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Corker Statement on Committee Passage of Two-Year Extension of South Korea Civil Nuclear Agreement

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following statement at a business meeting to consider legislation providing a two-year extension of the U.S.-Republic of Korea civil nuclear cooperation agreement (referred to as a “123 agreement”).  The committee passed the legislation by voice vote.

“I want to thank the chairman and his staff for working together collaboratively with my team to move forward with the extension of the U.S.-Republic of Korea civilian nuclear cooperation agreement,” said Corker.

“Last year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit with President Park in Seoul and I reiterated unwavering congressional support for our alliance commitments.

“Maintaining uninterrupted civilian nuclear cooperation is important for U.S. political and commercial interests.  And I am pleased to support this 123 agreement extension.

“Our relationship with Korea is robust; however, we do not always agree on all the issues, including sometimes in the area of nonproliferation and civilian nuclear cooperation.

“We are here today extending the current nuclear cooperation agreement because our negotiators remain at loggerheads over a key issue – Korea’s request for advanced consent to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, in our negotiations on a new bilateral 123 agreement. 

“These technologies can be used to produce nuclear material that could be diverted from civilian energy use to a nuclear weapon. And this is not something that I can support.

“Although I firmly believe our Korean partners have no intention of using these technologies other than for their peaceful civilian nuclear activities, the United States should pursue a policy that limits the further spread of these technologies which are unnecessary for the development of a profitable civilian commercial nuclear enterprise.

“Indeed, the further spread of such sensitive nuclear technologies on the Korean Peninsula would undermine and destabilize an already precarious security situation, including for the nearly 30,000 U.S. forces stationed there to help protect the Korean people.

“Moreover, if we have any chance, however slim that may be, to pursue credible efforts to denuclearize North Korea, then the international community must insist on full implementation of the 1992 Joint Declaration between the North and South, which prohibits these enrichment and reprocessing technologies on the Korean Peninsula.

“I also want to thank the chairman for agreeing to hold a hearing on our nation’s 123 agreement policy in the coming weeks, as we will soon be asked to consider nuclear cooperation agreements with Taiwan and Vietnam.”