Author Topic: U.S., China Press for N. Korea Nukes Deal  (Read 75 times)

Thirteen

  • Guest
U.S., China Press for N. Korea Nukes Deal
« on: July 26, 2005, 10:59:15 AM »
BEIJING - The United States and China both expressed determination Tuesday to make long-awaited headway toward a settlement in six-nation talks aimed at persuading     North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

ADVERTISEMENT
 
Washington also assured North Korea it has no intention of attacking, and Pyongyang promised to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, opening moves that also indicated a shared goal of progress.

The latest round of talks resumed in Beijing, the closest ally of the isolated, communist North, after a 13-month boycott by North Korea, which had cited "hostile" U.S. policies. Delegates struck an amiable note before the meeting, smiling and clasping hands for a group photo. The other participants are     South Korea, Japan and Russia.

The chief U.S. and North Korean envoys seemed especially determined to move ahead after three earlier rounds of talks produced no breakthroughs. The two men held a one-on-one meeting Tuesday — their second in as many days, and a departure from Washington's previous refusal to have direct contact with the North.

"These talks are at a critical juncture," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said at the opening ceremony. "We do not have the option of walking away from this problem."

His North Korean counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, said, "The fundamental thing is to make real progress in realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

"This requires very firm political will and a strategic decision of the parties concerned that have interests in ending the threat of nuclear war," Kim said. "We are fully ready and prepared for that."

Hill directly addressed one of the North's main sticking points, assuring Pyongyang that Washington recognized its sovereignty and would not attack to end the standoff.

"We view (North Korea's) sovereignty as a matter of fact. The United States has absolutely no intention to invade or attack," Hill said.

"Nuclear weapons will not make (North Korea) more secure," he said. "And in fact, on the contrary, nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula will only increase tension in the region."

Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, also expressed optimism.

"This is a solid foundation for us to usher our talks into a stage of more in-depth discussion and make important progress," he said. "We need to show faith, confidence, resolve and patience. We have to make unremitting efforts."

After his one-on-one session with Kim, Hill told reporters that the North Koreans expressed concerns about the "sequencing" of proposals. Washington has said it wants verifiable disarmament before the North is rewarded, while Pyongyang insists on getting something in exchange for a nuclear freeze and more concessions as it disarms.

"They do not want to have obligations ahead of other people's obligations," Hill said.

Russia's Interfax news agency, citing unidentified North Korean sources, said the North also demanded that the United States withdraw nuclear weapons from the South as part of any settlement.

Both Washington and Seoul deny that any U.S. nuclear weapons are present in the South. It's not clear whether Pyongyang also is referring to visits to nearby waters by American nuclear-armed submarines.

"The North Koreans are asking a lot of the Americans," said Steve Tsang, a political specialist at Oxford University.

"Before the Americans can even know whether the North Koreans actually have nuclear weapons or not, and before the North Koreans dismantle their nuclear weapons if they have them, the Americans will have to remove any of their nuclear installations from South Korea, be they weapons or other items," Tsang said.

"It's not easy for the U.S. government to accept," he added.

Even so, delegates have tried to show their commitment to progress by setting no end date for the talks, unlike earlier rounds that lasted three days.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that despite determination on all sides, developments would be gradual. It would be progress, he said, for all parties to agree to another round of talks.

Moscow's negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev, suggested Washington might be expected to grant Pyongyang's wish for diplomatic relations as part of a settlement.

A possible stumbling block is Japan's insistence on resolving the issue of its citizens abducted by the North.

South Korea's negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, appeared to warn Japan not to derail the negotiations, saying it "would definitely not be desirable to take up issues that would disintegrate the focus of the talks."

Song also repeated South Korea's offer to supply the North with 2 million kilowatts of electricity if it agrees to disarm.

The latest nuclear standoff with North Korea erupted in late 2002, when U.S. officials accused the country of running a secret uranium enrichment program.

Since then, the North has pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and taken steps that would allow it to harvest more radioactive materials for atomic bombs. In February, the North publicly claimed it had nuclear weapons, but there has been no independent confirmation.

Hill said that if North Korea "permanently, fully and verifiably" dismantles its nuclear programs, the U.S. and other countries would offer measures "consistent with the principle of 'words for words and actions for actions.'"

That phrase was contained in a statement issued by the Chinese chairman at the end of the last round of talks in June 2004 and has been repeatedly invoked by North Korea as a demand