United Nations sanctions against North Korea will not be lifted until the country rejoins talks aimed at shuttering its nuclear program, a senior U.S. diplomat said today (see GSN, Feb. 2).
Speaking in Seoul, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell reaffirmed the Obama administration's stance that it would also not begin peace treaty discussions with the North until the six-nation negotiations have resumed and Pyongyang has reconfirmed its support for denuclearization deals signed in 2005 and 2007, Agence France-Presse reported.
"Until those steps are taken, the United States will not be prepared either to ease sanctions nor begin discussions on other issues like the establishment of a peace regime," Campbell said.
Pyongyang announced last month that it was willing to return to multilateral talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, but only if sanctions were lifted and bilateral peace treaty talks with Washington begun to replace a 1953 armistice agreement.
"The essential next step is really the six-party talks, not discussions on another matters," Campbell said.
"It's possible to have discussions on other matters within the six-party framework," he added (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, Feb. 3).
Meanwhile, the Obama administration's intelligence chief told lawmakers yesterday that Pyongyang depends on its nuclear weapons effort because its conventional military capabilities are significantly outmatched by South Korea, the Associated Press reported.
National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said the Stalinist state's military was characterized by outdated weapons, rigid officers, insufficiently trained soldiers, poor morale, malfeasance and issues with command and control.
As Pyongyang is not likely to catch up to Seoul's military prowess, Pyongyang "relies on its nuclear program to deter external attacks on the state and to its regime," Blair said.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said today that the North had declared two more "naval firing zones" in its western waters that will be in force Friday through Monday. Two separate no-sail zones, also off its west cost, have been declared through March 29. These sailing bans have the South's military on guard for any possible missile tests (Jean Lee, Associated Press/Washington Post, Feb. 3).