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US Envoy Seeks 'Good Start' From North Korea Talks

"For months and months we have talked about a statement that exists only on paper. And what we are looking for in Beijing is just to see if we can move that statement from the paper onto the ground," Hill said. The Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday that North Korea had told US officials it wanted 500,000 tons of oil a year in exchange for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor (pictured).
by Shigemi Sato
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.

But Hill said assistance would come only by implementing a September 2005 deal in which the communist state agreed in principle to give up its nuclear programme.

"If you look at the September statement, of course, it is envisioned there will be some economic assistance and energy assistance," Hill told reporters at Haneda airport.

"But what I want to stress is that for us the question is we must implement the full September statement, meaning that the DPRK must get out of this nuclear business entirely," Hill said, using the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"What we (would) like to do is to make a good start in implementing that statement," he said of this week's session.

The six-way talks -- involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States -- resumed in December after a gap of more than a year in which North Korea tested an atom bomb for the first time.

The December round yielded little concrete progress, but Hill has sounded upbeat since rare one-on-one talks with his counterpart Kim Kye-Gwan last month in Berlin.

"For months and months we have talked about a statement that exists only on paper. And what we are looking for in Beijing is just to see if we can move that statement from the paper onto the ground," Hill said.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday that North Korea had told US officials it wanted 500,000 tons of oil a year in exchange for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

A pro-Pyongyang newspaper said Monday that North Korea was willing in principle to freeze the reactor and allow UN inspections if it received energy aid and other benefits.

"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 (International Atomic Energy Agency) nuclear inspections in accordance with the maturity of the situation," said the website of the Chosun Sinbo, published for ethnic North Koreans in Japan.

Hill said shutting down the reactor was a key goal of the talks.

"The purpose of this whole exercise is to get the North Koreans to stop operating this terrible reactor and start telling us what programmes they have so we can begin to see these programmes are dismantled and abandoned," Hill said.

Japan, which has championed a hard line on North Korea, said it would lend its financial backing to any deal with concrete results.

"First it must aim at denuclearisation," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said of Pyongyang.

"And the most important thing is what concrete steps it can take. Everything will start from that point," Shiozaki, the government spokesman, told a news conference.

Japan has tense relations with North Korea, which has kidnapped Japanese nationals and fired a missile over Japan's main island in 1998.

earlier related report
No aid to NKorea without clear compromise: Japan
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 05 - Japan warned on Monday it will not provide any assistance to North Korea unless the reclusive state takes concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons.

Asked if Japan would offer aid of any kind to Pyongyang, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said: "First it must aim at denuclearisation."

"And the most important thing is what concrete steps it can take. Everything will start from that point," Shiozaki, the government spokesman, told a news conference.

The remarks came after a weekend report in Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily which said North Korea told US officials it wanted 500,000 tonnes of oil a year in exchange for shutting down a nuclear reactor.

The oil shipments were also part of a 1994 deal aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear activity. The deal fell apart in October 2002 when the United States accused Pyongyang of running a secret uranium enrichment programme.

Japan, South Korea and the United States funded the 1994 deal.

Six-nation talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons are set to resume on Thursday in Beijing.

Shiozaki reiterated that Tokyo would again use the forum to press North Korea on its abductions of Japanese citizens. North and South Korea have repeatedly grown irritated when Japan raised the row in previous six-way talks.

"We will seek resolutions of various issues pending between Japan and North Korea, including the abduction issue," Shiozaki said.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies. It returned five of them to Japan along with their families and said the other eight had died.

But Japan believes they are still alive and suspects more Japanese nationals were kidnapped and are being kept under wraps because they know too many secrets.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
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North Korea Willing On Nuclear Freeze
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.







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