North Korea Criticizes U.S. Nuclear Proposal, Blasts Bush

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, September 2004 | Go to article overview

North Korea Criticizes U.S. Nuclear Proposal, Blasts Bush


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


A series of recent statements from North Korea has raised doubts about whether September nuclear talks with the United States and four other countries will take place, despite the participants' June agreement to hold them.

Since the June talks, when the United States made its first concrete offer thus far to resolve a nearly two-year-old nuclear standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program, North Korea has criticized the U.S. proposal and blasted President George W. Bush in statements carried by its state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It has neither provided Washington with a formal response to the U.S. proposal nor, despite efforts by third parties, agreed to a date for new talks.

An Aug. 24 KCNA statement said that recent comments by Bush made it "quite impossible" to attend any talks. It said that "there is a question as to whether there is any need for |North Korea] to negotiate with the !United States] anymore." South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuk said two days later that Pyongyang may be trying to delay the next round of talks until after the U.S. presidential election in November, Chosun llbo reported.

In an Aug. 26 interview with Arms Control Today, a Bush administration officiai familiar with the talks said that statements referring to Bush as "a thrice-cursed fascist tyrant" and "human trash" may be attempts to elicit a harsh response from U.S. officials. Such a reaction would provide North Korea an excuse for not attending the talks, whereas Pyongyang's outright refusal would anger the other participants, the official said.

A Department of State spokesperson told Arms Control Today Aug. 30 that the United States still expects both the talks and a working group meeting of lower-level officials to be held before the end of the month. China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea are also participants.

The June round of six-party talks was the third such round held in Beijing. The talks have been held to resolve a crisis that began in October 2002 when Washington announced that a U.S. delegation visiting Pyongyang claimed their North Korean counterparts acknowledged having a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Such a program would have violated the 1994 Agreed Framework, an agreement between the United States and North Korea that froze the latter's nuclear reactor and related facilities.

The Agreed Framework resolved an earlier crisis, when North Korea was discovered diverting spent nuclear fuel from a reactor. Both uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Since the onset of the recent crisis, North Korea has restarted its nuclear reactor, claimed it has reprocessed the spent fuel, and said that it already possesses nuclear weapons.

Several governments have attempted to encourage the next round of talks. For example, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer visited North Korea in August to persuade Pyongyang to attend the next round. North Korean officials told him they remain "committed" to the talks, he wrote in an Aug. 23 article, but did not agree to a firm date.

Proposals and Reactions

The U.S. proposal called for a two-phase process in which North Korea would receive fuel oil from China, South Korea, and Russia after agreeing to dismantle its nuclear programs following an initial freeze. Japan agreed during the meeting to participate in providing fuel oil.

According to the proposal, the United States and the other parties to the talks would also draft a multilateral security agreement and begin surveying North Korea's energy needs. …

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