North Korea Reiterates Pledge to Freeze Nuclear Program
North Korea further clarified an offer made last month by saying it was willing to “refrain from test and production of nuclear weapons and stop even operating the nuclear power industry for a peaceful purpose as first-phase measures of the package solution.”
In exchange, North Korea demanded that the United States lift political, economic and other sanctions, the Financial Times reported.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan said Wednesday that Seoul welcomed North Korea’s offer. “This should be helpful in creating the atmosphere for a second round of talks,” Yoon said, according to Reuters.
“We regard it as positive that North Korea has reaffirmed its intention to solve the problem through dialogue and stated a little more concretely the actions it is willing to take,” he said.
Talks in August with the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia aimed at resolving international concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program ended with all countries reportedly agreeing to work toward the goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. But North Korean officials reportedly later talked about the possibility of weapons tests, and the next round of negotiations was put off indefinitely.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that North Korea’s renewed offer was “an interesting step on their part, a positive step.”
The exchange of statements came as an unofficial U.S. delegation began its five-day tour that it hoped would include the Yongbyon nuclear complex, the key site in Pyongyang’s declared nuclear activities. South Korea has said the tour would include the complex, but North Korea has yet to confirm that.
The visitors include John Wilson Lewis, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, Sig Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, two senior Senate aides and a former U.S. diplomat.
Yoon said if the group is able to tour the Yongbyon site, “the points to pay close attention to are how much they are allowed to see and what is North Korea’s intention in showing it to them.”