October 6, 2009
Kim Jong Il told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that North Korea is conditionally prepared to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks the regime in April said it was abandoning forever.
Kim yesterday told Wen in Pyongyang that returning to the talks depends on North Korea’s dialogue with the U.S., the Korean Central News Agency reported. The Obama administration responded by saying it is willing to hold bilateral negotiations that lead North Korea to “complete denuclearization.”
Wen’s three-day visit, which ended today, comes as China leads a renewed effort to bring Kim’s government back to disarmament talks. China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and host of the forum, which also involves South Korea, the U.S., Japan and Russia.
“There’s been pressure put on North Korea from just about everyone on this,” said Phil Deans, a professor of international affairs at Temple University in Tokyo. “The Chinese have tried the hardest. The symbolism looks big, it looks like there’s real change, but you have to be skeptical. They’ve switched the nuclear program on and off so many times.”Reaction in South Korea and Japan was cautious.
“While the move itself is welcome, it remains to be seen what North Korea’s real intentions are,” South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan said today at a seminar in Seoul. The U.S. and North Korea may soon contact each other, he said.Japan’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, said his government was seeking confirmation from China on North Korea’s change in stance.
“We want to work together with China to make this a reality,” Hirano told reporters in Tokyo.‘Hostile Relationship’
The “hostile relationship” between North Korea and the U.S. should be “converted into peaceful ties through the bilateral talks without fail,” KCNA said Kim told Wen.
North Korea pulled out of the six-party forum in April after the United Nations condemned the country for launching a missile over Japan, then tested a nuclear bomb a month later. The U.S. said last month it would consent to direct discussions with Kim’s regime as part of the larger disarmament talks.
“The U.S. remains willing to engage North Korea bilaterally within the framework of the six-party process,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement. “As we’ve said before, we and our six-party partners want North Korea to engage in a dialogue that leads to complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through irreversible steps.”The six-party talks were last held in December when North Korea wrangled with other countries over how to verify the extent of its atomic work. Kim’s government agreed in February 2007 to scrap its nuclear program in return for energy aid and normalized diplomatic ties with the U.S. and Japan.
“There is a common understanding between five partner countries that we will sincerely implement the UN sanctions until North Korea shows a real change in attitude on the nuclear issue,” Yu said today. North Korea should soon make a “strategic decision” on whether to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions or continue to isolate itself from the rest of the world, he said.The UN Security Council voted unanimously in June to adopt a U.S.-backed resolution punishing North Korea for its second nuclear test. The measure curbs loans and money transfers to North Korea and stepped up inspection of cargoes containing material that might contribute to the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.
North Korea is now in the final stage of restoring its nuclear facilities, Yonhap News reported today, citing an unnamed South Korean government official. In a letter to the Security Council last month, the communist country said it was “weaponizing” plutonium and had almost succeeded in highly enriching uranium, the second means for making a nuclear device.
October 6, 2009
North Korea on Tuesday signalled it could return to nuclear disarmament talks it had declared dead six months ago, but a report it was near restoring its atomic plant underlined the secretive state would keep the stakes high.
Leader Kim Jong-il told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on a rare visit to Pyongyang that he first wanted talks with the United States. The North sees such talks as key to ending its status as a global pariah that it argues gives it no choice but to have a nuclear arsenal.
"The hostile relations between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States should be converted into peaceful ties through the bilateral talks without fail," the North's KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying.In April, a month before its second nuclear test, North Korea said the six-party talks -- between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- were finished for good. It walked away from those talks last December.
"We expressed our readiness to hold multilateral talks, depending on the outcome of the DPRK-U.S. talks. The six-party talks are also included in the multilateral talks."
This is the first time it has suggested it was might return to what has been the only international forum to try to make the North give up dreams of becoming a nuclear warrior in return for massive aid to fix an economy broken by years of mismanagement.
One analyst said it boiled down to impoverished North Korea hoping to convince Washington to end its economic squeeze and the United States wanting to be certain that Pyongyang will not sell any nuclear weaponry abroad.
"North Korea wants sanctions removed ... What the United States wants is some assurance about proliferation because the U.S. doesn't really care about restoration of an obsolete nuclear plant or how much nuclear material the North has got," said Cho Min of the Korea Institute of National Unification.He said the focus was now on whether Washington sends an official, possibly special envoy Stephen Bosworth, to the North.
The U.S. government has said it is open to direct talks with the North to coax it back to nuclear talks.
The North's chief source of material to build a bomb has been its Yongbyon facilities which it had agreed to dismantle during six-party talks but later said it would restore, accusing the United States of planning to attack it.
"We have obtained indications that point to restoration work being in the final stages," an unnamed South Korean government source was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.North Korea says it is U.S. hostility, and the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, that is the problem.
It has long sought direct talks with the United States, in part to agree a formal peace treaty to the 1950-53 Korean War and gain full diplomatic relations, which would in turn give it access to international financial aid.
The U.S. administration is under pressure to come up with a new tack in dealing with the reclusive state that has for years played cat and mouse in negotiations with the international community, never giving up trying to build a nuclear arsenal.
"An effective American strategy towards North Korea will require a combination of tough measures with serious dialogue and engagement," Joel Wit, an academic and former U.S. State Department official working on North Korea, wrote in a report.CHINA BOOST
He said a policy of containment and isolation only conceded that North Korea will further develop its nuclear programme.
"That, in turn, will undermine stability in East Asia, sow doubts in Tokyo and Seoul about relying too much on the United States for their security and jeopardise cooperation with China."
The visit by the Chinese premier has been a major boost for Kim, increasingly shunned by the international community for nuclear and missile tests earlier this year and facing tougher sanctions. Analysts say the punitive measures hurt its weapons trade, an important source of scarce foreign income.
"There is no doubt that Wen delivered a very clear cut message, China wanted to give a push -- which has been fruitful so far. But you can also understand that North Korea will not just compromise very substantially after just one visit because it is not their style," said Zhu Feng, professor of international security at Peking University.
"The key question is not just how to bring them back to the negotiating table but also how to change their behaviour ... that's why my interpretation of Wen's visit is that he delivered a clear cut message and gave North Korea a very timely push, you can't always hesitate, you can't always fool around, you can't always just play tricks...otherwise time is running out and the effects will be very negative for North Korea."
October 5, 2009
North Korea is in the final stage of restoring its nuclear facilities, a news report said Tuesday, as leader Kim Jong Il expressed a conditional willingness to end Pyongyang's boycott of international nuclear talks.
South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities reached the conclusion after scrutinizing about 10 atomic facilities in North Korea since April when the communist regime vowed to restart its nuclear program in anger over a U.N. rebuke of its long-range rocket launch.
Pyongyang claimed the launch was a peaceful attempt to put a satellite into orbit, but the liftoff was widely condemned as a test of the North's long-range missile technology.
The report came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that his country was prepared to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks depending on progress in its two-way negotiations with the United States.
Kim's comments, carried by official North Korean and Chinese media, were the clearest sign yet that Pyongyang was readying to resume the six-nation talks it withdrew from after conducting missile tests in April and a second nuclear test in May.
The stalled talks involve China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S.
In their meeting late Monday, Kim said that North Korea "is willing to attend multilateral talks, including the six-party talks, depending on the progress in its talks with the United States," China's Xinhua News Agency said in a report issued early Tuesday.
North Korea has long sought one-on-one negotiations with the U.S., claiming that it was compelled to develop nuclear weapons to cope with what it calls the "U.S. hostile policy" and "nuclear threats" against the regime.
Yonhap also cited the government source as saying that North Korea has conducted missile engine tests a few times recently on the country's west coast at a new missile launch site that is in the final stage of construction.
News reports said earlier this year that the North had moved a long-range missile to the new site for a possible test launch, but Yonhap said Tuesday that the missile has been moved elsewhere. The report did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that the youngest son of Kim Jong Il could be officially named an heir to the communist dynasty as early as next year. The paper cited a South Korean government report to a ruling party lawmaker.
Talk of who will take over North Korea after Kim Jong Il intensified after Kim reportedly suffered a stroke last year. The third son, Kim Jong Un, is widely believed to be the favorite.