Pyongyang says uranium facility is going ‘apace’

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Pyongyang says uranium facility is going ‘apace’

North Korea announced yesterday that its uranium enrichment program is coming along well, an apparent rejection of Seoul and Washington’s demand to stop the program in order to restart the stalled aid-for-denuclearization six-party talks.

Later in the day in Busan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the North to take concrete actions to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

“The construction of an experimental LWR [light-water reactor] and the low-enriched uranium program for the provision of raw materials are progressing apace relying on the solid foundation of a self-supporting national economy and the country’s latest science and technologies are making leaping progress,” the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

“The DPRK announced at home and abroad every phase of its nuclear activities for peaceful purposes geared to the production of electricity,” it said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The statement came as Pyongyang was reportedly preparing for a third “preparatory” round of denuclearization talks with Washington after a second meeting in Geneva last month.

The bilateral talks, held in parallel with Seoul-Pyongyang talks, are supposed to gauge the North’s seriousness of purposes in resuming the six-party talks, which involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. The talks have been suspended since the North’s withdrawal in April 2009.

The uranium enrichment program, which the North disclosed to the world in November 2010, is suspected to be designed to produce a second fuel for nuclear weapons aside from plutonium.

“Let me reaffirm that the United States stands with our ally, and we look to North Korea to take concrete steps that promote peace and stability and denuclearization,” Clinton said yesterday at a news conference during the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan.

Clinton said talks earlier in the day with President Lee Myung-bak and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan were focused on the importance of promoting nuclear nonproliferation on the Korean Peninsula.

She stressed close coordination between the South and the United States, calling the bilateral alliance a “linchpin of security, stability and prosperity” in the Asia Pacific. “It [the alliance] has never been stronger,” she said.


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

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