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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 90 (January 21, 2010)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

Pyongyang 'Will Not Return to Nuclear Talks' While under Sanctions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea reaffirmed its stance on Jan. 18 that it will not return to the six-party denuclearization talks unless United Nations sanctions on it are lifted, further upping the ante in international efforts to resolve the long-running nuclear standoff.

   "If the six-party talks are to take place again, it is necessary to seek whatever way of removing the factor of torpedoing them," said the North's foreign ministry in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The North also said it has no reason to oppose or delay the six-party talks, which have been stalled since December 2008, but stressed that if it participates in the talks with sanctions in place, such a scenario would not be in line with the terms detailed in the Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement agreed to by members to the talks.

   The remarks by an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesperson came less than a week after the U.S. said the removal of sanctions can only be considered after the North returns to the six-nation talks that also group South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. The last round of the nuclear talks was last held in December 2008.

   "If the DPRK (North Korea) goes out for the six-party talks, remaining subjected to the sanctions, such talks will not prove to be equal talks... The dignity of the DPRK will never allow this to happen," the North's statement said.

   The North said in April it had permanently quit the negotiations and declared the talks "dead" after it drew U.N. condemnation for its long-range rocket launch in April of last year. North Korea conducted its second nuclear test less than two months later.

   Defending the rocket launch as a sovereign right, North Korea said it is "nonsensical" to "sit at the negotiating table with those countries that violate its sovereignty." "Such extreme encroachment upon the sovereignty of a country" compelled the North to go ahead with its nuclear test, it said.

   It has since hinted that it would be willing to return to the negotiation table. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told China's Premier Wen Jiabao in October last year that his country may return to the multilateral negotiating table, depending on the outcome of bilateral talks with the U.S., which were held in December.

   Following a trip to Pyongyang by U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy on North Korea in December, the socialist state said it was willing to return to the six-nation talks but did not say when.

   This year, the North has also called for a separate forum outside the six-party framework to discuss reaching a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. It also reiterated its demand that they be started to help move forward the six-party talks. "There will be a starting point of confidence building only if the parties concerned sit at a negotiating table for concluding a peace treaty," it said.

   It added that a peace treaty to formally close the war that involved the U.S. on the South Korean side and China on the North Korean side will help "put an end to such a vicious cycle of distrust and build confidence to push forward denuclearization." North Korea "is not opposed to the six-party talks and has no ground whatsoever to delay them," it said.

   On the North's demand for removing sanctions, the United States and South Korea scoffed at the notion. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said recently, "We've made clear, going back several months, we're not going to pay North Korea for coming back to the six-party process."

   In Washington on Jan. 19, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, urged the North to return to the six-party talks ahead of any discussion of peripheral issues, including the removal of sanctions or the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

   "We think that the appropriate next step is for North Korea to return to the six-party talks and to resume deliberations in this context," he said. "And within that context, it's possible to have bilateral interactions and other discussions, not just with the United States but with other countries."

   Most recently, the North threatened to stage a retaliatory war against the South over Seoul's contingency plans to deal with emergencies in the North, such as a sudden leadership change or regime collapse. Pyongyang also said South Korea would be precluded from any talks on peace and security on the peninsula. The South said it was "regrettable" that the North reacted with such spite to speculative and unconfirmed media reporting.

   In response to the North's Jan. 18 statement, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul reiterated that the North should immediately return to the six-party talks. "There has to be some progress in denuclearization before the U.N. can even consider lifting sanctions," said spokesman Kim Young-sun.

   "Our government's basic position, as we have repeatedly expressed, is that we can start negotiating a peace treaty once the six-party talks are resumed and there is progress in the denuclearization of North Korea," the spokesman told reporters. "Also regarding the sanctions, they were imposed by a U.N. Security Council resolution and the resolution states the Security Council can consider removing them when there is progress in North Korea's denuclearization process," he added.

   In Tokyo on Jan. 16, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada urged North Korea to quickly return to negotiations on ending its nuclear programs, saying any concessions, including the removal of U.N.-imposed sanctions, will only be made after the North starts to denuclearize.

   Seoul and its allies, Tokyo and Washington, have expressed opposition to giving concessions to the communist North until it sincerely commits itself to full and irreversible denuclearization steps.

   "Regarding the future direction of their joint efforts, Minister Yu and Minister Okada agreed to maintain their two-track approach of continued pressure on North Korea while trying to resume the nuclear talks at an early date," an official from South Korea's foreign ministry said.