Bill Clinton Gave North Korea Nuclear Reactors, $2 billion-Mostly Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
President Bill Clinton essentially gave North Korea nukes in 1994 by giving them $2 billion and two nuclear reactors.
Bill Clinton reached an agreement in 1994 to “freeze” North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and the idea that Clinton gave North Korea nukes doesn’t hold up.
Claims that Bill Clinton gave North Korea nukes cropped up in August 2017 amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. A viral meme pointed to the 1994 deal as proof that Clinton was to blame for the current quagmire with North Korea — but the nuclear standoff built up over more than 30 years and six presidential administrations:
Bill Clinton reached a nuclear agreement with North Korea in 1994 that was billed as a “first step” in securing a nuclear-free future for the Korean peninsula. Known as the “Agreed Framework,” the two-page deal called for North Korea’s graphite-moderated (plutonium) nuclear reactors to be replaced with light-water reactor power plants.
Light-water reactors are known for being the most “proliferation-resistant” because they can run for years on a single batch of fuel, and replacing the internal rods requires a major operation that is easy for weapons inspectors to catch. Given that these reactors replaced graphite-moderated nuclear reactors that experts believed were already part of a nuclear weapons program, claims that Clinton “gave” North Korea two nuclear reactors don’t hold up.
The deal called for North Korea to receive 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year to offset energy losses while the new reactors were built, and it called for trade restrictions on North Korea to be eased, in exchange for North Korea agreeing to shut down its nuclear weapons program. It appears that claims that Bill Clinton gave North Korea $2 billion are based on these incentives — but we couldn’t find any documentation about how much North Korea benefited financially, if at all.
The Agreed Framework collapsed in 2002 after the Bush Administration accused North Korea of violating its terms. New talks resumed in 2005, and almost resulted in a deal, but it had ultimately failed by 2009, the Arms Control Association reports:
The second major diplomatic effort were the Six-Party Talks initiated in August of 2003 which involved China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement.
Those talks, however, broke down in 2009 following disagreements over verification and an internationally condemned North Korea rocket launch. Pyongyang has since stated that it would never return to the talks and is no longer bound by their agreements. The other five parties state that they remain committed to the talks, and have called for Pyongyang to recommit to its 2005 denuclearization pledge.
In the end, claims that Bill Clinton gave North Korea nukes and/or $2 billion and two nuclear reactors are mostly fiction. Most experts agree that the Agreed Framework at least succeeded in delaying North Korea’s nuclear weapons program by a decade or so.