Iran nuke deal pleases Seoul

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Iran nuke deal pleases Seoul

Seoul welcomed the announcement by the United States and five other world powers on Thursday of a groundbreaking framework deal with Iran limiting its nuclear program, with cautious expectations that the deal may influence future denuclearization talks with North Korea.

In the tentative deal concluded after talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran agreed to reduce its uranium enrichment capacity in exchange for a phased lifting of U.S. and European Union sanctions that crippled its economy.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom - plus Germany were involved in formal negotiations with Iran over the past two years. The group is called the P5+1 countries. A final agreement is to be reached by June before which final technical details will have to be ironed out.

North Korea fired four rockets, presumably short-range missiles, from Dongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, toward the western coastal area at the mouth of Taedong River, a South Korean military source said. The range is about 140 kilometers (87 miles), he said.

“It is unusual for the North to fire a missile with a range longer than 100 kilometers in the Yellow Sea area,” the source said. “Because of China’s expected protests, the North tried to fire them into its territorial waters.”

The North fired the same kind of rocket on Thursday, he added.

Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a statement Friday that the government “welcomes” the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and “holds in high regard the active efforts of the countries involved towards enabling the deal to be reached.”

The Korean government “hopes that the recent political agreement on Iran’s nuclear problem can contribute to the strengthening of regional peace and the international nonproliferation system,” Noh added.

Iran agreed to reduce the number of its operating centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium and its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and enable regular inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency of all its nuclear facilities.

President Barack Obama called the deal “historic” in a speech at the White House. But he added, “If Iran cheats, the world will know it.”

In Seoul, ruling and opposition lawmakers and government officials also embraced the framework as a positive signal about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula as well.

Ruling Saenuri Party spokesman Kim Young-woo said Friday, “We look forward to [the Iran deal] having a positive influence on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.”

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy spokesman Kim Sung-soo said that the Iran deal “can contribute to stability and peace in the Middle East, and now interest is pouring into the North Korea nuclear issue.”

“However, the six-party talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula have yet to find any lead,” Lee said, urging the government to “take active leadership to resume the talks.”

The six-party talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been stalled since late 2008.

Washington has said it has no intention to return to negotiations unless Pyongyang demonstrates concrete steps towards denuclearization.

Following the United States’ warming up to Cuba last December, Seoul is wondering whether Washington’s attention will next turn to Pyongyang.

Analysts point out that the North Korea situation is different from Iran and Washington has little interest in resuming talks with Pyongyang.

BY SARAH KIM, CHAE BYUNG-GUN [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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