N. Korea's Nuke-Freeze Offer 'Positive'; U.S. Sees Progress toward Talks
Byline: Tom Carter, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The State Department yesterday welcomed an offer by North Korea to freeze its nuclear-weapons and -energy programs, but cautioned that any freeze must be verifiable and irreversible to meet U.S. stipulations.
Calling its offer a "bold concession," North Korea promised earlier yesterday "to refrain from test[ing] and production of nuclear weapons and stop even operating [our] nuclear-power industry."
The offer, seen as an effort to kick-start stalled six-nation negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear program, was described as "first-phase measures of [a] package solution."
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said it was "a positive statement."
"They in effect said they won't test, and they implied that they would give up all aspects of their nuclear program, not just their weapons program. And this is an interesting step on their part, a positive step," Mr. Powell said at the State Department.
"We hope that it will allow us to move more rapidly toward six-party framework talks. But what we're looking at is what should be the outcome of those talks, so that it is not just a discussion, but we see real progress at the end of those talks."
Mr. Powell emphasized the administration's hope that the statement signaled a willingness by Pyongyang to return to talks with the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program.
The first round of talks was held in Beijing in August. The second round has been postponed owing to disputes over the agenda, but could take place in the next few weeks. North Korea is demanding economic aid and security guarantees, which the United States has refused to offer.
"Because we are not sitting at a table does not mean we have not been talking to each other," Mr. Powell said. "And a lot of papers have gone back and forth and we are in touch with our four partners in this effort, and some of our partners are directly in touch with North Korea."
In South Korea, Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan said today that Seoul also welcomed the North's latest offer, saying it could provide a spur to the stalled talks on the crisis on the peninsula. …