(by Nicholas Kralev, Dec. 6, 2007, WashingtonTimes.com) – North Korea is still balking at disclosing all of its nuclear materials and capabilities in a declaration expected by year’s end, the chief U.S. negotiator with the reclusive state said yesterday.
The envoy, Christopher Hill, said after completing a three-day visit that the North Koreans were “pretty close to providing a declaration,” and “we have had a very useful exchange on the subject.”
But problems remain even after Mr. Hill discussed the list of nuclear activities in a rare meeting with Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun on Tuesday.
“There are definitely some differences,” Mr. Hill told reporters after his return to Beijing. “As we discussed the declaration, as we discussed materials, installations and programs, we found that items in each of these three lists were not there that, in our view, should be there.”
The Washington Times reported last week that the North Koreans were refusing to account for centrifuges the United States says they purchased from Pakistan in the 1990s, presumably for use in a uranium-enrichment program.
U.S. officials are concerned that the centrifuges may have ended up in a third country, possibly Syria, where Israel bombed what it described as a nuclear-related facility in September.
Mr. Hill said last week that, even if the North does not have the centrifuges any longer, it must explain what happened to them.
“Our concern is, we don’t want a declaration that arrives and that immediately people see what is missing,” he said yesterday, according to a transcript released by the State Department.
“What we want to do is make sure that the draft we get is as complete and correct as possible, because we know there are a lot of people – cheering on from the sidelines or not cheering on from the sidelines – who would perhaps leap at the opportunity to look at a draft that is not complete and not correct,” he said.
Some in the Bush administration’s conservative base, including former national security officials, have criticized the current policy on North Korea championed by Mr. Hill and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, warning that the North cannot be trusted.
Mr. Hill is working hard to avoid hearing “I told you so,” which is why the declaration is so important to him, U.S. officials said.
Asked whether the differences he described had been narrowed during his visit to Pyongyang, Mr. Hill deflected the question but said, “I don’t want to suggest that we are at some impasse.”
The declaration is required under an Oct. 3 agreement among the six countries negotiating the end of the North’s nuclear program – the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South and North Korea.
The North also has to disable its main reactor at Yongbyon by Dec. 31 in order to start getting energy and other economic assistance, as well as to begin normalizing relations with the United States and Japan.
“The disabling has gone very well,” Mr. Hill said, having witnessed the work of North Korean and U.S. experts at Yongbyon during his visit.
He said that, even if the process is not completed by midnight on Dec. 31, it will be finished soon after that. A small delay could occur because the Americans “instigated” a slowdown of the fuel discharge for safety reasons.
“We are not looking for some sort of cliffhanger – five minutes of 12. What we want to see is that this is going on as quickly as possible and as safely as possible, and we are very much convinced that that is the case,” he said.
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
NOTE: Enriched uranium is needed to make nuclear weapons. It is made in a centrifuge.
1. What information is North Korea attempting to leave out of a declaration on their nuclear program?
2. During talks about the declaration, with what 3 facets of North Korea’s nuclear program did U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill say he had differences with North Korea’s Pak Ui-chun?
3. a) According to a Washington Times report last week, what were the North Koreans refusing to account for?
b) Why are U.S. officials concerned about this?
4. What is Mr. Hill’s main concern about North Korea’s nuclear declaration?
5. Why have some people, including former U.S. national security officials, criticized the U.S.’s current policy on North Korea?
6. a) Name the countries involved in negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear program.
b) In addition to providing a declaration on its nuclear program, what is North Korea required to do under an Oct. 3 agreement made with the countries involved in negotiations?
c) What will it get in return?
NORTH KOREA’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM and THE SIX-PARTY TALKS:
- The six-party talks are a series of meetings with six participating states – the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea and Russia.
- These talks were a result of North Korea withdrawing from the U.N.’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003. North Korea is led by dictator Kim Jong-Il, who has starved and imprisoned millions of his own people.
- The aim of the talks is to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns raised by the North Korean nuclear weapons program.
- After five rounds of talks, little net progress had been made.
- September 2005, as a result of illegal acts committed by the North Korean government, including the counterfeiting of U.S. money, the U.S. froze North Korea’s overseas bank accounts. The North Korean government then refused to participate in further six-party talks.
- April 2006, North Korea said they would resume talks only with the U.S. (not six-party), if the U.S. released recently frozen North Korean financial assets held in a bank in Macau. The U.S. did not comply with the request.
- October 2006 North Korea conducted a test of a nuclear weapon.
- December 2006 six-party talks resumed.
- During the third phase of the fifth round of talks in February 2007, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the United States and Japan. It then stalled through July. Negotiations currently continue.
- For further information the six-party talks, go to wikipedia.org.
Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.