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Powell: North Korean Arms Accord Nullified

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Powell: North Korean arms accord nullified

NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES

SEOUL, South Korea, Oct. 20 — Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that a 1994 U.S. agreement with North Korea to freeze its nuclear weapons program was effectively nullified after Pyongyang admitted violating the deal. In the meantime, South Korea demanded Sunday that the North abandon its nuclear weapons program but received no response from its neighbor, officials in Seoul said.

THE UNITED STATES was evaluating its response with “friends and allies,” Powell said in appearances on several Sunday morning talk shows. The considerations include whether to continue with various provisions of the pact, under which Washington provides energy aid to North Korea in exchange for its pledge not to develop nuclear weapons.

“When you have an agreement between two parties and one says it is nullified, it’s hard to see what do with that agreement,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The New York Times reported from Washington Saturday night that the U.S. decision to pull out of the 1994 agreement ended two weeks of debate in which some aides warned that such a step could lead North Korea to even greater nuclear violations. The agreement said that energy-starved North Korea would abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program in exchange for two modern, light-water reactors and 500,000 tons of fuel oil a year until the reactors are completed.

Washington was discussing future steps, including an end to economic assistance, with South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China and expected to continue talks at a summit of Asia-Pacific nations next weekend in Mexico, Powell said.

Under the 1994 agreement, the United States ships 500,000 tons of fuel oil annually to North Korea.

North Korea admitted it had the secret nuclear weapons program at a session with U.S. officials in Pyongyang on Oct. 4. The nuclear revelations have upset the delicate balance on the Korean Peninsula, one of the Cold War’s last flashpoints, and dampened South Korean enthusiasm for what had been a rapid process of rapprochement since August.

END TO ECONOMIC COOPERATION?

In addition to ending fuel oil shipments, the Times said, abandoning the accord will likely mean that the United States will urge Japan and South Korea to suspend a multibillion-dollar project to provide modern nuclear power plants to the North. The reactors were to have helped provide electric service in North Korea, where many cities go dark every night, but were promised on condition the reclusive nation abandon what at the time was merely a suspected nuclear weapons program.

The Bush administration assumes North Korea “might have one or two” nuclear weapons, Powell said.

Powell also said that military action against the North in response to the possibility that it possesses nuclear weapons was not currently on the table, and said that the situation is not analogous to current tensions with Iraq.

“We have no military plans on the table now for an invasion of North Korea,” Powell said to “Meet the Press’ host Tim Russert. “Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors. North Korea is a different situation — it has a broken economy without access to resources like Saddam Hussein.”

SOUTH KOREAN DEMANDS

The nuclear issue was a main topic at Cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea that opened in the North’s capital, Pyongyang. It was the first official venue for South Korea to raise the issue since Washington said North Korea admitted having a nuclear weapons.

“We demanded that North Korea faithfully honor all international agreements it has signed,” Rhee Bong-jo, a South Korean spokesman, said after the first-day talks ended after just 50 minutes.

“We also asked them to open dialogue with concerned countries and the international community and take convincing actions,” Rhee said in pool reports distributed in Seoul. No foreign reporters were allowed to cover the talks.

Rhee said North Korean officials “just listened” to the South Korean demands and did not respond.

Rhee said the two sides had no plan to meet again on Sunday but instead planned to discuss the issue in informal talks. The talks in Pyongyang, the eighth in a series since a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000, were scheduled to continue until Tuesday.

‘HEAVY’ ATMOSPHERE

“Overall, the atmosphere of the talks was heavy but sincere,” Rhee said. He also said other issues taken up at the talks included a proposal to account for thousands of people missing during and after the 1950-53 Korean War.

The talks in Pyongyang had been planned to discuss inter-Korean reconciliation, long before the North’s nuclear issue arose. South Korea decided make the North’s nuclear issue a priority

The North’s admission seriously challenged South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s “sunshine” policy of engaging Pyongyang. The South Korean government says dialogue is the best way to deal with concerns about North Korea, and the United States has also said it will seek “a peaceful resolution” to the issue of nuclear weapons.

TALKS WITH JAPAN

Sunday, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly visited Japan following similar consultations in China and South Korea aimed at mustering international support for pressure on Pyongyang. The Kyodo news agency said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and Kelly had agreed that the two nations should work together closely to find a peaceful way to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Firm backing for a tough diplomatic line is likely from Japanese leaders wary of the danger posed by their reclusive neighbor, particularly after Pyongyang’s September admission it had abducted 13 Japanese citizens decades ago.

Japan has vowed to raise the issue during talks on establishing diplomatic ties with North Korea to be held on October 29 and 30 in Kuala Lumpur.

On Saturday Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attacked North Korea for developing nuclear arms while its people went hungry.

“It is outrageous that North Korea would have nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction when its people are starving,” Koizumi said while campaigning for his party’s candidate in a by-election in Fukuoka, southern Japan, Kyodo news agency said.

DIFFERENCES IN U.S. POLICY

Until it reportedly decided to abandon the 1994 agreement, which analysts said was intended to force Pyongyang’s hand, the Bush administration had handled North Korea with kid gloves, unlike Iraq, despite labeling both as part of an “axis of evil.”

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported that officials were concerned that war with North Korea would be a nightmare. Its army, which includes the world’s largest commando force, could quickly overwhelm the 37,000 U.S. troops along its border, it is believed.

U.S. forces have been posted in South Korea since the cease-fire between north and south in 1953. The agreement ended the fighting, but the war, technically, continues.

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