If the US does not lift sanctions tben the deal will be off. Given the level of distrust between the two countries it would not be surprising to find the agreement unravel once again. While all this is going on the UK decides to upgrade its Trident Missile program with not even a little squeak from the US or anyone else except rebels in the Labor Party. What a tremendous waste of money.
Wednesday » March 14 » 2007
U.N. chief inspector says North Korea committed to getting rid of nuclear program
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The chief U.N. nuclear negotiator Mohamed ElBaradei arrives at a press conference in Beijing. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
BEIJING (AP) - North Korea is committed to shuttering its main nuclear reactor within a month as long as Washington meets its promise to drop financial sanctions, the chief U.N. nuclear inspector said Wednesday after a one-day trip to Pyongyang.
In the first trip by the International Atomic Energy Agency since its inspectors were kicked out four years ago, agency head Mohamed ElBaradei said North Korea discussed how it would shut its main reactor and welcome back UN inspectors.
The assessment was an encouraging sign that a month-old nuclear disarmament pact between North Korea, the United States and four other countries remains on track, if, as ElBaradei said, "fragile."
He said North Korean officials told him they were "fully committed" to implementing the deal and that they were "ready to work with the agency to make sure that we monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon" nuclear reactor.
The reactor is believed to have produced the plutonium for the nuclear weapon North Korea detonated in a test blast on Oct. 9.
Yet the next month will be crucial, with the agreement laying down timetables for North Korea's disarmament and rewards for doing so. Already there were signs of rough going.
"The agreement is still quite fragile, precarious, so I hope all parties will see to it we continue to solidify that agreement," he said.
North Korean officials told ElBaradei they were waiting for the United States to drop financial sanctions against it, he said.
The frozen accounts in the Banco Delta Asia, including US$24 million (euro18.2 million) in North Korean assets, have been a sore spot for the North Korean government.
A U.S. government official said Monday the Treasury Department is expected to make an announcement this week that could help overseas regulators identify highest-risk and lower-risk account holders. This risk assessment in turn could be used by Macau to release money that has been frozen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
"Until we see what the U.S. is doing on the banking sanctions and how North Korea reacts to that we really must be very cautious about whether they will shutdown the reactor," said Selig Harrison, director of the Asia program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.
"This is the most serious threat to the Feb. 13 agreement," he said. "The whole thing could bog down on that issue very easily."
Harrison that if the United States decides on a partial lifting of sanctions against the North, Pyongyang would likely respond in kind with a partial implementation of their commitments.
The U.S. alleged the bank helped North Korea distribute counterfeit currency and engage in other illicit activities. Banks around the world, meanwhile, severed ties with North Korea for fear of losing access to the U.S. financial system.
ElBaradei said he was told that North Korea was committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula but that getting it back into the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty - it withdrew in January 2003 - would be a slow, incremental process.
"All we can do now is make sure the process does not derail," he said.
ElBaradei was originally meant to meet with the North's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Kwan but the schedule was changed at the last minute but ElBaradei dismissed concerns that he had been snubbed.
Kim "was sick, he fell ill after coming back from New York," ElBaradei said. "It is not true that he was too busy."
He met instead with another vice foreign minister of the same rank, Kim Hyong Jun, as well as Ri Je Son, head of the North's General Bureau of Atomic Energy and Kim Yong Dai, vice president of the Supreme People's Assembly.
Harrison also said ElBaradei's failure to meet with Kim was unlikely to signal a reluctance to cooperate with the agency. In the past, IAEA delegates visiting North Korea would not expect to meet with high Foreign Ministry officials, meeting instead with Atomic Agency officials.
"I would not read too much into that," he said.
International talks involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China that are to look at progress made since the denuclearization deal was agreed on Feb. 13 are to begin Monday in Beijing.
Also planned are working group sessions between those countries on economic and energy cooperation, peace and security in Northeast Asia and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as part of the landmark pact. Those meetings are to take place through the weekend.
The North Korean nuclear crisis began in 2002, when Washington alleged that Pyongyang had a uranium enrichment program in addition to its acknowledged plutonium program. North Korea then withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expelled ElBaradei's inspectors.
The North is to eventually receive 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil for abandoning all its nuclear programs. U.S. officials have stressed this must include an alleged uranium enrichment program, which the North has never publicly admitted having.
© The Canadian Press 2007