North Korea to quit nuclear talks

North says it will restart weapons programme after UN condemnation of rocket launch.

    North Korea said it 'sternly rejects' the UN Security Council's condemnation of the rocket launch [EPA]

    The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday quoted the foreign ministry as saying that the North "sternly rejects" the council's statement.

    'Useless' talks

    The North said it would no longer attend what it called the "useless" disarmament talks and said it would restart its plant that makes weapons-grade plutonium.

    "There is no need for the six-party [nuclear disarmament] talks any more," it said. "We will never again take part in such talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks."

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    The statement added that the North "will strengthen its nuclear deterrent for its defence by all means".

    "We will take steps to restore disabled nuclear facilities... and reprocess used fuel rods that came from experimental nuclear reactors."

    John Swenson-Wright, a Korea expert at Seoul National University in South Korea, said North Korea's announcement it was quitting the nuclear talks and would "never again" return to them was an uncompromising statement.

    "By taking this uncompromising stand, North Korea is pursuing a very risky line", he told Al Jazeera, noting that ruling out a return to the talks could alienate China - North Korea's closest ally - which has previously urged a softer line on handling the North.

    In its initial response to the North's announcement, China's foreign ministry called for calm from all sides.

    "We hope all sides will pay attention to the broader picture, exercise calm and restraint and protect progress in the six-party talks," spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

    Aid for disarmament

    The North began disabling its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant, which produced weapons-grade plutonium, more than a year ago as part of a February 2007 an aid-for-disarmament deal reached with the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

    It had previously threatened to quit the talks, which began in 2003, should the Security Council criticise its April 5 rocket launch.

    "The UN Security Council simply yielded to the US robber-like logic"

    Statement by North Korea's Foreign Ministry

    The talks, hosted by China, bring together envoys from the US, China, Russia, Japan as well as North and South Korea.

    North Korea added that "even though the six-party talks were blown up by hostile forces and the denuclearisation process torn apart" it will ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula with its military-first policy.

    It said it would actively consider building its own light-water nuclear reactors to supply electrical power and criticised what it called double standards by the UN.

    "According to the US logic, Japan may launch a satellite because Japan is its ally but we must not do the same because we have a different system and we are not subservient to the US," the ministry's statement said.

    "The UN Security Council simply yielded to the US robber-like logic."

    Responding to North Korea's protest move, neighbouring Japan has called on North Korea to reconsider its actions.

    Russia also said it "regrets North Korea's decision" and called on Pyongyang not to quit the talks.


    On Monday the UN Security Council meeting in New York issued a statement endorsed by all 15 members demanding an end to missile tests and saying further launches would result in a tightening of existing sanctions.

    North Korea says the April 5 rocket launch placed a satellite in orbit [AFP]
    The UN's first official response came eight days after North Korea launched a three-stage Taepodong-2 rocket over Japan.

    The North insists the launch placed a satellite into orbit, and has defended what it says is its sovereign right to a space programme.

    But the US military says no satellite has been detected and the rocket's upper stage and its payload crashed into the Pacific.

    It says the North Korean launch was a cover for a test of a long range missile that could in theory hit the US west coast.

    The non-binding UN statement was a weaker response to a full resolution which was sought by Japan and backed by the United States and its European allies, but opposed by China and Russia, the North's closest allies.

    Earlier Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said he hoped the council's "unified response will pave the way for renewed efforts towards peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues in the region".

    Experts say North Korea, which has enough plutonium for six to eight atomic bombs, could probably extract enough fissile material from spent fuel rods to produce enough for one more bomb.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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