N. Korea in­ter­ested in deal to halt nukes

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Ni­cholas Kralev

LON­DON — North Korea has ex­pressed in­ter­est in a U.S.-backed pro­posal that it sus­pend its nu­clear pro­gram and al­low U.N. in­spec­tors to ver­ify the sus­pen­sion as an ini­tial step to­ward dis­man­tling its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties, diplo­mats said Jan. 18.

Dur­ing three days of talks in Ber­lin that ended Jan. 18, North Korea’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, Kim Gyeg­wan, asked his U.S. coun­ter­part, Christo­pherR.Hill,whattheUnited States would be will­ing to do if the North turned off its nu­clear re­ac­tor. AU.S.re­sponse,ifany,was­not­made pub­lic.

North Korea’s for­eign min­istry on Jan. 19 called the Hill-Kim talks “sin­cere and pos­i­tive.”

In the up­beat as­sess­ment, the com­mu­nist state said the talks yielded “a cer­tain agree­ment,” but it­de­clined­toe­lab­o­ra­teon­then­ature of the di­a­logue.

The min­istry said the talks were held in a “sin­cere at­mos­phere.” Its com­ments ap­peared in a state­ment re­leased­bythe­coun­try’sof­fi­cialKorean Cen­tral News Agency.

Mr. Hill flew to South Korea to be­gin brief­ing other gov­ern­ments in­volved in talks with the North. He also plans to visit China and Ja­pan.

Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice said the United States had not changed its pol­icy of re­fus­ing to ne­go­ti­ate di­rectly with North Korea over­nu­cle­ar­weapons,but­wastry­ing topre­pare­forthenex­tround­oftalks.

“Wearenot­goin­gout­side­the­six­party frame­work to bi­lat­er­al­ize our dis­cus­sions with the North Kore­ans,” Miss Rice said.

The­p­lan­was­first­p­re­sented­dur­ing six-na­tion talks in Bei­jing last month, which ended in dead­lock.

In Ber­lin last week, the North Kore­ans of­fered their own ideas about how it could be im­ple­mented, said diplo­mats who asked not to be named be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak about the closed­door ses­sions.

They also de­clined to share Mr. Hill’s re­sponse.

How­ever, Mr Hill dis­cussed the process of nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions with the North in a speech on Wed­nes­day.

Full nor­mal­iza­tion of U.S.-North Kore­antieswasen­vi­sione­d­i­naSept. 19, 2005, joint state­ment by the six na­tions, once the North scrapped its nu­clear pro­grams.

Other par­tic­i­pants in the talks — Ja­pan,China,SouthKore­aandRus­sia — also of­fered po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

“We look for­ward re­ally to es­tab­lish­ing, con­sis­tent with our obli­ga­tions un­der the Septem­ber ‘05 agree­ment, a nor­mal re­la­tion­ship with North Korea,” Mr. Hill told the Amer­i­can Academy in Ber­lin.

“Ob­vi­ously, this is via a bi­lat­eral process,which­will­take­some­time,” he said. “But we are pre­pared to go on­tha­troadand­to­re­al­ly­of­fer­North Korea a hand as it moves along that road.”

Af­ter the De­cem­ber talks, South Kore­an­new­sout­let­sre­port­edthata pro­posal had been made by the United States that in­cluded an of­fer of writ­ten se­cu­rity guar­an­tees.

U.S.of­fi­cials­saidJan.18that­most ofthei­deas­came­fromChina,which hosted the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“The Chi­nese re­ally are the ones who put for­ward ideas in the last round of the six-party talks, and part of what the North Kore­ans are re­spond­ing to [in Ber­lin] is that,” Miss Rice told re­porters trav­el­ing with her to Lon­don af­ter a five-day Mid­dle East tour.

When­the­p­ro­pos­al­was­first­made late last month, Mr. Kim re­fused to re­spond be­cause he did not have in­struc­tions­fromPy­ongyang.Oncehe re­ceivedthem,herequestedameet­ing with Mr. Hill, a U.S. of­fi­cial said.

In Ber­lin, Mr. Hill and Mr. Kim dis­cussed“cer­tain­step­sto­ward­dis­man­tling,” al­though the of­fi­cial in­sisted they would not amount to a “freeze,” a term used in a failed 1994 nu­clear deal known as the Agreed Frame­work.

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