Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Kim's nuclear-free call a 'good thing,' US spokesman says

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US State Department said on Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s reported call for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula was “a good thing.”

In Beijing, Chinese state media reported that Kim said he wanted a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and indicated he was willing to work with China to push forward the six-party negotiations to scrap Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

“That’s a good thing,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters when asked about the report. “If you go back to September 2005, the North Koreans [agreed] to take a number of steps toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. So we hope to see the North adhere to what it agreed to.”

Wood added that he had “not gotten a readout from the Chinese” about talks Kim had with a Chinese envoy on Friday, the North Korean leader’s first known meeting with a foreign visitor since a reported stroke last August.

“I don’t have anything more from you on that,” Wood said.

Speaking at a Senate confirmation hearing before US President Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, US Secreatry of State Hillary Clinton said that the Obama administration would review the current six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations.

But, Clinton added, she and Obama believe the current negotiating framework involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan has “merit.”

The North in 2007 signed a six-nation disarmament pact that calls for scrapping its nuclear weapons in return for aid, normalized relations with the US and Japan and a formal peace pact on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea is disabling its nuclear plants under the latest phase of the pact, but has not started negotiations on the final phase, which would involve the surrender of weapons and normalized relations.

Negotiations are deadlocked over differences about how to determine whether North Korea is telling the truth about ending its nuclear program.

The North frequently demands verification that US nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from South Korea. The US said this was done in the early 1990s.

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