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North Korea Willing On Nuclear Freeze

"The new round aims to begin implementing a September 2005 deal under which the North agreed to scrap its nuclear weapons in return for energy and economic aid, security guarantees and diplomatic benefits. That deal went nowhere after North Korea boycotted the six-party forum two months later in protest at the imposition of US financial sanctions. Pyongyang then upped the stakes by testing a nuclear device for the first time last October (test site pictured). Six-nation talks in December -- the first for more than a year -- produced little of substance." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Feb 05, 2007
North Korea is willing in principle to freeze its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allow UN inspections if it receives energy aid and other benefits, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said Monday. "The North delivered its position to the six countries, including the US, that it will stop operating the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and allow IAEA's nuclear inspections in accordance with the maturity of the situation," said the website of the Chosun Sinbo, published for ethnic North Koreans in Japan.

The communist nation will resume nuclear negotiations with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia in Beijing on Thursday.

It expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in late 2002 after the latest nuclear dispute erupted.

"The DPRK (North Korea) will never compromise the principle that it should take steps toward denuclearisation only in line with the creation of DPRK-US mutual trust," the paper said.

"The DPRK has consistently insisted that alternative energy should be provided until the completion of light-water nuclear reactors, if it ever begins to dismantle the existing nuclear programme."

Work began on light-water reactors under a 1994 deal to freeze the North's nuclear programme, but that pact fell apart in 2002 after the United States said the North was running a covert uranium enrichment programme.

Two US experts who visited the North last week said they were told it wants more than 500,000 tonnes of fuel oil a year in exchange for shutting down its reactor, which can be used to produce plutonium for weapons.

They said North Korea also wants the United States to lift economic restrictions on Pyongyang, still on the US list of states sponsoring terrorism.

Chief US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said Sunday he wants a "good beginning" towards disarmament at the upcoming talks.

The new round aims to begin implementing a September 2005 deal under which the North agreed to scrap its nuclear weapons in return for energy and economic aid, security guarantees and diplomatic benefits.

That deal went nowhere after North Korea boycotted the six-party forum two months later in protest at the imposition of US financial sanctions.

Pyongyang then upped the stakes by testing a nuclear device for the first time last October. Six-nation talks in December -- the first for more than a year -- produced little of substance.

earlier related report
SKorea announces steps to boost workforce
Seoul (AFP) Feb 05 - Faced with a rapidly ageing population, South Korea Monday announced wide-ranging measures -- including extending the retirement age and shortening compulsory military service -- to boost its workforce. "Due to the low birthrate and the fast-ageing population, the growth of the working-age population has slowed recently and a labour shortage is expected to materialize from around 2010," the Office for Government Policy Coordination said in a statement.

"It has become an urgent task for the government to seek ways to make full use of the labor force."

The birthrate fell to 1.08 in 2005, the world's lowest and well short of the 2.1 rate deemed to be the minimum population replacement level.

The government said it would push to extend the retirement age by around five years and revise the education system to advance the job entry age by two years from the current 25.

The average retirement age is currently around 57.

It will support job costs for bosses who postpone their workers' retirement and ease discriminatory rules against older workers. The government will also consider extending the age of state pension fund beneficiaries by five years to 65 by 2033.

Prime Minister Han Myeong-Sook, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said the planned cut in military service is part of the overeall campaign.

The new system will eventually reduce the army's two-year service to 18 months, with the length for the navy and the air force to be cut by a quarter to 20 months and 21 months, respectively.

The reduction will begin next year, defense officials said. All fit adult males must serve in the 680,000-strong military, which faces an estimated 1.1 million North Korean troops across the world's last Cold War frontier.

Some conscripts and their parents say the mandatory service is a waste of time, a claim which President Roh Moo-Hyun appeared to support.

"Young men have been going rotten in the military for years," Roh said last month, drawing an angry response from retired soldiers. They say shorter terms could put the nation at risk from a nuclear-armed North Korea. The main opposition party accuses the government of trying to win the youth vote with its changes.

Han said a broader service system would be introduced for those unable to serve in the military, involving working in hospices or other designated social services.

South Korea has announced plans to cut its military to 500,000 by 2020, while upgrading its weaponry.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Envoy Seeks 'Good Start' From North Korea Talks
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 05, 2007
US negotiator Christopher Hill said Monday that North Korea had to make a "good start" in giving up its nuclear weapons if it wanted to reap the economic benefits. Hill, visiting Tokyo ahead of six-nation disarmament talks starting Thursday in Beijing, did not rule out a weekend Japanese press report saying that Pyongyang was demanding oil shipments to suspend a key reactor.







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