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Korea given NATO status for weapons sales

May 17,2008
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House passed legislation Thursday (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) that makes it easier for South Korea to purchase U.S. military arms and requires presidential certification that North Korea is not building nuclear weapons before the North is taken off the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism.
The House also passed a bill to extend the North Korean Human Rights Act, which expires this year, for another four years until 2012.
The Senate is preparing similar legislation. The two chambers must reconcile their versions of the bill before it is sent to the president.
H.R. 5916 gives South Korea the same status as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Japan, Australia and New Zealand regarding U.S. foreign military sales.
Under the bill, the Congress would have 15 days to review proposed arms sales to South Korea, instead of the current 50. The legislation also gives the president the authority to waive the Glenn Amendment in order to “provide material, direct, and necessary assistance” in North Korea’s denuclearization.
But the ranking Republican member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, added last-minute provisions demanding that U.S. President George W. Bush certify North Korea is no longer engaged in nuclear transfers before the country is taken off the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring states.
The move followed an announcement last month by the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea is believed to have helped Syria build a covert nuclear reactor.
Under a series of deals struck by South and North Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan — members of what is known as the six-party talks — Pyongyang promised to abandon its nuclear weapons and programs in exchange for political and economic incentives provided by other governments.
One of Pyongyang’s most coveted benefits is to be removed from the terrorism designation, which effectively bars meaningful economic and political exchanges with the U.S.
The Bush administration was expected to notify Congress of its decision to delist the North once Pyongyang submits a “complete and correct” declaration of its nuclear inventory.
The legislation passed Thursday demands that the president certify that the declaration is indeed complete, that Pyongyang complies fully with international monitoring and verification, and requires the secretary of state to submit a report on the progress of verification.
It was not immediately clear whether the Senate would agree to add these provisions. If it does, it could complicate the administration’s plans on delisting North Korea.
The House also approved H.R. 5834 to extend the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 to 2012.
It doubles the budget appropriation for radio broadcasting into North Korea from $2 million to $4 million.
The renewed legislation requires additional annual reports from the secretaries of state and homeland security on the number of North Koreans who contacted U.S. personnel overseas with interest in resettlement in the U.S., and on measures by the State Department to secure cooperation from East and Southeast Asian governments to facilitate U.S. processing of North Koreans seeking protection as refugees. Yonhap


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