U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States is prepared to offer North Korea a nonaggression pledge in writing during the next round of multiparty talks on the Northeast Asian nuclear crisis (see GSN, Oct. 9).
“We have some ideas with respect to security assurances which we will be presenting in due course,” Powell said. The deal would fall short of a full treaty, which Pyongyang has been demanding for months.
North Korea has reportedly called for a new round of six-party talks in December to defuse the nuclear standoff. The first round of talks involved South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, but North Korea has repeatedly said that it wants a nonaggression guarantee from Washington.
“The North Koreans made pretty clear they wanted this (the security assurances),” a Bush administration official said. “They didn’t talk that much about economic assistance. This is the one thing they asked for,” the official added (CNN.com, Oct. 14).
China today welcomed the U.S. announcement.
“China is happy to see the flexible and positive attitude taken by the United States,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said. “We hope the relevant parties can further demonstrate their sincerity and flexibility to contribute to the continuity of the six-party talks and promote a peaceful solution to the nuclear question through dialogue,” she added (Agence France-Presse, Oct. 14).
South Korean diplomats, meanwhile, will try to persuade North Korean officials to restart the six-party talks during bilateral meetings beginning today in Pyongyang. South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said he will push the issue during the four-day talks.
“I will tell North Korea that from various perspectives, a second round of six-party talks must be held as soon as possible,” Jeong said (Jun Kwanwoo, Agence France-Presse, Oct. 14).
Intelligence officials, meanwhile, said that North Korea might have produced one or two nuclear weapons in recent months, the New York Times reported today.
“When you add up the evidence, we have every reason to believe they’ve made two new weapons,” a senior Asian official said. The weapons would be in addition to the two nuclear bombs that the CIA believes Pyongyang developed a decade ago. White House officials also said that it is possible North Korea was telling the truth about reprocessing 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods into weapon-grade plutonium (David Sanger, New York Times, Oct. 14).