Kim signals N Korea ready to disarm

Leader says "all the parties should implement the initial actions" of nuclear deal.

    Kim Jong-il says "there have been signs that the situation on the Korean peninsula is easing" [Reuters]
    But he also reminded other parties of their obligations, saying that "all the parties should implement the initial actions" of a deal reached in February, a statement posted to the Chinese foreign ministry's website said on Tuesday.
    "Recently there have been signs that the situation on the Korean peninsula is easing," the ministry said Kim told Yang Jiechi, China's foreign minister, during a recent visit to Pyongyang.
    Under an agreement between North Korea and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US on February 13, Pyongyang agreed to shut its Yongbyon nuclear reactor in exchange for 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.
    Those steps, to be taken "in parallel", are meant to lead to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
    US approves aid
    South Korea said it would start shipping up to 10,000 tonnes of oil to Pyongyang next week in exchange for the closure of Yongbyon after the US said it had no objections.
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    "Our understanding is that the North Koreans have asked for some small portion of that overall 50,000 tonnes earlier on in the process," Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the department, said.
    "From our view, this is ... something that we don't oppose."
    The Bush administration has been criticised for giving North Korea too much already, including the return of $25m in frozen funds and a visit to Pyongyang by a senior US diplomat, without getting enough in return.
    John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that "Pyongyang hopes - and given American conduct recently has every reason to expect - that assistance will arrive whether or not it complies with other central terms of the February 13 agreement."
    But McCormack said "good faith is going to be met in turn by good faith", stressing that the North must fulfil its obligations and shut down Yongbyon in the next few weeks.
    IAEA upbeat
    In another positive sign for the nuclear pact, the UN agency overseeing the shutdown said Pyongyang was prepared to co-operate with its inspectors.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea had agreed to provide experts with needed technical information, access and other help needed to shut Yongbyon down.
    Implementation of the February deal had been stalled by a financial dispute over the $25m frozen in a Macau bank because of US sanctions.
    That obstacle was removed last week when the funds were returned to Pyongyang.
    Japan obstalce
    But Al Jazeera's Mark Seddon reported that another obstacle may have emerged, with North Korea questioning six-party talks on its nuclear programme over Tokyo's alleged poor treatment of Koreans living in Japan.
    A spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry said Koreans living in Japan who supported the Pyongyang government were being prevented from sending money home.
    The North Korean foreign ministry official on Sunday accused Japan of using "obstructionist measures" against Chongryon, a group of pro-Pyongyang Koreans which serves as the North's de facto embassy in Japan.
    The spokesman said Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, had persistently rejected Chongryon's proposals to clear its debts and taken harsh actions including forced entry and search, assaults and arrests.
    "As Japan is behaving so dastardly with a black-hearted intention, the DPRK [North Korea] cannot but raise a serious question as to whether there is any need for its continued participation in the six-party talks," said the spokesman.
    "The DPRK will never remain a passive onlooker to the Abe group's harsh suppression of Chongryon and its relevant field will take necessary steps against it."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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