President Bill Clinton, who announced a nuclear arms deal with North Korea in 1994 that ended up failing miserably, used optimistic language in his speech that sounded remarkably similar to language used by the Obama administration after this weekend’s deal with Iran.
“Today, I want to announce an important step forward in the situation in North Korea,” Clinton said in a White House address on June 22, 1994. “This afternoon we have received formal confirmation from North Korea that it will freeze the major elements of its nuclear program… In response, we are informing the North Koreans that we are ready to go forward with a new round of talks in Geneva early next month.”
At the time, North Korea did not have confirmed nuclear weapons.
Clinton assured the American people that North Korea consented to stopping key aspects of its nuclear program and to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IEAE) inspectors to monitor the Pyongyang nuclear facility for “verification of North Korea’s agreement.”
“We will suspend our efforts to pursue sanctions if there was a verifiable freeze on the nuclear program while the talks continue,” Clinton said in response to a question from reporter Helen Thomas.
Clinton called the deal a “very positive development.”
North Korea’s first nuclear weapon test occurred in October 2006, just more than twelve years after Clinton’s deal.
Clinton’s announcement sounded similar to Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent defense of the Iran deal.
“We’re trying to set up a process by which we can verify, know what we’re doing, restraining the program while we negotiate the comprehensive deal,” Kerry said Sunday.
Republican Sen. John McCain, skeptical of the Iran deal, also condemned Clinton’s North Korea deal as a failure.
“I would remind Sen. [Hillary] Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration’s policies that the framework agreement her husband’s administration negotiated was a failure,” McCain said in 2006. “The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They’ve diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military.”
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers outright compared U.S. handling of North Korea’s nuclear program to the current deal with Iran, criticizing the Obama administration Sunday.
“That’s the one thing the whole world was trying to stop them from doing,” Rogers said, referring to the deal’s allowance of continued uranium enrichment by Iran. “We made this mistake in Pakistan. We made this mistake in North Korea. History is a great judge here and a great teacher. Why would you make the same mistake to a nation that will proliferate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if they are successful at getting a nuclear weapon?”