Wednesday, September 21, 2005

N.Korea Agreement Hits Snag Already

With the ink not yet dry on a joint statement of principles that ended a grueling round of six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program on Monday, the Stalinist country is already locking horns again with the U.S. over a light-water nuclear reactor it wants and the timeframe for abandoning its nuclear arms.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday offered an idiosyncratic reading of Monday’s agreement, saying the country would rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty and come back into full IAEA compliance “when the U.S. provides us with a light-water reactor that can be the basis of bilateral confidence.” It said Pyongyang was “fair and square, consistent and deep-rooted like a rock. The U.S. should not even dream of asking us to give up the nuclear deterrent we already have before providing a light-water nuclear reactor. That is the security of building bilateral confidence, physical security.” The statement of principles was understood to be merely envisaging “discussion” on the thorny issue that had threatened to scupper the talks.

The U.S. reiterated that the North must completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program before talks on the light-water nuclear reactor can begin. The U.S. State Department told reporters the six-party statement referred to the light-water reactor as a “future issue” that should be taken up at an “appropriate time.” When asked to define “appropriate time,” U.S. officials said, “When [North Korea] has rejoined the NPT and once again comes into compliance with IAEA stipulations.”

A senior South Korean official said the North Korean statement suggested Pyongyang was determined to get the maximum benefits it can from the agreement.

To be honest, why is anybody surprised?

South Korea is still giving free food, electricity, ect ect. without any inspections. Sound familiar?

Now for the US response..

U.S. Dismisses N. Korea Reactors Demand

The Bush administration is dismissing North Korea's demand for civilian nuclear reactors and appears confident of a final agreement to end that nation's nuclear weapons program. Still, the administration and South Korea foresee difficulties.

The next round of negotiations is planned for early November. In the interim, informal discussions among the six negotiating nations — the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia — are expected. "We are going to get this done," U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill told The Associated Press in an interview. He stressed that North Korea must agree to international restraints before its demand can be considered seriously.

In New York, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said "we will not get hung up" on the North Korean statement. "We can make progress if everybody sticks to what was actually agreed to," Rice said amid meetings with foreign ministers attending the U.N. General Assembly session. "I think we will just stick with the text of the Beijing agreement to which the North Koreans signed on," she said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, meanwhile, said that if North Korea needed some time to reflect on the agreement reached this week, "We'll give it to them." McClellan told reporters traveling with President Bush to survey Hurricane Katrina relief efforts that the agreement spelled out the steps needed to be taken. "Once they take those steps, then we would be prepared to talk further," he said.

Bush spoke by telephone with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and they agreed that verification of North Korea's pledge to abandon its weapons program was critical, McClellan said. Roh's office in Seoul took note of the prospect of "various difficulties" in resolving the nuclear issue and said the South Korean president told Bush he appreciated U.S. "flexibility" during the negotiations in Beijing.

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said: "There are going to be differences. That's to be expected." Describing North Korea's demand as remote, Ereli said, "We're not even close to going that far." North Korea said Tuesday it would not dismantle its nuclear weapons program until the United States first provided light-water reactors.

"Life is too short to overreact to every statement coming out of Pyongyang," Hill said upon his return from negotiations in Beijing. "It obviously was not a helpful statement. But it was not unexpected, either." Still, Hill said North Korea's demand would be discussed at the next round, although he ruled out any such arrangement until North Korea rejoined an international treaty designed to limit the spread of nuclear technology and agreed to international supervision.

Under the tentative agreement, South Korea would provide North Korea with the energy it says it needs, Hill said. "They know what they signed on to," Hill said. "We are not surprised by these sorts of statements. There probably will be more of them."

Asked if he was confident the breakthrough agreement would be concluded, Hill replied, "I wouldn't have supported it if I did not think it would get done." He noted the agreement is not with the United States alone but with North Korea's neighbors. "That means something in Asia," he said.

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