North Korean Leader Reaffirms Denuclearization Pledge

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told Chinese President Hu Jintao this week that his nation still intends to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, the Xinhua News Agency reported today (see GSN, May 6).

Kim offered the pledge in his first trip to Beijing in four years. He said that Pyongyang and Beijing would collaborate to set the stage for resumption of six-nation talks aimed at shuttering the North's nuclear operations.

Kim and Hu also reportedly agreed to undertake bilateral actions toward the denuclearization of the peninsula as mandated by the September 2005 joint statement.

The six-party talks also include Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. After taking some steps in past years toward nuclear disarmament, North Korea reversed course last spring when it withdrew from negotiations and carried out its second nuclear test. Kim has previously offered statements of support for the talks during this latest suspension, but has yet to turn them into action (Xinhua News Agency, May 7).

There was speculation that Kim's trip to Beijing would put the impoverished North back on the path to nuclear talks in order to collect crucial economic aid from China. Some experts, though, said they did not anticipate that the Chinese government would lean on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program, the Christian Science Monitor reported. Its top priority for neighboring North Korea is stability, with denuclearization following, according to Shanghai-based Korean studies expert Cai Jian.

"Kim knows that we don’t like him but that we need him," he said. "So he kidnaps China and blackmails us."

Prospects for quickly restarting the nuclear talks have dimmed following the May 26 sinking of a South Korean warship. Seoul has moved closer in recent weeks to publicly blaming Pyongyang for the naval disaster, which killed 46 sailors.

While the Stalinist regime has strongly rebuffed those allegations, some experts in China said North Korean complicity is not improbable.

An assault "could have been designed to break the logjam," Cai said. "North Korea has often played this sort of trick, making trouble to get attention and then negotiating."

Chen Fengjun, a Chinese expert on the North, said that China would only provide Pyongyang with food and other aid if North Korea rejoins the nuclear talks.

"China will offer aid and North Korea will reciprocate by resuming the six-party talks," Chen said. "If that happens it will be an important result of Chinese diplomacy" (Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, May 6).

A probe has determined that a torpedo caused the explosion that halved the Cheonan, Reuters reported yesterday.

Relying on a high-ranking government official, the Yonhap News Agency reported that foreign and South Korean investigators arrived at that conclusion based on the recovery from the raised ship of explosive residue and metals that are used in torpedoes.

The physical evidence seems to indicate that the torpedo was German-made and so was perhaps used by North Korea in an effort to cover its tracks, the official said (Jack Kim, Reuters, May 6).

An unidentified investigator told a South Korean newspaper that "it has been confirmed that the explosive came from a torpedo," Agence France-Presse reported.

"This type of aluminum [recovered from the ship] is not in use in this country," the investigator said. "As long as the torpedo was not ours, there is only one country that may attack a South Korean navy vessel."

North and South Korea are still technically at war and have engaged in several deadly skirmishes since an armistice agreement was signed in 1953.

A high-ranking military officer said the probe's findings would be made public by the middle of this month (Agence France-Presse I/, May 6).

Washington said it would follow South Korea's lead and adopt a "posture of waiting" regarding the resumption of nuclear talks until the Cheonan incident is resolved, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Our focus is on supporting [South Korea] as it tries to establish exactly what happened," U.S. envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth said yesterday (Agence France-Presse II/Google News, May 6).

Japan today said that the probe's findings might mean that another round of six-party talks is a long way off, Kyodo News reported.

"Unless the issue becomes clear, it won't become a situation in which we can proceed with the six-party talks," Foreign Minster Katsuya Okada said.

"Depending on the outcome, the six-party talks may be far away," he told reporters (Kyodo News/, May 7).

May 7, 2010

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told Chinese President Hu Jintao this week that his nation still intends to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, the Xinhua News Agency reported today (see GSN, May 6).