Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
North Korea, U.S. Informally Discussed Nuke Issue in July: Report
North Korea and the United States held nonofficial discussions last month in New York that revisited a seemingly abandoned bilateral deal intended to halt a number of the North's nuclear weapon-related activities, Kyodo News reported on Sunday (see GSN, Aug. 7).
Talks between the top U.S. negotiator to the stalled six-nation nuclear talks, Clifford Hart, and North Korean deputy envoy to the United Nations Han Song Ryol occurred close to July 10, according to unidentified informed insiders.
The topic of the talks was the February bilateral deal under which North Korea would have received U.S. food assistance in exchange for adopting a moratorium on uranium enrichment and ballistic missile and nuclear tests. Both sides publicly walked away from the deal after Pyongyang in mid-April attempted to send a long-range rocket into space. The rocket broke apart minutes after liftoff, but Washington and other governments nonetheless condemned the attempt as a North Korean test of ballistic missile technology prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The Obama administration canceled the planned nutritional aid under the grounds that the North had already violated the terms of the deal by using ballistic missile technology in its failed effort to launch the rocket. Pyongyang responded by accusing Washington of going back on its promises and insisted it had the right to peaceful space research technology.
The July meeting between Hart and Han failed to close the distance between the two sides' views on the food aid deal, sources told Kyodo.
The United States is understood to have used the meeting to see if there were any new options for engagement with Pyongyang. North Korea's mission at the United Nations is understood to be the conduit for this unofficial bilateral communication, which continued even after the rocket launch.
Satellite photographs taken in recent months suggest North Korea has laid the technical groundwork to carry out a third nuclear test. The Stalinist regime in June said it had no "present" plans to conduct a follow-up to its 2006 and 2009 underground blasts. More recently, however, North Korea has said it is reassessing its entire nuclear weapons posture in light of an antagonistic U.S. policy (Kyodo News, Aug. 12).
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