The Korea Herald


‘Reopening 6-party talks to help nuclear summit’

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 11, 2011 - 21:34

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Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan expressed hope Sunday for North Korea to halt uranium enrichment and take other steps to roll back its nuclear development, saying such moves will lead to resumption of six-party talks and contribute to next year’s Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

Kim made the remark in an interview with Yonhap News Agency held in part to promote March’s nuclear summit that is expected to bring together about 50 heads of state from around the world, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

“If six-party talks resume after North Korea halts uranium enrichment activity and agrees to take pre-steps, it would be helpful for March’s Nuclear Security Summit,” Kim said. “However, it is up to North Korea to make a final decision and for now, it is difficult to predict resumption of six-party talks.”
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (Yonhap News) Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (Yonhap News)

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have been exerting pressure on North Korea to halt its uranium enrichment program and take other concrete steps that demonstrate its denuclearization commitment before the stalled six-party talks resume. The talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

But the communist nation has called for restarting the talks without preconditions.

Since earlier this year, the South and the U.S. have held two rounds of one-on-one talks with the North to try to persuade Pyongyang to take such “pre-steps,” but no breakthrough has been made.

Kim said that negotiations are under way to set up a new round of bilateral nuclear talks with the North, but it is hard to say whether and when the talks will be held.

Earlier this year, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak offered to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the nuclear summit if Pyongyang firmly commits to nuclear disarmament and apologizes for last year’s two deadly attacks on the South.

Foreign Minister Kim stressed that the invitation is conditional on North Korea fulfilling its obligations related to the nuclear standoff, and the “underlying meaning” of the invitation is that the nuclear standoff should be resolved early.

The minister also said that the nuclear summit is not a forum to deal with the North Korean nuclear standoff, but the summit will be helpful to show Pyongyang the international concern over its uranium enrichment activity.

North Korea revealed last year 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, providing Pyongyang with a second way of building atomic bombs in addition to its existing plutonium-based program.

Late last month, Pyongyang said its enriched uranium production efforts are “progressing apace.” Kim said the main agenda for the nuclear summit will include how to minimize the use of enriched uranium, which he said is “the most dangerous among fissile materials,” and develop technologies for the goal.

Also to be discussed at the summit will be how to ensure the safety and security of nuclear power plants, Kim said, voicing concern that atomic power plants can be a target of terrorist attacks.

On the possibility of slapping fresh sanctions on Iran, Kim said South Korea has taken part in sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation and its position remains unchanged. But the government has to take into consideration the possibility of negative effects of such sanctions on the local economy.

“We plan to announce possible steps before the end of this month,” he said. 
(Yonhap News)