South Korean officials are suggesting a compromise aimed at reviving efforts
to get rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons may not be far off. The United
States and North Korea have been negotiating intensively on a means of
confirming the accuracy of the nuclear declaration Pyongyang made earlier this
year. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, the potential breakthrough comes
at a moment of brinksmanship by the North.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan
told reporters in Seoul Friday the United States will probably announce soon
whether it intends to remove North Korea from a State Department list of nations
suspected of sponsoring terrorism.
Washington promised last year to take
the North off that list, as part of a broader international deal that committed
Pyongyang to declare and disable its main nuclear programs.
Bush delayed the scheduled removal in August, because North Korea refused to
agree on steps for verifying the declaration it submitted earlier in the year
was accurate. The North responded by ejecting international inspectors from the
reprocessing facility at its main nuclear plant in Yongbyon. The United Nations
said Friday Pyongyang had informed inspectors they will now be denied access to
any part of the Yongbyon complex. North Korea threatened earlier this month to
resume deriving material useable for weapons from spent nuclear fuel.
South's Minister Yu says diplomacy may produce some movement on the stalemate
He says the US government is expected to make a decision on the
terrorism list in the near future, and that discussions on a verification
protocol are still under way.
Yu pointed out that even though
international inspectors have been denied access to Yongbyon, they are still
being housed in North Korean dormitories near the complex and not expelled from
the country. He says a compromise deal would focus narrowly on the North's
plutonium-related nuclear activities.
He says other issues, particularly
that of a suspected North Korean uranium enrichment program, will be handled
later on, as it is impossible to deal with every issue at
Washington's chief envoy on the nuclear issue, Assistant Secretary
of State Christopher Hill, met with senior North Korean officials last week in
Pyongyang and is still conferring with his superiors in Washington. The Bush
adminstration has not made any substantial details of the latest negotiations
Dan Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the International Crisis
Group, speculates Washington and Pyongyang may soon reach a verification
"And that gets very technical and very detailed as far as
environmental samples, and when and where they can take those samples, access to
individual scientists and engineers for interviews, and records, and which kind
of sites are available," Pinkston said. "And the technical people will have to
work that out, and I'm sure there's been some lengthy discussions about
Pinkston believes it makes sense to delay issues unrelated to
North Korea's plutonium programs like the one at Yongbyon. He says other matters
can be handled after next month's U.S. presidential election.
up this second phase, disablement, would be a positive step - and we could move
toward the dismantlement phase with the new administration in the U.S.," he
North Korea conducted a nuclear test explosion in 2006. Several
international media reports have reported possible suspicious activity at the
site of that test, suggesting Pyongyang may be planning a followup.