as if I had been in a time warp, witnessing a life totally foreign to the American experience today, perhaps something back in the cold war days behind the Iron Curtain.

We repeatedly drove home the point that food aid distribution must be verifiable so that we can be sure it reaches the people who are most in need. And we were asked repeatedly about aid. We expressed hope that cooperation on the issue of MIA's would remain coming from the North Koreans and they have given us some cooperation. These are very positive signs.

But in response, the North Korean officials stated that the United States sanctions against them must be lifted and additional unconditional food assistance, and I stress the word `unconditional,' must be provided.

The North Koreans did not acknowledge the need for internal economic, agricultural, or political reform, focusing instead on external factors as the root of the causes of their current difficulties. While they were cordial in their hospitality, and they did give us fine hospitality, these senior officials were obviously mistrustful of the United States. They also forcefully underscored their position that they would not negotiate with South Korea as long as the South's President, Kim Young Sam, remains in office. He is scheduled to remain in office until the end of this year.

In the short term, we should be principally concerned with establishing a regular and more verifiable means of food aid distribution to ease the immediate crisis. I pointed out, and the others did, that Americans are a compassionate people willing to respond to human suffering in remote regions of the world. We have already provided about 60 million dollars' worth of aid, that adds up to about 100,000 metric tons of food, in relief of starving people in North Korea. Hopefully, it is going to people starving and not the military. But we were disappointed that during our visit we were not taken to see the food distribution centers, nor did we have access to the regions of the nation where food shortages are most severe.

However, we understand that our visit helped pave the way for a staff delegation from another committee to have greater access while in North Korea. In the longer term, an increasing presence of outsiders going about their business on behalf of nongovernmental relief organizations, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, Congress, and other organizations that have legitimate business there, should help force open the door between North Korea and the outside world.

Mr. Speaker, the signals are abundantly clear: The North Korean regime is dying. We must do our part to prevent that process from undermining the security of the peninsula and threatening America's vital interests in the region. Americans do have several good reasons for being interested in the future relations with the North Korean regime. Not just the humanitarian concerns and seeking to prevent the starvation of literally millions of people, but, second, our interests are very much at stake when we consider something on the order of 200,000 Americans and Korean-Americans are living and going about their business in South Korea within close range of the world's fourth largest army, with its massed artillery on the DMZ. And, we have very serious concerns about North Korea's activities in proliferating weapons of mass destruction to rogue nations and, in fact, that has been happening.

To the extent that our visit marked a milestone in the United States-North Korea relationship, I hope that the elite band of leaders in the North will not allow current events to foreclose the opportunity now at hand. I believe that the veil is lifting there, and I am certain to believe that a negotiated settlement bringing North Korea into this century certainly is better than any of the other alternatives using the military.

Mr. Speaker, I submit the following for the Record:

Joint Statement of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence--Congressional Delegation Visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea--August 12, 1997

From August 9 through August 11, a bipartisan, seven-member Congressional Delegation (CODEL) from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) was in Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) to meet with North Korean officials and gather first-hand information about the current situation in that volatile region. This was a precedent-setting visit to North Korea by a Congressional delegation of this size, seniority, and breadth of experience.

The delegation was led by HPSCI Chairman Porter J. Goss (R-FL). The other Members of Congress comprising the CODEL were Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Bill McCollum (R-FL), Jane Harman (D-CA), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Charles F. Bass (R-NH) and Jim Gibbons (R-NV). In addition to their assignment on the HPSCI, these members represent a wealth of experience on relevant issues based on their other committee assignments.

The delegation's interlocutors were headed by Mr. Kang Sokju, First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and Mr. Li Hyong-chol, Director of American Affairs of the MFA. All discussions took place in the Pyongyang region. Despite repeated requests by CODEL members, the delegation was unable to travel to famine-stricken areas where it had hoped to determine the extent of the problem and investigate the system used for distributing food aid.

In several formal and informal working sessions with the North Koreans, the CODEL made the following points:

The United States has a strong and abiding national security interest in helping defuse tension on the Korean peninsula. The four party talks should be responsibly pursued;

North Korea must cease its sale of advanced weaponry, missile systems, and supporting technologies to Iran and other `rouge' states;

The United States stands firmly behind its military and security commitments to the Republic of Korea;

North Korea must fully honor its commitments in the nuclear arena, as specified in the Agreed Framework, including allowing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) challenge inspections and comply with its responsibilities to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO);

North Korea's cooperation in helping locate and return the remains of several United States military personnel killed in the Korean War is a positive step. Such steps must be continued and expanded;

Provocative acts such as those that occurred in the Demilitarized Zone on July 16, 1997 are counterproductive to cooperation and understanding;

To participate fully in the opportunities of the world community, North Korea must open up its society; and

North Korea must make its food distribution to the civilian population fully transparent and verifiable, in order to facilitate the United States' consideration of additional assistance. The food aid cannot be diverted to the military.

Though the visit was carefully managed by the North Korean hosts, the tenor of the discussions was cordial but candid. Frank discussion about mutual mistrust occurred on several items of a lengthy agenda. The delegation believes talks were constructive in demonstrating bipartisan support for United States policy to encourage North Korea to engage in honest and good faith negotiations to lessen tensions in the region.

The North Koreans were focused on seeing the United States sanctions lifted and the need for additional food assistance. In addition, the North Koreans stated their refusal to abandon their centralized political and economic systems. The delegation emphasized that Americans are a compassionate people, generous in their willingness to alleviate suffering, but who seek assurance that food relief is used to feed those North Korean people most in need. The delegation stressed that sanctions must be negotiated as part of a larger political package involving proliferation and other security matters.

The delegation will provide President Clinton, Speaker Gingrich, Minority Leader Gephardt, and the Department of State with a full report of the substance of its discussions and its impressions. The delegation concludes that opportunity for further constructive dialogue exists and will confer with other Congressional committees of jurisdiction.

The CODEL travelled to North Korea as part of a trip to Asia, which includes visits to Beijing, China; Tokyo, Japan; and Seoul, South Korea. The delegation returns to the United States on August 15.

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