China urges North Korea to ac­cept nu­clear in­spec­tors

The Pak Banker - - International -

BEI­JING/SEOUL: China on Tues­day urged North Korea to ac­cept in­ter­na­tional nu­clear mon­i­tors, as the reclu­sive coun­try it­self had sug­gested, amid a tense stand­off with the South.

China, North Korea's only ma­jor ally, has con­tin­u­ally urged di­a­logue to re­solve the cri­sis and has been re­luc­tant to blame the coun­try for the shelling of a South Korean is­land last month, in which two Marines and two civil­ians were killed.

South Korea held fur­ther live-fire drills on the is­land on Mon­day, rais­ing fears of all-out war, but the North did not re­tal­i­ate. In­stead, if of­fered to ac­cept nu­clear in­spec­tors it has kicked out of the coun­try be­fore.

"North Korea has the right to use nu­clear power for peace­ful pur­poses, but also at the same time must al­low IAEA (In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency) in­spec­tors in," Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Jiang Yu said in Bei­jing when asked about North Korea's of­fer.

"All par­ties should re­al­ize that ar­tillery fire and mil­i­tary force can­not solve the is­sues on the penin­sula, and di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion are the only cor­rect ap­proaches."

North Korea promised to al­low in in­spec­tors to make sure it is not pro­cess­ing highly en­riched ura­nium, New Mex­ico Gover­nor Bill Richardson said on his re­turn from a trou­bleshoot­ing visit to Py­ongyang. He told re­porters North Korea had shown a "prag­matic at­ti­tude" in his un­of­fi­cial talks.

"The specifics are that they will al­low IAEA per­son­nel to go to Yong­byon to en­sure that they are not pro­cess­ing highly en­riched ura­nium, that they are pro­ceed­ing with peace­ful pur­poses," Richardson said, re­fer­ring to the North's main nu­clear site.

An­drei Lankov at Kook­min Uni­ver­sity in Seoul said the North's of­fer was a "usual tac­tic" that had worked in the past.

"They cre­ate a cri­sis, they show that they are dan­ger­ous and drive ten­sions high," he said. "Then they show they could make some con­ces­sions. The ques­tion that re­mains is whether this is the only fa­cil­ity. A ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gramme is much eas­ier to hide than a plu­to­nium one."

If IAEA in­spec­tors were al­lowed to carry out such mon­i­tor­ing, it could help to ad­dress a key con­cern about North

Korea's ura­nium en­rich­ment work be­cause highly en­riched ma­te­rial can be used in atomic weapons. The Yong­byon com­plex is at the heart of the North's plu­to­nium weapons pro­gramme. It con­sists of a five-megawatt re­ac­tor, whose con­struc­tion be­gan in 1980, a fuel fab­ri­ca­tion fa­cil­ity and a plu­to­nium re­pro­cess­ing plant, where weapons-grade ma­te­rial is ex­tracted from spent fuel rods. - Reuters

SEOUL: South Korean Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak (3rd R, front), De­fence Min­is­ter Kim Kwan-jin (2nd R) salute the na­tional flag be­fore the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil at pres­i­den­tial Blue House. -Reuters

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