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US Envoy Hill: North Korea Must Live Up To Disarmament Pledge February 4, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News, World News.
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SEOUL (AP)–North Korea must live up to its pledge to fully dismantle its nuclear program, the main U.S. envoy to disarmament talks said Sunday, as a news report suggested Pyongyang may be willing to shut down a key reactor.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill made the comments in Seoul, where he met South Korean officials to discuss negotiating strategies before the six-nation talks resume in Beijing on Thursday.

North Korean negotiators agreed at an earlier round of negotiations, in September 2005, that Pyongyang would give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

“Frankly, we cannot accept anything less than 100% implementation of the September statement,” said Hill, who declined to comment on the Japanese news report Sunday.

But Hill expressed optimism that progress could be made in the talks this week toward dismantling the North’s nuclear program.

“We won’t get it this month, but maybe we can have a good beginning,” Hill said before a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Chun Yung-woo. “But, the ultimate task for us is to complete denuclearization.”

After the meeting, Chun said the two sides had “complete consensus” on their strategy for upcoming nuclear talks.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on Sunday that North Korea was prepared to close the reactor in its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon and accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency – though the reactor itself would remain off-limits.

Asahi quoted former U.S. State Department official Joel Wit, who was in Beijing following meetings with chief North Korean arms negotiator Kim Kye Gwan and other senior officials in Pyongyang days ago.

The North, however, doesn’t intend to close the site used for its October nuclear weapons test, will not allow inspections there, and is not prepared to reveal details of its nuclear weapons program, the report cited Wit as saying.

At the upcoming disarmament talks, North Korea will also demand to be taken off Washington’s list of states sponsoring terrorism, the report said.

In return, Pyongyang plans to demand aid of more than 500,000 tons of crude oil a year to compensate for an aborted project to build two light-water reactors in the country, according to the report.

The North will also insist that Washington take steps to lift financial sanctions against North Korean assets held in Macau, imposed over the communist regime’s alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollar bills and money laundering activities, the report said.

U.S. treasury and North Korean officials last week wrapped up another inconclusive round of negotiations over the financial sanctions. But U.S. officials have since expressed optimism that the financial dispute wouldn’t disrupt the main nuclear talks.

Wit was accompanied by U.S. nuclear expert David Albright and traveled to Pyongyang on an official invitation, the report said.

The international arms talks, which involve the U.S., the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia, have made little headway since the 2005 accord – the only agreement reached in the process.

At the latest round of discussions in December – the first since the North’s Oct. 9 nuclear test – Pyongyang refused to discuss disarmament and demanded the U.S. lift financial sanctions first.

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