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NKorea may not be serious about giving up nukes: analysts

NKorea in final phase of restoring nuclear facility: report
North Korea appears to be in the final stages of restoring the nuclear plants it had begun disabling under a six-nation disarmament deal, a report said Tuesday. The North shut down its plutonium-producing plants at Yongbyon in 2007 and began disabling them. But it quit the six-nation forum in April and vowed to reopen Yongbyon after the United Nations condemned its long-range rocket launch. "There are signs that the restoration of the Yongbyon facility is in its final stage," a South Korean defence source told Yonhap news agency, citing intelligence reports presented at a parliamentary hearing this week. The report was based on information from US and South Korean intelligence, Yonhap said. In addition to its plutonium-based bomb-making programme, North Korea said in September it is in the final stages of an experimental programme to enrich uranium for atomic weapons. The North last year reported that it had extracted 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of plutonium from Yongbyon over the years. It is not known whether this has already been weaponised. On Tuesday Pyongyang announced it is willing to return to the six-nation negotiations but only on condition it first holds talks with the United States to improve relations.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Oct 6, 2009
North Korea wants to placate key benefactor China by offering to return to disarmament talks and it is unclear whether it really intends to give up its cherished nuclear deterrent, analysts said Tuesday.

Leader Kim Jong-Il told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao late Monday the North is willing to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations -- on condition it first holds talks with the United States to improve "hostile relations".

Some analysts expressed scepticism about the North's conditional offer to return to six-party dialogue, almost six months after it quit the forum and announced it would restart its bomb-making programme.

In May it staged its second nuclear test, incurring tougher UN sanctions supported even by close ally China which hosts the talks. South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia are also members.

"North Korea's conditional offer to return to the six-party talks was a face-saving diplomatic gesture for China," Yu Ho-Yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University, told AFP.

However, he said, China apparently failed in its aim to bring North Korea back to the talks without preconditions.

"North Korea still focuses on attempting to achieve its goal of being recognised as a nuclear power, continuing to get economic support from China and circumventing US-led international pressure," Yu said.

"Its focus is not on dialogue."

The North is "clearly trying to mend relations with China and show appreciation for its economic assistance", said Peter Beck, senior researcher at Stanford University in the United States.

"But the North has left itself a lot of wiggle room to back out of the talks if it feels it's not getting what it wants," Beck said.

"Given the North's recent strong statements about the need for its nuclear programmes, I find it hard to believe it's ready to give them up any time soon."

The North has long been unenthusiastic about the six-party forum and has pressed for bilateral talks with the United States to end the nuclear standoff.

John Feffer, of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, also believed Kim's remarks aimed to please China.

"Of course, North Korea recognises that China is the country most invested in the multilateral process," Feffer told Yonhap news agency. "So it will tell China what China wants to hear, namely that multilateral negotiations are important."

The six-party talks "are the price North Korea is willing to pay to sit down with the United States face-to-face and work out the broad outlines of an agreement", Feffer said.

Washington says it is open to bilateral talks, but only to coax the North back to the six-party forum.

Denny Roy, of the East-West Center in Honolulu, told Yonhap he expects the special US envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, to meet the North Koreans in either Pyongyang or Beijing soon.

"I don't expect, however, that once they begin, those negotiations will be any easier than before," he said.

"The North Koreans are ready to test their resolve by threatening to go back to hostile and provocative behavior if Pyongyang does not get its way in the upcoming talks."

Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies was more upbeat, saying he expects the North eventually to return to six-party talks.

"North Korea, first of all, wants to see something that can be seen as a sign of the United States dropping what it calls a hostile policy," he told AFP.

"It may want to have four-party talks -- grouping both Koreas, the United States and China -- to end the Korean War. After that, it may want to return to the six-party talks."

The 1950-53 war ended without a formal peace treaty.

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Nuclear deals lucrative for North Korea
Seoul (UPI) Oct 5, 2009
North Korea has won about $2.3 billion worth of aid from South Korea and other negotiating partners in return for false promises to give up its nuclear weapons drive, a report by the South Korean government said Monday. Despite the prolonged nuclear standoff, the North has received an additional $3.4 billion worth of humanitarian aid over the past decade, the report by the Foreign Minis ... read more

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