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North Korea Defends Nuclear Weapon Test As Negotiators Talk

Berlin, the latest site for negotiations between North Korea and the US.

With North Korea in mind, China upgrades radioactivity monitoring
Beijing (AFP) Jan 17 - North Korea's atom bomb test last year has emphasised the need for China to step up its nuclear and radioactive security regime, state press said Wednesday, citing the nation's environmental watchdog. The Chinese government has allocated 40 million yuan (5.12 million dollars) to better monitor nuclear and radioactive pollution, the China Daily said, citing State Environmental Protection Administration Minister Zhou Shengxian.

Zhou said China's increasing use of nuclear power was one reason for upgrading its monitoring system, but North Korea's October 9 test, carried out around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Chinese border, also highlighted the need for a better regime. "The significance of nuclear and radioactive security was underscored... following the nuclear test last October in neighbouring Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)," the paper said, summarising Zhou.

Nuclear and radioactive security is defined as regular inspection of nuclear use and operations and an effective response to emergencies, the paper said. North Korea's nuclear test prompted widespread international condemnation and resulted in UN sanctions, backed by Beijing, Pyongyang's longtime ally. There have been no reports of any radiation leaks after the test.

China last year set up six nuclear and radioactivity monitoring centres, as China's nuclear power use is expected to soar in the coming decades, the paper said. China currently generates 8,000 megawatts of nuclear power, about two percent of its total energy output, but that is expected to grow to 12,000 megawatts in 2010 and 40,000 megawatts by 2020.

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Jan 17, 2007
North Korea defended its shock nuclear weapons test on Wednesday as the only way to avert a war, as its chief negotiator met with his US counterpart to discuss resuming multi-party disarmament talks. US envoy Christopher Hill held a rare meeting Tuesday with the North's Kim Kye-gwan at the US embassy in Berlin and, although there was no breakthrough, officials said it set the pace for a resumption of full six-party talks.

"The Berlin meeting should lay a good groundwork for an agreement on what initial steps to take to implement the September 19 statement," South Korea's foreign minister Song Min-Soon said, referring to a 2005 accord offering the North security and economic aid guarantees in return for disarmament.

Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's ruling party paper, said the October 9 test, the regime's first atomic weapons detonation ever, was in self-defence.

"There is no doubt that a war would have broken out... if (North Korea) had failed last year to shatter the moves of the US imperialists to provoke a war against it with its strong self-defensive deterrent," it said.

It accused the United States of "still whetting the sword of aggression" against North Korea under the disguise of seeking peaceful dialogue.

The test triggered global outrage and UN sanctions, and in December senior negotiators from the six nations in the talks -- the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- met for five days in Beijing.

No progress was reported as North Korea refused substantiative discussions about nuclear disarmament in protest at separate US financial sanctions.

Bilateral US-North Korean talks on the financial sanctions, notably on a Macau bank accused of illicit dealings on behalf of Pyongyang, are to resume next week.

No date has been fixed for the next round of full six-party negotiations, however.

Song urged Pyongyang to "initiate the process of dismantling its nuclear programmes" to enable others to "take corresponding steps" in return.

In December's talks in Beijing, the United States reportedly demanded that North Korea report all of its nuclear facilities and programme and accept UN atomic agency inspectors.

The United States was also said to have demanded the closure of the North's plutonium-producing reactor in Yongbyon and its nuclear test site.

earlier related report
Top US envoy holds 'useful' N Korea talks in Berlin
by Deborah Cole
Berlin (AFP) Jan 17 - The top US envoy to six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear arms said Wednesday he was having "useful discussions" with his Pyongyang counterpart here and hoped negotiations would resume this month. "When you have six hours of conversations and you're going to have some more... certainly you can characterize them as useful discussions," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said, referring to an initial meeting Tuesday with the North's negotiator Kim Kye-gwan.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said that discussion was followed up with one or two hours of talks Wednesday at the North Korean embassy in Berlin before Hill travels to Asia Thursday.

Hill, speaking at an American Academy event in Berlin, declined to answer questions on the substance of the meeting but said he hoped the six-party talks, which collapsed in December in Beijing with no discernible progress, would start again "in January".

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on a visit to the German capital Wednesday that she hoped Hill's talks would set the tone for a positive start to new six-party negotiations soon.

"These discussions that Chris is having... should help prepare the way for a more favorable atmosphere at the time of the resumption of the six-party talks, which we would hope would be soon," she said. She stressed that Washington would not consider normalizing relations with Pyongyang until it implemented "a complete, verifiable nuclearization -- and I should say irreversible denuclearization".

The Berlin meetings came ahead of Hill's visits beginning Friday to South Korea, China and Japan to continue consultations with key partners in the six-party talks on how to make progress in the next round of negotiations.

Hill noted that the Berlin talks were the first bilateral discussions he had held with Kim outside Beijing.

The two powers held landmark talks in Berlin in 1999 that ultimately led to the lifting of a half-century of restrictions on trade, travel and banking against North Korea after it agreed to a moratorium on missile tests.

But the crisis erupted again in 2002.

Six-party negotiations involving the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and China were suspended in late 2005 after North Korea walked out in protest at US financial sanctions imposed on a Macau bank accused of illicit dealings on behalf of Pyongyang.

The talks resumed in December last year -- following the North's October 9 nuclear weapons test -- and ended in deadlock as Pyongyang insisted the financial sanctions be lifted before it would discuss nuclear disarmament.

Russia on Wednesday called the US sanctions an obstacle to the resumption of talks and urged flexibility on both sides.

"The United States should have taken some steps toward the Koreans on lifting financial sanctions and discussing this question with them," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, the head Russian negotiator on North Korea, was quoted as saying by state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

Losyukov also called on North Korea to reconsider its refusal to rejoin the negotiations on account of the US sanctions. "The link is not 100 percent justified," he was quoted as saying.

In a concession to North Korea, the United States agreed to hold parallel discussions on the financial sanctions issue.

A first round of those talks took place on the sidelines of the last six-party negotiations in Beijing in late December.

Neither Hill nor Casey said when the financial discussions might resume.

Japan and South Korea welcomed the Berlin talks and voiced hope for an early resumption of multilateral discussions on Pyongyang's nuclear arms program.

"Dialogue is a good thing," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the top government spokesman, told reporters.

"The Berlin meeting should lay a good groundwork for an agreement on what initial steps to take to implement the September 19 statement," South Korea's foreign minister Song Min-Soon said, referring to a 2005 accord offering the North security and economic aid guarantees in return for disarmament.

Hill described that agreement as "a sort of bible for us" and said he hoped it would be the basis for a new agreement.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Are North Korea Sanctions Working
Seoul (UPI) Jan 17, 2007
Are three-month-long international sanctions on North Korea effectively forcing the defiant country to finally give up its nuclear weapons program? The answer seems unclear for now as China and South Korea, North Korea's main economic lifelines, have stayed away from major sanctions against their neighbor for fear of possible turmoil in the region. With growing skepticism about the effectiveness of economic sanctions, North Korea has launched campaigns to endure outside pressure, saying it would focus national efforts on building a self-supporting economy.

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