Talks resume on U.S. nuclear pact

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Talks resume on U.S. nuclear pact

Korea and the United States resumed talks in Seoul yesterday for the first time after agreeing to review their expiring nuclear pact for another two years in April.

Under an agreement reached before the top U.S. envoy on the issue stepped down, the two sides agreed to hold negotiations on the issue every three months until the extension period ends March 19, 2016, or a consensus is reached.

Analysts have voiced concerns that the departure of Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, would put talks on the contentious issue back to square one.

Before he left his post, Einhorn managed to secure a two-year extension of the bilateral civilian nuclear pact during meetings in Washington with Seoul’s chief negotiator, Park Ro-byug.

Einhorn’s replacement Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, recently entered the seventh round of talks, which runs until today, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul.

Sources stated that Korea will continue to maintain its stance during negotiations as both sides are expected to set guidelines and a framework for future talks. The United States and Korea have locked horns over Seoul’s demand for an end to the ban on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods and enriching uranium in the country.

Korea proposes developing pyroprocessing technology to reuse waste.

But Washington has raised concerns that such nuclear technology, which can be used to power nuclear reactors, may contribute to the development of nuclear weapons as they can produce plutonium.

The issue is pressing as Korea, which derives more than a third of its energy from its nuclear reactors, expects to start running out of storage space for spent fuel from 2016.

Seoul feels even more pressed on the issue as the country faces a power shortage with 10 of the country’s 23 nuclear reactors are offline.

“We have to use this as an opportunity to restore the credibility of our reactors in global society,” a Blue House official said.


By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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