Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 5 News List

N Korea might disarm if US normalizes relations

AP , BEIJING

US and North Korean envoys held their third one-on-one meeting yesterday amid talks aimed at convincing the North to give up nuclear weapons, after the two sides staked out tough positions with Pyongyang refusing to disarm until Washington normalizes relations.

Meanwhile, a news report said North Korea hasn't assembled a working nuclear bomb but that the country has acquired all the components necessary to build one.

The North claimed to have nuclear weapons in February. However, a diplomatic source close to the arms talks told Russia's Interfax news agency that Pyongyang informed China that the announcement meant the North was able to build a detonator for an atomic bomb.

The source said the detonator was the most sophisticated element in weapons design that the North had been struggling to construct since the 1960s.

Security guarantees

North Korea has avoided spending to build up a nuclear stockpile, but the source told Interfax that the country would begin to do so in the face of unacceptable demands or a lack of security guarantees from the US and its allies.

At the talks, US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan met yesterday morning for two hours but no details on what they discussed were immediately available, the US Embassy said.

Inspection proposed

The US proposed an international inspection of North Korea's nuclear facilities in September, Interfax reported, citing a North Korean source.

The source said that the proposal was counter to the North's principle of seeking step-by-step rewards for its pledges and actions, but declined to specify how the country would respond to the offer.

The increased contacts between the US and North Korea are a change from the previous three rounds of nuclear talks, where Washington mostly shunned direct contact with the communist nation.

The last round of the six-nation talks was in June 2004 and the latest began this week after North Korea ended a boycott over what it called "hostile" US policies.

Japan's main delegate, Kenichiro Sasae, said the US-North Korea talks yesterday would determine the course of the following negotiations.

Without progress between those two countries, there will not be an agreement on a joint statement from all sides at the conclusion of the talks, Sasae said.

Under discussion

That document was still under discussion yesterday afternoon and wasn't expected to be issued by the end of the day, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

No schedule has been set for Friday's meetings, he said.

Qin said the US and North Korea were "in the process of finding common ground and measuring their differences."

Also yesterday, China's Foreign Ministry hosted a lunch for envoys from all of the six governments -- China, Japan, Russia, the US and the two Koreas -- in an apparent effort to maintain a cordial tone after the often-strained atmosphere during earlier rounds.

Good political will

The host of the lunch, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, praised the atmosphere of the talks.

"All the delegates come to the talks with a good political will, that is, to make progress in solving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue," he said, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

There were no other meetings planned yesterday for all six delegations together, Chinese state media reported.

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