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NUKEWARS
N. Korea crisis could spiral out of control: Ban
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) April 02, 2013


US urges China, Russia to do more to restrain N. Korea
Washington (AFP) April 2, 2013 - The United States on Tuesday called on China and Russia to do more to rein in North Korea, after Pyongyang announced it would restart a nuclear reactor to feed its atomic weapons program.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the North's decision to reopen its Yongbyon reactor -- its source of weapons-grade plutonium -- was "another indication" of Pyongyang "violating its international obligations."

"It is not a mystery to anyone that China has influence with North Korea," Carney told reporters.

"We have in the past and are now urging China to use that influence to try to affect North Korean behavior. That is also true of our (conversations) with the Russians."

Beijing has already voiced regret over North Korea's announcement, appealing for calm on the Korean peninsula.

The crisis was due to dominate talks later Tuesday in Washington between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se.

The Korean peninsula has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since a February nuclear test, which followed a long-range rocket launch in December, by North Korea, also known as the DPRK.

The meeting comes ahead of Kerry's visit to the region next week -- his first to Asia since taking over as the top US diplomat in February -- when he will travel to South Korea, China and Japan.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday reiterated Washington's position that "the United States will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state."

But she stressed that despite Pyongyang's newest threat "there's a long way to go between a stated intention and actually being able to pull it off.

"Were they to be able to put themselves back into a position to use the facility, that would obviously be extremely alarming. But as I said, it's a long way from here to there," she said.

Australia's Rudd sees China shift on N.Korea
Washington (AFP) April 2, 2013 - Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday applauded growing criticism in China of ally North Korea and called for US-China talks over the Korean peninsula's tensions.

Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat who has long studied Asia, said that North Korea "has gone from being a private debate to a very public debate" inside China since the latest crisis began several months ago.

"I'm surprised by how sort-of out there people are at the moment, ranging from, 'Let's dump North Korea as an ally' to 'How do we work with the South Koreans to exercise restraint?'" Rudd said on a visit to Washington.

"This is a very good thing from my perspective because it's no longer regarded as simply a foundational element of Chinese foreign and security policy, that it's North Korea right or wrong," Rudd said.

Rudd, speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that China appeared to be concerned that closer defense cooperation by US-friendly nations in response to North Korea would ultimately impede Beijing's interests.

Rudd said that China's communist leadership has also increasingly moderated its tone after decades of strident opposition to foreign interference in nations' affairs.

"China wants to be respected in the world -- not just being a big great power but being a respected great power. This has sunk into the Chinese foreign policy psychology," Rudd said.

Isolated North Korea relies on China as its main political and economic supporter, leading US lawmakers in recent years to criticize Beijing sharply over Pyongyang's actions.

China showed annoyance after North Korea defied warnings and conducted a nuclear test in February. China joined a UN resolution on economic sanctions, as North Korea faced sharp criticism in the Chinese blogosphere for its insolence.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned Tuesday that the Korean peninsula crisis could spiral out of control, after North Korea announced it would restart a nuclear reactor to feed its atomic weapons programme.

"Nuclear threats are not a game," Ban said, responding to a series of aggressive statements by Pyongyang that have prompted the deployment of nuclear-capable US B-52s, B-2 stealth bombers and a US destroyer to South Korea.

The North's announcement earlier Tuesday that it would reopen Yongbyon reactor -- its source of weapons-grade plutonium -- triggered international alarm.

The Korean peninsula has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since the North's February nuclear test, which followed a long-range rocket launch in December.

Subsequent UN sanctions and annual South Korea-US military exercises have been used by Pyongyang to justify a wave of increasingly dire threats against Seoul and Washington, including warnings of missile strikes and nuclear war.

The UN secretary general called for calm.

"The current crisis has already gone too far," the former South Korean foreign minister told a press conference in Andorra.

"Things must begin to calm down," he said, adding that negotiations were the only viable way forward.

"I'm convinced that nobody intends to attack the DPRK because of a disagreement about its nuclear system... however I'm afraid that others will respond firmly to any military provocation," he said.

The United States called on China and Russia to do more to rein in North Korea, after Beijing earlier voiced regret over Pyongyang's announcement.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the North's decision to reopen its Yongbyon plant was "another indication" of Pyongyang "violating its international obligations."

"It is not a mystery to anyone that China has influence with North Korea," Carney told reporters.

"We have in the past and are now urging China to use that influence to try to affect North Korean behaviour. That is also true of our (conversations) with the Russians."

The UN atomic agency described the North's decision to restart the reactor as "deeply regrettable".

"This is another deeply regrettable development, which is in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions," International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor told AFP via email.

"Once again, the (IAEA) Director General strongly urges the DPRK (North Korea) to implement fully all relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors," she added.

A Pyongyang government nuclear energy spokesman said the plans for Yongbyon would involve "readjusting and restarting" all facilities at the complex, including a uranium enrichment plant and the five-megawatt reactor.

The aim was to "bolster the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity", the spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.

The North shut down the Yongbyon reactor in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord, and destroyed its cooling tower a year later.

Experts say it would take six months to get the reactor back up and running, after which it would be able to produce one bomb's worth of weapons-grade plutonium a year.

North Korea revealed it was enriching uranium at Yongbyon in 2010 when it allowed foreign experts to visit the centrifuge facility there, but insisted it was low-level enrichment for energy purposes.

The mention of "readjustment" will fuel concerns that it will be upgraded -- if it hasn't been already -- into a facility for openly producing weapons-grade uranium.

Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, said Tuesday's nuclear initiative was in a different league from the military bluster of recent weeks.

"This goes beyond mere provocation. It's a strong, tangible move and perhaps the one that will force the US into the direct dialogue Pyongyang wants," Kim said.

The prospect of North Korea on a joint plutonium and uranium enrichment path is a hugely worrying one for the international community.

The North has substantial uranium ore deposits which provide a quick route to boosting reserves of fissile material, while plutonium has the advantage of being easier to miniaturise into a deliverable nuclear warhead.

"The international community has spent years working to stall and roll back the North's nuclear programme," said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation unit at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"If the North now does what it says it's going to do, it'll be pushing ahead with both barrels," Fitzpatrick told AFP.

Many observers believe the North has been producing highly-enriched uranium in secret facilities for years, and that the third nuclear test it conducted in February may have been of a uranium bomb.

Its previous tests in 2006 and 2009 were both of plutonium devices.

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