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N.K. calls for ‘6-way talks’ while resuming operation of Yongbyon Reactor

N.K. calls for ‘6-way talks’ while resuming operation of Yongbyon Reactor

Posted September. 10, 2014 05:38,   


Kang Sok Ju, the secretary for international affairs at the North Korean Workers’ Party, urged "unconditional resumption of six-party talks," while visiting Germany on the first leg of his European tour. There were some expectations for the North’s change in behavior since it was a rare visit to four European countries by the North’s powerful diplomat, but it is hugely disappointing just to see the start of the tour.

Kang spearheaded the signing of the North Korea-U.S. Geneva agreement in 1994 as the North’s chief negotiator. He accepted the first agreement on the North’s nuclear renunciation that called for closure and dismantlement of its nuclear facilities in return for receiving light water reactors and heavy oil. Considering disappointing stance and behaviors displayed this time by Kang, whom Pyongyang mobilized by vowing to seek dialogue and negotiations on the international stage in a rare move, the world can hardly afford to predict notable change in Lee Su Yong, who will attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting for the first time in 19 years as its foreign ministry at the end of this month.

Last Friday, the eve of Kang’s departure for his European tour, the IAEA said it monitored signs of the North that suggest the resumption of a 5-MW class graphite nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. The Yongbyon reactor is not designed for power generation. Unless the North has intent to create nuclear weapons, there is no reason for Pyongyang to operate anew a nuclear reactor producing plutonium for production of nuclear bombs.

Through the Geneva agreement and nuclear-related agreements reached at six-party talks thereafter, the North has shown the practice of securing gains but breaking promises. The light water reactor project in Shinpo, for which South Korea provided most of the necessary budget, was halted in 2003, causing 1.562 billion U.S. dollars to go up in smoke. The North pledged closure and sealing of nuclear facilities in Yongbyon at the February 13, 2007 agreement, but suspended its execution of the agreement only after receiving more than 700,000 tons of heavy oil from South Korea and the U.S. Kim Jong Un even backpedalled further, however, since inheriting power by declaring itself as a nuclear state, indicating that it already possesses nuclear weapons. Pyongyang’s demand to resume six-way talks implies its hidden intention that the parties to the talks accept the North’s possession of nuclear weapons and that Pyongyang and Washington start negotiations over nuclear arms reduction accordingly.

Coincidently, Hwang Joon-kook, Seoul’s chief negotiator for six-way talk, is set to meet with key U.S. government officials including Glyn Davis, Washington’s chief negotiator for the talks. Susan Rice, the White House national security advisor, will visit Beijing and meet with top Chinese officials, including Yang Jiechi, China’s state councilor for foreign affairs. If South Korea and the U.S. are to maintain the hope of resolving the North’s nuclear standoff through negotiations, the two allies should decisively reject Pyongyang’s verbal offensives to resume six-party talks, and persuade Beijing to join them.