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North Korea May Disable Nukes Before Deadline But Wants A Light Water Reactor

Photo courtesy AFP.
by Jun Kwanwoo and Hiroshi Hiyama
Beijing (AFP) July 20, 2007
North Korea may still declare all of its nuclear weapons and disable them this year even though no deadline was agreed upon at six-nation talks that ended here Friday, the US envoy said. "My opinion remains the same. All of this is do-able by the end of the year," Christopher Hill told reporters when asked about the failure to set the ambitious deadline during the three days of discussions in Beijing.

The United States went into the talks saying it wanted North Korea, which conducted its first atomic test last October, to make a complete declaration of all its nuclear weapons programmes and disable them by the end of the year.

But, coming after North Korea closed down its main nuclear reactor complex at Yongbyon a few days earlier, Hill insisted that this week's talks had given some momentum to the often tortuous disarmament efforts that began in 2003.

"We have come through what was arguably the most productive week in the six-party process," he said.

"We have got the Yongbyon complex shut down. We have laid out a view from where we go from here... I'm very, very satisfied."

The "declare and disable" phase is the second plank of a six-nation disarmament accord brokered in February under which North Korea would eventually completely abandon its nuclear weapons programmes.

In return, it would get one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent energy aid, as well as wide-ranging diplomatic concessions and security guarantees.

But the talks ended on Friday with only a general statement from host China that North Korea and the other five nations remained committed to implementing the February accord.

"The DPRK side (North Korea) reiterated that it will earnestly implement its commitments to a complete declaration of all nuclear programmes and disablement of all existing nuclear facilities," the statement said. It also reaffirmed that North Korea would receive all of the fuel oil promised for doing so.

This week's talks began amid optimism after North Korea closed all five facilities at Yongbyon, its first commitment under the February accord.

South Korean envoy Chun Yung-Woo then told reporters after Wednesday's discussions that North Korea was willing to declare and disable this year.

However all parties were unable to agree on the firm timetable, with China having the final say on not including the deadline in the statement, according to Hill.

"It was the decision of the Chinese chair not to include that opinion," he said.

The "declare and disable" phase of the disarmament process is vital because no-one is sure exactly what North Korea's nuclear capabilities are.

The United States accuses North Korea of running a secret uranium enrichment programme. The Yongbyon reactor produced plutonium. Both highly enriched uranium and plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons.

South Korea's Chun also said Friday that the latest round of the talks had been a success.

"The biggest achievement this time is that North Korea has clearly expressed its intention not to delay the implementation of the February 13 agreement," Chun said.

Hill and Chun said a final deadline could still be set after all parties meet in working groups to hammer out the details of what needs to be declared and how to close them.

Those working groups will meet before the end of August, according to the chairman's statement, while another round of six-nation talks will be held in Beijing in September.

A first-ever meeting at the ministerial, rather than the envoy, level will also be held after the September, the statement said.

The six-nation talks group China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.

earlier related report
North Korea Renews Demand For Light Water Reactor
by Jun Kwanwoo
Beijing (AFP) July 21 - North Korea's top nuclear envoy said Saturday it wanted a light-water reactor as compensation for shutting down its nuclear programmes, while accusing Japan of causing a political crisis. "For the shutdown, disabling, and eventual dismantlement (of North Korean nuclear facilities), the light-water nuclear reactor should come in," Kim Kye-Gwan told reporters at Beijing airport before leaving for Pyongyang.

Kim's comments follow nuclear disarmament talks in Beijing that ended Friday with the communist state reiterating its intentions to declare and disable all its nuclear programmes in return for fuel aid and diplomatic concessions under a February deal.

No deadline was agreed during three days of talks involving China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, but discussions are to resume in September, following working-level talks to decide terms of the "declare and disable" agreement.

Talks began in 2003 to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions but the reclusive regime conducted its first atomic test in October last year.

The North is an energy-starved state which experiences frequent power shortages and wants the light-water reactor to generate electricity.

The six nations agreed in September 2005 to discuss furnishing North Korea with light-water reactors "at an appropriate time," with Washington insisting that Pyongyang must first disable all its current nuclear programmes.

North Korea, has demanded the reactors -- reportedly designed so that spent fuel cannot be reprocessed into weapons-grade material -- to replace its Yongbyon reactor, which it shut down last week.

But Kim also Saturday accused Japan of causing a political crisis that could lead to "disaster".

"They (Japan) are creating a political crisis worse than the financial sanctions, a crisis that infringes on our national sovereignty," Kim said.

He said he expressed his concerns to his Japanese counterpart, Kenichiro Sasae, during a rare bilateral meeting on Thursday in Beijing.

"I warned that if they take one more step forward, a disaster would come," Kim said.

He refused to elaborate, but his comments came amid strong criticism from North Korea over Japan's recent forced auction of the headquarters of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon.

They also appeared to be aimed at Japan's insistence that a long-standing row over the abduction of Japanese nationals by the North Korean regime be settled before Tokyo participates in supplying energy and other aid.

Despite his strong words on Japan, Kim said the just concluded round of talks had been held in a "sincere, constructive and business-like" manner. They had gone "alright," he added.

The latest round was the first since March, when negotiations broke down over US financial sanctions imposed on Pyongyang which had been accused of money-laundering and counterfeiting.

Resolution of the financial issue led North Korea to shut down its Yongbyon complex, which also came after Pyongyang allowed UN nuclear inspectors to visit and begin sealing its nuclear facilities.

"We have come through what was arguably the most productive week in the six-party process," US nuclear envoy said Christopher Hill told journalists in Beijing on Friday.

"We have got the Yongbyon complex shut down. We have laid out a view from where we go from here... I'm very, very satisfied."

"Declaring and disabling" North Korea's nuclear facilities, the second phase of the February six-nation disarmament accord, is expected to be implemented in return for one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent energy aid, as well as wide-ranging diplomatic concessions and security guarantees.

Hill departed Beijing Friday, but due to an unspecified mechanical problem on his commercial flight, was forced to return to the capital and was unable to leave until Saturday, US officials told AFP.

earlier related report
Six way talks prompt Japanese fears that US going soft on NKorea
by Hiroshi Hiyama
Tokyo (AFP) July 21 - The latest round of six way talks on North Korea's nuclear crisis fuelled concerns in the Japanese media Saturday that Washington's soft approach is letting North Korea slow the process.

Criticism mounted for the forum's failure to set deadlines for Pyongyang to disable and to declare its nuclear programmes.

"The recent approach of the United States is so conciliatory that it appears Washington is helping North Korea to drag its feet," the Nikkei newspaper said in an editorial.

US envoy Christopher Hill held a series of meetings with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-Gwan before and during the latest round of talks, which started with pre-event consultations on Tuesday in Beijing, followed by three-days of official talks.

"Meals they ate might have been hot, but Mr Hill's stance toward North Korea might be too sweet," the Nikkei said, referring to Hill's bilateral meetings with Kim.

Japanese press called on chair-nation China and other participating countries to be united and use "pressure and dialogue" to ensure North Korea does not stall the process further.

The latest round began amid optimism after North Korea closed all five facilities at Yongbyon, its first commitment under a six-nation deal made in February.

Hill repeatedly expressed his expectations of agreement on deadlines for further steps, but the forum failed to deliver.

The top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun said the latest round of talks left no ground for optimism as Japan remains under threat from North Korean weapons.

"North Korea has given up nothing that it has acquired from its nuclear programmes," its editorial said.

"The United States seems to be rushing to implement the February agreement. But as long as no clear road map toward North Korea's complete abandonment of nuclear programmes has been produced, Washington should not opt for easy compromises with Pyongyang," it said.

The conservative Sankei Shimbun, which has long taken a hardline stance against the North, said it feared the six party forum was becoming "disabled", and letting North Korea to act as it wants.

"North Korea will demand more rewards, now that it knows the United States will continue to compromise and concede," the Sankei said in an editorial.

The Sankei called for strict use of "dialogue and pressure" on Pyongyang and called on Japan to stay assertive on resolving the issues of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean spies.

The liberal Asahi Shimbun refrained from criticism and called for closer dialogue to build a roadmap toward resolutions.

The six-nation talks group China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Korean Nuke Talks End Without Deadline But Skeletons Remain
Beijing (AFP) July 19, 2007
Current talks on North Korean disarmament will end without a crucial deadline for the hermit nation to declare and close all its nuclear facilities, US chief envoy Christopher Hill said Thursday. But the US envoy remained confident over the "clarity" of the tasks ahead and said a deadline could be set at the next round of six party talks on denuclearising North Korea, possibly as early as late August.







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