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Too Early To Consider Lifting North Korea Sanctions

Under the deal, North Korea would have 60 days to shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allow United Nations nuclear inspectors back into the country. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Feb 15, 2007
The chief Russian negotiator to six-nation talks with North Korea said Thursday it was too early to consider lifting UN sanctions after the Stalinist regime agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities. Aleksander Lossyukov, a vice foreign minister, was quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency as saying the deal was a "small but important step toward the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsular."

But he said it was premature to discuss the lifting of international sanctions.

"The question of lifting the sanctions should be examined within a larger context. It's a bit early to be talking about this at the moment," he said.

He added that any renegotiation of the eight billion dollars which North Korea owes Russia was "not linked" with the nuclear issue.

The United Nations imposed economic and commercial sanctions on North Korea after it exploded its first atomic bomb in October last year.

Russia was a participant in the talks that reached the breakthrough agreement this week, along with Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Under the deal, North Korea would have 60 days to shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allow United Nations nuclear inspectors back into the country.

The energy-starved regime would in turn receive a first tranche of 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil -- part of an eventual one million tonnes if it permanently disables its key nuclear facilities.

earlier related report
NKorea says ready to implement deal: report
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 15 - North Korea is ready to implement this week's deal, under which it would shut key nuclear facilities within 60 days, Pyongyang's top negotiator was quoted as saying Thursday. "The talks went well," North Korean envoy Kim Kye-Gwan said on returning to Pyongyang, according to Japan's Kyodo News agency.

"We are ready to implement the results of the meeting," Kim was quoted as telling the Russian ambassador and a senior Chinese envoy at the airport.

China and Russia are two participants in the talks that reached the breakthrough agreement, along with Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Under the deal, North Korea would have 60 days to shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allow United Nations nuclear inspectors back into the country.

The energy-starved regime would in turn receive a first tranche of 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil -- part of an eventual one million tonnes if it permanently disables its key nuclear facilities.

The comments came as a senior North Korean official said the communist country remained on alert against the United States which continued to try to "strangle" its economy and "tarnish" its reputation.

"The situation still remains tense and acute on the Korean Peninsula due to the US invariable hostile policy towards the DPRK," said Choe Thae-bok, speaker of the North's parliament, referring to North Korea by its official name.

"The US is going reckless in its moves to tarnish the authority and prestige of the DPRK and strangle it economically by mobilizing its allies including Japan. These moves of the US are accompanied by its escalated appeasement, pressure and sanctions.

"The DPRK is, therefore, closely following these moves with a high degree of vigilance," he said in a report to the parliament.

The report was carried by official North Korean media, the Korean Central News Agency, which regularly issues such anti-US commentary.

Just hours after Tuesday's deal was announced in Beijing, official North media raised questions about its commitment by saying the deal required only the "temporary suspension" of its nuclear sites.

China, North Korea's main ally and host of the six-way talks, called Thursday for all sides to begin work immediately on implementing the deal.

earlier related report
SKorea sets talks with North
Seoul (AFP) Feb 15 - South Korea agreed Thursday to resume high-level talks with North Korea that could restart major aid shipments despite calls for caution over an international deal on Pyongyang's nuclear programmes.

Just two days after North Korea agreed to disable nuclear facilities in return for energy aid and diplomatic concessions, officials from the two Koreas met to set up the bilateral ministerial talks.

It comes as North Korea signalled it was ready to implement this week's deal, according to reports. "We are ready to implement the results of the meeting," Pyongyang's top negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan was quoted as telling the Russian ambassador and a senior Chinese envoy, according to Japan's Kyodo News Agency.

The unification ministers from the two Koreas will hold four days of negotiations in Pyongyang from February 27, the first such meeting in seven months.

Seoul officials have said the meeting could pave the way for the resumption of rice and fertiliser aid worth millions of dollars to the impoverished North.

In Washington, US President George W. Bush hit back at critics of the Beijing deal but urged the communist North to live up to its commitments.

At a White House news conference, he said it was a "good first step" but warned of "a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become a reality."

And Bush urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to keep enforcing UN-imposed sanctions on North Korea, despite the nuclear accord.

China, meanwhile, called for all sides involved to get to work "immediately" on implementing the Beijing agreement.

"This is an important step forward and marks a substantive step toward the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

"We urge all sides to immediately begin the initial actions and implement their commitments."

The officials who met in the North's border city of Kaesong said in a statement that "both sides confirm their will to develop bilateral relations in accordance with the spirit of the June 15 declaration."

After a historic summit in 2000, the two Koreas -- which are still technically at war following the 1950-53 conflict -- agreed to work for peace and reconciliation.

The ministerial talks were suspended last July after North Korean missile tests sparked international alarm. The North then carried out its first atom bomb test in October.

The regular aid shipments have remained suspended since the missile tests.

"The normalisation of inter-Korean relations will serve as an opportunity for moving reconciliation forward and promoting peace on the Korean peninsula," said Lee Kwan-Se, South Korea's chief negotiator at Kaesong.

Apart from aid the likely ministerial agenda will include reunions of separated families, the opening of cross-border railways and the South's provision of raw materials in return for the North's minerals, according to officials quoted by Yonhap news agency.

Conservative critics of the Seoul government's "sunshine" engagement policy with the North said it was too soon to resume aid.

"The government looks anxious to rush aid to the North," Kang Jae-Sup, head of the opposition Grand National Party, told a party meeting, while South Korea's defence minister also urged caution.

"The North Korean nuclear problem poses a serious threat to our defence posture until it is completely resolved," Kim Jang-Soo told reporters.

Under the Beijing accord, North Korea will be given 50,000 tonnes of fuel aid for closing its Yongbyon nuclear facility within two months and allowing UN atomic inspectors back in.

It would eventually receive one million tonnes if it permanently disables key facilities.

The United States would begin the process of delisting the North as a sponsor of terrorism and normalising relations.

But there is no agreement yet on getting rid of the North's plutonium stockpile, estimated to be sufficient to make six to eight more bombs.

At his press conference Wednesday, Bush defended the deal against critics, including from his key conservative base, who said North Korea is being rewarded for bad behaviour.

Former US envoy to the United Nations, John Bolton, said the agreement undercut UN sanctions and was "a very bad deal" when Washington is challenging Iran over its nuclear programme.

"I strongly disagree with his assessment," Bush retorted, saying he had "an obligation to try all diplomatic means necessary."

The US leader went on: "Now, those who say the North Koreans have got to prove themselves by actually following through in the deal are right, and I'm one."

Bush promised to step up food aid to the North if Kim Jong-Il's regime took "verifiable measures" to end its weapons programme.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russia May Unilaterally Quit INF Treaty
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