N. Korea agrees to six-party talks on nu­clear pro­gram

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ni­cholas Kralev

North Korea on Oct. 31 agreed to re­turn to six-na­tion talks on its nu­clear pro­grams af­ter the United States said it will dis­cuss fi­nan­cial sanc­tions against Py­ongyang on the side­lines of the mul­ti­lat­eral talks.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sisted, how­ever, that it and other coun­tries would con­tinue work­ing to im­ple­ment trade re­stric­tions im­posed on the North by a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion last month.

“I’m very pleased with the progress be­ing made in the Far East,” Pres­i­dent Bush said af­ter the North Kore­ans told U.S. and Chi­nese diplo­mats in Bei­jing they would end their year­long boy­cott of the ne­go­ti­a­tions. No date was set for the re­sump­tion of talks.

The lim­ited break­through in ef­forts to re­sume the talks was an­nounced by the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry, which said North Korea had agreed in talks with the United State­sandChi­natosoon­re­sumethe long-stalled six-party talks on its nu­clear pro­gram. The min­istry posted a state­ment to that ef­fect on its Web site on Oct. 31.

“We’ll be send­ing teams to the re­gion to work with our part­ners to make sure that the cur­rent United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion is en­forced, but also to make sure the talks are ef­fec­tive, that we achieve the re­sults we want,” Mr. Bush said.

That goal, he said, is to see the Northa­ban­donit­spur­suit­ofnu­clear weapons “in a ver­i­fi­able fash­ion.”

Theteam­s­thep­res­i­den­tre­ferred to will be led by State De­part­ment of­fi­cials and will main­tain po­lit­i­cal con­tacts with coun­tries in North­east Asia, said de­part­ment spokesman Sean McCor­mack. He said the teams would not get in­volved in the prac­ti­cal daily im­ple­men­ta­tion of Res­o­lu­tion 1718.

The U.N. mea­sure was adopted unan­i­mously by the 15-mem­ber coun­cil in re­sponse to North Korea’s Oct. 9 nu­clear test. It bans ex­ports from and im­ports to the North of il­licit ma­te­ri­als and equip­ment that could be used to fur­ther its mis­sile and weapons of mass de­struc­tion pro­grams.

Mr. McCor­mack said the Chi­nese in­formed Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice two weeks ago that the North Kore­ans had re­quested a three-way meet­ing with the United States.

Miss Rice asked Christo­pher R. Hill, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asian and Pa­cific af­fairs and chief ne­go­tia­tor on North Korea, to go to Bei­jing and meet with his North Korean coun­ter­part, Kim Gye-gwan. Mr. Hill was in Syd­ney at the time, hav­ing stayed in the re­gion af­ter Miss Rice’s visit three weeks ago.

“We took a step to­day to­ward get­ting this process back on track. This process has suf­fered a lot in re­cent weeks by the ac­tions” of North Korea, Mr. Hill told re­porters in Bei­jing.

Mr. Hill said he first met with the Chi­nese and North Korean del­e­ga­tions to­gether, and then bi­lat­er­ally with Mr. Kim.

“I made it very clear that the United States does not ac­cept [North Korea] as a nu­clear power, and nei­ther does China,” he said.

Mr. Hill agreed to dis­cuss fi­nan­cial penal­ties im­posed on the North last year be­cause of coun­ter­feit­ing and other il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties, but he said Mr. Kim did not ask that those sanc­tions be lifted be­fore the six­party talks can re­sume.

The talks also in­clude Ja­pan, South Korea and Rus­sia.

Mr. McCor­mack said the United States hopes the talks will re­sume be­fore year’s end. The venue, as in the past, will most likely be Bei­jing, he said.

He also said Wash­ing­ton wants thetalk­stopick­up­wheretheyleft­off atthe­last­meeting­inSeptem­ber2005 —with­a­jointstate­ment­com­mit­ting all six coun­tries to the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.

“North Korea faced a qual­i­ta­tively dif­fer­ent geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment” af­ter Res­o­lu­tion 1718, which was sup­ported by its bene­fac­tor China, Mr. McCor­mack said. “Im­ple­men­ta­tion of 1718 is go­ing to con­tinue.”

Re­cent re­ports in­di­cate China has taken a tougher stance to­ward the North than usual. Chi­nese trade sta­tis­tics re­leased Oct. 30 showed that China, the reclu­sive coun­try’s main en­ergy sup­plier, did not sell any crude oil to North Korea in Septem­ber.

TheOct.31an­nounce­ment­came a week be­fore the U.S. midterm elec­tion, and both po­lit­i­cal par­ties of­fered speedy in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the events. Repub­li­cans said Py­ongyang’s de­ci­sion was a vin­di­ca­tion for the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­jec­tion of bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions. Democrats played down its sig­nif­i­cance, say­ing it was a small step for­ward.

“The an­nounce­ment that North Korea will re­turn to the six-party talks re­in­forces how ef­fec­tive the pres­i­dent’s re­sponse to that cri­sis has been so far,” said House Ma­jor­ity Whip Roy Blunt, Mis­souri Repub­li­can.

“It may ul­ti­mately be a pos­i­tive step for­ward, but it is clearly not suf­fi­cient to pro­duce the goal we all want to achieve — a halt to North Korea’s nu­clear weapons ac­tiv­i­ties,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat.

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Top U.S. ne­go­tia­tor Christo­pher Hill ges­tures while speak­ing to re­porters at the U.S. Em­bassy in Bei­jing on Oct. 31, fol­low­ing a meet­ing with his North Korean coun­ter­part. Mr. Hill said six-party talks on North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram are likely to re­sume as soon as this month and that North Korea set no con­di­tions for re­turn­ing to the talks, which also in­volve South Korea, Ja­pan, Rus­sia and China.

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