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Minister rejects N.K. offer of unconditional return to nuclear talks

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan rejected North Korea’s recent suggestion that it is willing to unconditionally return to the nuclear negotiating table, saying Pyongyang should first demonstrate its denuclearization commitment through action.

North Korea’s foreign ministry said Tuesday after talks with Russia’s chief nuclear envoy that it is ready to rejoin the stalled six-party talks without any preconditions and that it does not oppose discussing its uranium enrichment program at the talks.

Officials in Seoul have dismissed the North’s suggestion, saying its calls for unconditional talks mean that Pyongyang won’t take the preparatory steps that the South wants it to take to demonstrate its commitment to abandon its nuclear programs.

“This does not fit the position of the other five countries that the right conditions should be created for six-party talks,”

Kim said at a press briefing. “North Korea should demonstrate (its denuclearization commitment) not through words, but through action.”

North Korea revealed in November that it was running a uranium enrichment facility, adding to international concerns about its nuclear capabilities. Uranium, if highly enriched, can be used to make weapons, prodiving Pyongyang with a second way of building atomic bombs after its existing plutonium-based program.

Pyongyang has said the purpose of the facility is to produce fuel for a power-generating nuclear reactor and that the country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy. But few believe the claim by a regime that has pursued nuclear ambitions for decades and conducted nuclear tests twice.

South Korea and the U.S. have pushed for a U.N. Security Council presidential statement condemning the uranium program that they said constitutes a violation of U.N. resolutions and Pyongyang’s own 2005 commitment to give up nuclear programs.

China is considered the biggest obstacle to the push as Beijing opposes the Security Council taking up the matter over concern that it could aggravate tensions. China has claimed that the issue should be discussed at the six-party talks.

Earlier this week, the Group of Eight industrialized nations adopted a “chairman’s summary” condemning the uranium enrichment program at a meeting of their foreign ministers held in Paris, officials said.

Kim welcomed the move and said Seoul will continue to try to get the international community to respond sternly to the North’s uranium program.

The move could serve as a boon for South Korea’s push to win a Security Council statement.

“Though China is not included, all other permanent Security Council members are part of the G-8. In this sense, the chairman’s summary is meaningful in helping to create and build international consensus” on the uranium program, the official said.

South Korea worked behind the scenes to get the G-8 foreign ministers to adopt the document, and Japan was very helpful in the efforts, diplomatic sources said.

The G-8 groups the U.S., Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia. 

(Yonhap News)
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