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2008/09/04 11:26 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 19 (September 4, 2008)


US Committed to Dismantling N. Korean Nukes within Bush's Tenure

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on Aug. 27 reconfirmed its commitment to ending North Korea's nuclear operations during the Bush administration, following Pyongyang's announcement that it has halted the nuclear disablement process in defiance of a multilateral accord.

   "This administration has been trying to have it get done," deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters when asked if the Bush administration will leave the North Korean nuclear issue to the next administration.

   "This is a very critical issue to international security and President (George W. Bush) and Secretary (Condoleezza Rice) both have sprinted to finish it, and the secretary and president are working very, very hard," Wood said.

   North Korea on Aug. 26 declared that it stopped disabling its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor and will consider restoring it, despite it being slated for dismantlement under a nuclear deal signed by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   Pyongyang denounced the U.S. for delaying the delisting of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism past Aug. 11 -- the initial deadline for a 45-day process that began in late June after North Korea submitted a nuclear inventory and destroyed its nuclear cooling tower.

   Wood said talks are under way with North Korean officials to break the deadlock and come to an agreement on a verification regime for the North's nuclear declaration.

   "We can't be overly excited by the down in the situation right now because this process does have ups and downs, as you know, so we're going to continue to work with the parties and take the process forward," he said. "This is not the first time we have this type of issue come up."

   The spokesman called for the North to do its part under the nuclear deal by "coming up with a verification package as soon as possible."

   "We are certainly living up to (our end of the deal)" by having provided the North with 150,000 tons of heavy fuel oil worth about US$92 million, he added.

   Under the second phase of the nuclear deal, North Korea is supposed to disable its nuclear programs by the end of October, and Washington and other partners are required to provide 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to the North by that time.

   The third and final phase calls for eventual dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs and facilities.

   Wood said he did not know "what (Pyongyang's) motivation is," but added, "It is very important to the international community that North Korea no longer has a nuclear weapons program."


RNC Draft Platform Calls for CVID of N. Korea Nukes

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Republican Party on Sept. 1 revealed a draft platform calling for North Korea's dismantlement of its nuclear weapons programs.

   "The U.S. will not waver in its demand for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, with a full accounting of its proliferation activities," said the platform to be presented to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minn., later in the day.

   Talk of the CVID policy came as the six-party negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear programs hit another snag following Pyongyang's announcement that it had halted the disabling its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in protest of Washington's decision to postpone its removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

   The platform praised the strong alliance between South Korea and the United States.

   "Another valued ally, the Republic of Korea, remains vigilant with us against the tyranny and international ambitions of a maniacal state on its border," it read.

   It also took issue with North Korea's human rights records, saying: "We look toward the restoration of human rights to the suffering people of North Korea and the fulfillment of the wish of the Korean people to be one in peace and freedom."

   The Bush administration has been under fire recently for failing to properly address North Korea's human rights issues, including the forced repatriation from China of North Korean defectors and the running of internment camps for political prisoners.

   Bush discussed his position on North Korea's human rights record during a speech that followed an August summit meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul.

   The Democratic platform, adopted in Denver in the end of August, also addresses North Korea's human rights issues.


S. Korea Remains Cautious about Food Aid for N. Korea

SEOUL/BEIJING (Yonhap) -- The U.N. food aid agency warned again on Sept. 2 that North Korea will slip back into famine unless given aid worth about US$500 million in the next 15 months, but South Korea remained tepid towards the appeal for help.

   In a news conference in Beijing, the World Food Program (WFP) stepped up efforts to raise funds for its just-begun emergency operation for the communist nation.

   The new aid program, scheduled to last through November of next year, aims to send aid materials such as dried milk, cooking oil, soybeans and corn to some 6.2 million people, mostly children and women, out of a total population of 23 million.

   "We don't believe it's a famine. We are intent on making sure it doesn't turn into one. The operation will have a huge impact in preventing a worsening of the situation," Tony Banbury, the WFP's regional director for Asia, told reporters. He was returning from a weeklong visit to North Korea.

   He emphasized the aid package is necessary to prevent the North from experiencing a famine similar to the one it went through in the mid-1990s, when millions of people reportedly starved to death.

   Despite the WFP's repeated appeals, the South Korean government remained cautious.

   "What is most important is North Korea's food condition," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said when asked about whether Seoul would join the aid project.

   Last month, the WFP formally asked South Korea to contribute $60 million for its campaign in North Korea.

   "A process to decide whether to provide North Korea with food (via the WFP) is still under way," Kim said. "The government will decide after making a general assessment of the North's food situation and taking into account various conditions."

   South Korea suspended direct shipments of food to the North after the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration took office in February on a pledge to pursue inter-Korean relations on a reciprocal basis.

   The Lee government later proposed talks with the North to send 50,000 tons of corn through the WFP, but the North has not responded to the offer amid chilled ties between the two nations.


Talks Under Way for Verification Regime on N. Korean Nuke Programs

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States said on Sept. 2 it is continuing discussions with North Korea on a verification regime for North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, but added no deal has been made.

   "We have continuing discussions with North Korea on this matter," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told a daily briefing. "It's not done yet. The way I put it is, nothing's done until everything's done."

   The six-party talks came to a standstill recently as North Korea halted the disabling of its nuclear reactor in protest of Washington's failure to remove Pyongyang from a terrorism blacklist. The U.S. cited the North's reluctance to produce a verification protocol on its nuclear programs.

   The Bush administration was expected to delist the North on Aug. 11 under a nuclear deal involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   The disabling is the second phase of the multilateral nuclear deal, with the third and final phase calling for a complete dismantlement of the North's nuclear programs and facilities in return for hefty economic rewards and diplomatic concessions.

   "We're prepared to move forward, as well as -- the other parties, to the next phase of the six-party process, but we're not going to do so absent the ability to verify those declarations that North Korea has made to the six parties," McCormack said.

   "I don't think anybody would expect that of us, you know, given the fact that North Korea is an opaque, closed society."


N. Korea Starts Reinstating Nuclear Facility

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has begun restoring its main nuclear reactor after warning last month it would take such steps, a Foreign Ministry source said on Sept. 3.

   The official, who declined to be identified, said actions to restore the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon began earlier in the day.

   He said the intelligence on this latest development came from the United States, which received a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The nuclear watchdog has taken an active role in the process of dismantling the reactor and its associated facilities.

   The confirmation from the official follows a U.S. television news report saying the communist country has moved to restore the facility to protest Washington's delay in removing Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

   Quoting unnamed U.S. government officials, FOX News said North Korea is reassembling its nuclear facilities, a move viewed as attempting to put pressure on Washington.

   "They've been threatening this move for some time," one U.S. official was quoted as saying.

   Another U.S. official described North Korea's move to FOX News as a "symbolic gesture" of protest, as much of the Yongbyon facilities have already been disabled.

   North Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman announced on August 26 that it has suspended work to disable the facilities and warned it would consider restarting them. The disablement was once touted as one of the most tangible achievements in the tumultuous six-way talks on the nuclear crisis. Pyongyang's dialogue partners are the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

   North Korea had said that more than 80 percent of the disablement agreed under a multilateral disarmament deal was done. It blew up a cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear site in June. Bringing the reactor back into operation is expected to take at least two to three months, the official said.