Seoul (AFP) Oct 22, 2006
North Korea has promised not to stage a second nuclear test unless it is "harassed" by the United States, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Sunday. It quoted diplomatic sources in Seoul as saying the communist state's leader Kim Jong-Il gave the assurance during a meeting in Pyongyang last week with a high-level Chinese delegation led by State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan.
"Kim said during a meeting with Tang that North Korea would not conduct an additional nuclear test unless the US harasses the North," Yonhap quoted one source as saying.
"Kim also promised North Korea would return to the six-way talks in the near future as long as the US promises to lift financial sanctions after the talks reopen.
"Kim's first vice foreign minister Kang Sok-Ju confirmed Kim's remarks in a briefing held after the meeting," the source said. Officials at South Korea's unification ministry told AFP they had no related information on the report. On Friday Yonhap quoted a diplomatic source in Beijing as saying Kim had told his visitors there would be no additional nuclear test.
Tang, the first foreign official to meet Kim since North Korea sparked world outrage and UN sanctions with its first atomic test on October 9, said in Beijing Friday his trip had not been a waste of time.
"Fortunately my visit this time has not been in vain," Tang told visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing also reported some positive results, saying the prospect of quickly resuming the stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear program had been discussed.
North Korea agreed at the talks in September 2005 to scrap its nuclear programmes in exchange for energy aid and security benefits. But it boycotted the forum two months later in protest at US attempts to curb its access to overseas banks.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted as saying Friday his country has information that Kim promised Tang there would not be another test. A South Korean newspaper said the same day that Kim had expressed regret about the test and willingness to return to the disarmament talks if the US eases its pressure.
In Moscow, Rice cast doubt Saturday on Kim's reported apology and said his country wanted an "escalation of tensions."
"I don't know whether or not Kim Jong-Il said any such thing," Rice told journalists accompanying her on a flight from Beijing to Moscow.
"But the Chinese, in a fairly thorough briefing about the talks, said nothing about such an apology for having launched a test," she added.
Official media in the North maintained a hard line on Sunday.
"The present stand-off between the DPRK (North Korea) and the US represents the most serious and fiercest confrontation between the progressive and the reactionary, between peace forces and aggression forces,' said ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
"The US imperialists are desperately trying to ignite a new war on the Korean peninsula, having designated the DPRK as a major target of attack," it said in a commentary warning other nations against compromise with Washington.
"A way for a country and nation to defend its destiny is to respond to the US use of force with force and with merciless punishment," it advised.
earlier related report
"The United States reaffirms its firm commitment to the Republic of Korea, including continuation of the extended deterrents offered by the US nuclear umbrella, consistent with the mutual defense treaty," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said after talks with South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung.
The US commitment "is as solid today as it was when it was first stated" in 1978 under the military alliance, Rumsfeld said at a news conference with Yoon at the Pentagon.
The South Korean minister indicated that a joint communique could comprise more details of the US nuclear umbrella pledge.
"I hope that when the joint statement comes out eventually it'll have different language from years past," Yoon said.
Reports suggested that Seoul wants Washington, which withdrew all its nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula in 1991, to elaborate on what types of tactical nuclear weapons could be provided under the deterrent strategy.
A senior US defense official said South Korea might want a "direct" undertaking from Washington.
"It's not clear but it may be a more direct linkage. For example, language in the mutual security treaty that an attack on the Republic of Korea will be considered an attack on the United Sates," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But he added, "We think that automatic linkage is there without saying it."
Yoon also said that he and Rumsfeld "discussed the measures" the two allies "can take with relation to the North Korean situation." He did not elaborate.
Although scheduled before the October 9 nuclear test, Rumsfeld said it was "particularly significant given North Korea's most recent actions.
"Our delegations discussed a wide range of issues regarding the alliance, including measures to maintain an increased preparedness," he said.
The allies also discussed matters related to the relocation and consolidation of the 28,000 US troops in South Korea and a proposed change in the US-South Korean combined force command structure that would give Seoul control over its own forces in wartime.
Under the current arrangements, the combined force would come under a US general in the event of war.
The United States has said it is prepared to make the command change in 2009 but the South Koreans insist they will not be ready until 2012.
The two ministers publicly displayed their differences Friday.
"We continue to believe that the Republic of Korea has the capability to assume -- after 55 years, the 10th largest country on the face of the Earth, with a very capable military -- responsibility for wartime operational control roughly in the time frame of 2009," Rumsefeld said.
"The opinion of the Korean minister of defense as well as the Korean public is that 2012 is the best year in terms of having the perfect conditions for security on the Korean peninsula," Yoon said through an interpreter.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in both Tokyo and Seoul this week to assure that Washington would "fully" honor defense agreements obliging it to defend both allies -- with nuclear weapons if needed -- in case either is attacked.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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North Korean Vessel Believed Carrying Contraband
Washington (AFP) Oct 20, 2006
A North Korean merchant vessel under US surveillance since it left port in North Korea is believed to be carrying cargo in violation of a UN Security Council embargo, a defense official said Friday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was believed to be carrying "cargo of a contraband-type nature. It is assessed to be in violation of UN resolutions."
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