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Is North Korea At All Serious Over Nuke Deal

Hideshi Takesada, a senior searcher at Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies, said the North wants to use the nuclear card to keep the United States away from armed conflicts on the Korean peninsula. "I think North Korea will maintain the nuclear strategy, keeping nuclear weapons on hand," he said.
by Lee Jong-Heon
UPI Correspondent
Seoul (UPI) June 28, 2007
The chief U.S. nuclear envoy is confident North Korea's nuclear reactor would be closed and "disabled" this year, but many analysts remain skeptical about whether the defiant country will give up nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has developed nuclear weapons as a key survival strategy in the face of threats from within and without, and it is unlikely to abandon the nuclear drive until it fully ensures its survival, analysts say, warning against overly optimistic views on the years-long nuclear standoff.

They referred to a growing sense of optimism that Kim Jong Il's regime is moving toward implementing the aid-for-disarmament agreement reached at six-nation talks in February, following the resolution of a long-running dispute over Pyongyang's funds previously blocked at a Macao bank under U.S. financial sanctions.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who made a surprise visit to the North last week, said he was confident that the North's main nuclear reactor would be disabled by the end of the year.

Meeting reporters in Washington earlier this week, the U.S. nuclear envoy said multilateral negotiations on a peace mechanism on the Korean peninsula are expected to begin this year. The two Koreas are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Hill also expected the United States and North Korea to establish diplomatic ties before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in early 2009 if the North's nuclear programs are fully dismantled.

South Korean officials also voiced optimism about the long-delayed nuclear disarmament process for the communist neighbor. President Roh Moo-hyun described the nuclear issue as being in "the final stage of resolution." In hope of early resolution of the nuclear crisis, Seoul has made a flurry of diplomatic efforts, sending its foreign minister, chief nuclear envoy and other senior officials to Washington, Beijing and Moscow.

But many analysts see a rough road ahead on the disarmament process. "North Korea has developed nuclear weapons as a key strategic choice in the face of total crisis following the collapse of the Soviet bloc," said Zhao Huji, who teaches political science at the Chinese Communist Party-run institution in Beijing.

"North Korea believes only self-defense capability can ensure its survival as it no longer considers China as its patron," Zhao told a recent forum in Seoul.

Hideshi Takesada, a senior searcher at Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies, said the North wants to use the nuclear card to keep the United States away from armed conflicts on the Korean peninsula. "I think North Korea will maintain the nuclear strategy, keeping nuclear weapons on hand," he said.

Cho Dong-joon, an international relations professor at the University of Seoul, said as far as North Korean leader Kim Jong Il remains in office, the country is highly unlikely to give up nuclear weapons. "There was no regime that abandoned its own made nuclear weapons in history. Only after replacement of the ruling forces, (does) denuclearization become possible in North Korea," he said.

Yoon Young-kwan, a Seoul National University professor and former foreign minister, expects the North to take the initial steps of the Feb. 13 deal under which it agreed to shut down its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon, 56 miles north of Pyongyang, in return for much-needed 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil.

The shutdown of the 5 megawatt reactor and other nuclear facilities is no big loss to the North because it already has enough plutonium to make more nuclear weapons. But Yoon and other analysts say it is doubtful that the North would move further to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

In the next phase under the accord, North Korea is required to declare all its nuclear weapons programs and facilities and "disable" existing nuclear facilities in exchange for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent. In addition to the 5-MW reactor, the North has more nuclear facilities, such as a "radiochemical laboratory," a facility where plutonium is extracted by reprocessing spent fuel rods removed from the reactor, and a 50-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon and a 200-megawatt reactor in Thaechon, both partially constructed.

Pyongyang has also denied having a highly enriched uranium program, which is at the center of the current nuclear crisis.

The United States alleged North Korea admitted enriching uranium during a Pyongyang trip by U.S. nuclear envoy James Kelly in October 2002, calling for a "verifiable and irreversible" end to all programs including the uranium-based one.

"If North Korea is not sincere in declaring all of its nuclear facilities, negotiations would be very tough and have a long way for denuclearization," said Kim Sung-han, an analyst at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, a Seoul-based government think tank.

Source: United Press International

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UN Inspectors To Visit North Korea Atomic Reactor
Seoul (AFP) Jun 27, 2007
UN inspectors are to visit the reactor at the centre of North Korea's nuclear programme in their first on-site inspection in nearly five years, the head of a team in the communist state said Wednesday. The four-strong UN team had flown Tuesday into North Korea saying they were unsure if they would be allowed to visit the Yongbyon reactor, which produces the raw material for bomb-making plutonium.

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