North Korea edges towards disarmament
BEIJING — Talks on North Korea's nuclear programs resumed on a positive note Thursday, with the Chinese hosts distributing a draft agreement and the North agreeing in principle to initial steps to disarm.
Envoys from six nations are trying to agree on steps to implement a September 2005 deal in which North Korea pledged to disarm in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
The 2005 deal — the only one to emerge since negotiations began in 2003 — was a broad statement of principles that did not outline any concrete steps for dismantling North Korea's nuclear program.
The main U.S. envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said the new proposal would be “a set of actions that would have to be taken in a finite amount of time.” He declined to give specifics, but said moves would occur in a matter of weeks.
Related to this article
Chief North Korean negotiator Kim Kye Gwan, middle top, and his aides face their South Korean counterparts during the opening ceremony of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program on Thursday in Beijing. (Andrew Wong/AP)
S D from Ottawa, Canada writes: BaZ MaN - and those solutions...
Doesn't it seem more like China, not the US, is central to this...
Wow, that was constructive....I feel better already....
sd get a job
35 reader comments | Join the conversation
He said the delegations were “coalescing” around some themes that should become a first step in implementing the 2005 agreement. “The first step of a journey is often the most difficult step, and this effort is in fact proving that.”
A South Korean official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing diplomacy, said China circulated a draft proposal. The official gave no details, but other delegates said earlier that the agreement would outline initial steps for implementing the 2005 accord.
Such an agreement would set the stage for the first tangible steps in more than three years of negotiations.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington she was “cautiously optimistic” that the implementation of the agreement could begin.
At the last round of talks in December, in the wake of North Korea's Oct. 9 underground nuclear test, the communist nation refused even to talk about its nuclear programs. Instead, Pyongyang demanded the U.S. lift financial restrictions targeting alleged North Korean counterfeiting and money laundering.
Since then, the U.S. and North Korean nuclear envoys held an unusual one-on-one meeting in Germany last month where differences between the sides were apparently discussed, although no details of any concessions have been made public. Pyongyang and Washington held separate talks in Beijing late January on the financial issue, although it has yet to be resolved.
Unlike in the December talks, negotiators Thursday “were able to make progress in discussing denuclearization,” Mr. Hill said.
South Korea's envoy Chun Yung-woo said all sides agreed that “it is important to reach agreement at this round of talks on first-phase measures.”
The North's chief negotiator had said before the talks began that his country was “prepared to discuss first-stage measures” toward nuclear disarmament.
“We are going to make a judgment based on whether the United States will give up its hostile policy and come out toward peaceful coexistence,” Kim Kye Gwan said on arriving in Beijing for the meeting at a Chinese state guesthouse.
American experts who visited Mr. Kim in Pyongyang last week said North Korea would propose a freeze of its main nuclear reactor and a resumption of international inspections in exchange for energy aid and a normalization of relations with Washington.
The North, which suffers from chronic power shortages, is also seeking electricity supply or an annual import of at least half a million tons of heavy fuel oil — the amount it had been promised under a Clinton-era denuclearization deal with the U.S.
North Korea and the U.S. agreed in 1994 for Pyongyang to freeze its plutonium-based nuclear reactor in exchange for energy aid. The North promised to eventually dismantle the facility following construction there of two light-water nuclear reactors for electricity — a type more difficult to divert for weapons use.
However, that deal fell apart in late 2002 after Washington accused North Korea of a secret uranium enrichment program. The North expelled international inspectors and restarted its reactor, and is believed to have amassed enough radioactive material for at least a half-dozen bombs.
The six-nation talks — involving China, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and the two Koreas — began in August 2003, but the North has twice boycotted them for more than a year. The latest was over a U.S. decision to blacklist a Macau bank where the North held accounts, saying it was complicit in the regime's alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.
[link to www.theglobeandmail.com