Global Policy Forum

Clinton Eases North Korea Sanctions

New York Times / Associated Press
September 17, 1999

Washinton - President Clinton eased strict trade, banking and travel restrictions against North Korea on Friday in the most significant gesture toward the communist government since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The move will allow "most consumer goods to be available for export to North Korea and will allow the importation of most North Korean-origin goods into the United States,'' White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said. Moreover, it will permit the transfer of commercial and personal funds between the two countries and allow commercial air and sea transportation for passengers and cargo.

Lockhart said Clinton's order would not affect counterterrorism or nonproliferation controls on North Korea, which prohibit exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most types of US assistance. Restrictions imposed by law, such as US missile sanctions, will remain in place. Clinton ordered relaxation of the sanctions in return for North Korea's conditional pledge to refrain from long-range missile testing, under an agreement reached during talks last week in Berlin. "On the basis of these discussions, it is our understanding that North Korea will continue to refrain from testing long-range missiles of any kind as both sides move toward more normal relations,'' Lockhart said.

While the president's decision deals with transactions involving consumer goods, it also will relieve restrictions on transportation, banking and personnel movements. "To support this easing of sanctions in the trade of goods,'' Lockhart said, "most personal and commercial funds transfers will be allowed between US and North Korean persons. The relaxation of transportation restrictions will allow commercial air and sea transportation between the US and North Korea for passengers and cargo, subject to normal regulatory requirements."

The United States had feared that North Korea was on the verge of testing a long-range missile conceivably capable of striking Alaska or Hawaii. The US coordinator for North Korea policy, former Defense Secretary William Perry, had recommended quick pursuit of an accommodation with North Korea if Pyongyang agreed to forgo long-range missile and nuclear weapons development. North Korea pledged in 1994 to freeze a suspected nuclear weapons program, although questions linger among some officials about its compliance.

The sanctions relaxation being announced by Clinton is the most significant gesture toward North Korea in 46 years, including a modest trade opening that took effect in January 1995. Perry made his recommendation in a report to Clinton based on an 11-month review of the issue. Outlining a worst-case scenario, Perry said if North Korea acquired nuclear weapons and continued development of long-range missiles, the relative stability of US deterrence would be undermined.

Perry also wrote that in the event of a second Korean war, the allies would be able to win but the "destruction would be catastrophic. We cannot allow the deterrence to weaken." In exchange for the Pyongyang government's 1994 promise to freeze its development program, a consortium of foreign countries agreed to replace the North's plutonium-producing reactors with light-water reactors.

More Information on Sanctions in North Korea


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