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US serious about nuclear talks with NK: IAEA chief

By Choi Si-young

Published : Feb. 6, 2020 - 16:59

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On Feb. 4, 2020, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, the US. (AP-Yonhap) On Feb. 4, 2020, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, the US. (AP-Yonhap)
The US has not given up on the nuclear talks with North Korea, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday, referring to his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a day earlier.

During his two-day visit to the US for the first time since taking office two months ago, the UN nuclear watchdog chief said his agency will undertake a reliable, independent verification process once Washington and Pyongyang reach a deal on denuclearization.

But he added the verification process will not be easy, given the North’s expanding nuclear arsenal since 2009, when it expelled four IAEA inspectors upon the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution that denounced Pyongyang’s rocket launches.

“North Korea is a nuclear weapons state, illegally, and we don’t legally recognize that,” Grossi said.

The IAEA chief said the UN Security Council will have to sanction a revision to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make that happen, but it seems highly unlikely. The North joined the IAEA in 1974 and signed the NPT in 1985, but it dropped out of the watchdog in 1994 and withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

Washington and Pyongyang hit an impasse in nuclear talks after their latest bilateral meetings fell apart in October. Pyongyang insists Washington meet all of its demands to resume nuclear negotiations. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he would reveal a “new strategic weapons.”

US officials dealing with North Korea said they have reached out to the North through multiple channels to rekindle talks.

“We’re hoping that the North Koreans will implement the (denuclearization) commitment that their leader made to not just President Trump but to the world,” US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday while addressing foreign ambassadors in Washington.

“The Chinese have to enforce the sanctions against North Korea,” he said, urging Beijing to pressure Pyongyang to return to dialogue.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)