No mention of a moratorium in North’s report

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No mention of a moratorium in North’s report

Russia’s announcement that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing was omitted in the North’s official media report yesterday, making it hard to gauge how much North Korea was moving on the issue.

Seoul and Washington said the talks, even Russia’s version of it, fell short of their expectations.

Kim met Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on the outskirts of the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude on Wednesday, in Kim’s first visit to the country since 2002.

The two leaders “shared the view [that] it is necessary to advance the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by resuming the six-party talks without preconditions and implementing the Sept. 19 [2005] joint commitment based on the joint implementation principle,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea left the six-party talks in April 2009, four years after agreeing to denuclearize. The regime conducted a second nuclear weapons test in May 2009, a month after testing a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Natalya Timakova, a spokeswoman for Medvedev, told reporters after the meeting that the North said it would be ready to resolve questions about a moratorium on its nuclear program but only once the six-party talks resume. The KCNA did not mention the moratorium in its report on the Kim-Medvedev summit.

Seoul and Washington have called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program before resuming the six-party talks to indicate its seriousness of purpose.

“Obviously, if in fact they are now willing to refrain from nuclear tests and missile launches, this would be welcome, but it would be insufficient,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday.

Nuland said that a moratorium could represent another “familiar,” insincere offer from the North, specifically mentioning the regime’s uranium enrichment program.

The North unveiled its uranium enrichment program last year, raising concerns that it was developing another method of producing nuclear weapons.

North Korea has indicated its readiness to discuss the program within the framework of the six-party talks, but Seoul and Washington have maintained that the North should address the issue before resuming any talks.

“I think that we will not go back to the six-party talks until North Koreans are prepared to meet all of the commitments that we’ve all laid out,” Nuland said.

A Seoul official offered a tepid response to the idea of denuclearization talks at the Kim-Medvedev summit, pointing to the North’s silence on Seoul’s call for pre-emptive measures to denuclearize. Seoul has also called for the North to bring back international inspectors and suspend activity at its nuclear sites.

Seoul’s top nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac, met with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in China yesterday to discuss the resumption of the six-party talks.

The Kim-Medvedev meeting also covered economic deals, including a gas pipeline project involving South Korea. Medvedev told reporters after the summit that Kim agreed with him to set up a special commission to push forward with the pipeline project, which would carry natural gas from Russia to the South via the North.

After South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia in 2008 on the project, it is now wary of economic deals with North Korea given the regime’s move to scrap an inter-Korean tourist program on Mount Kumgang.

A Ministry of Unification official said that without progress in inter-Korean relations, it could be difficult to talk with the North on the gas pipeline issue.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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