South Korea is welcoming a compromise between the United States and North Korea on inspecting the North's nuclear facilities. The deal removes North Korea from a U.S. list of suspected terrorism sponsors. As Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports, South Korea says it paves the way for the North to resume disabling its nuclear facilities.
South Korea is welcoming a new compromise between the United States and North Korea aimed at making the North's nuclear activities more transparent to the international community.
Kim Sook, the chief South Korean envoy to multinational nuclear talks with the North, told reporters in Seoul Sunday his government welcomes the deal as an opportunity that gets the six-nation nuclear talks back on track, and leads to North Korea's eventual abandonment of its nuclear programs.
As part of a multiple stage agreement with Japan, the United States, South Korea, China, and Russia, Pyongyang spent the first half of the year actively disabling its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon. It also submitted a declaration of its nuclear activities, limited mainly to Yongbyon's plutonium production.
However, when North Korea refused to agree to a plan for confirming the declaration's truthfulness, President Bush delayed the promised removal of the North from a State Department list of nations suspected of sponsoring terrorism. Pyongyang responded angrily by vowing to resume Yongbyon's operations, then barring international inspectors from conducting their usual surveillance of the site. North Korea maintained the terror list removal was entirely separate from the verification talks, and threatened to begin reprocessing nuclear fuel into material useable for weapons.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill traveled to Pyongyang earlier this month as part of a diplomatic push to overcome the disagreement. U.S. officials announced the compromise in Washington Saturday, simultaneously removing North Korea from the terror list. Washington says inspectors will have access to all of North Korea's declared nuclear sites as well as access "based on mutual consent" to undeclared sites.
South Korea's Kim Sook says the success of the deal will depend on cooperation from Pyongyang.
He says North Korea will need to work with international inspectors on logistical issues such as selecting sites, providing transportation, and making information available.
Not everyone is celebrating the U.S. - North Korea deal. Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, speaking on the sidelines of credit crisis talks in Washington, called the deal "extremely regrettable." Japanese officials have said North Korea should remain on the U.S. terror sponsors list until it fully accounts for Japanese citizens abducted in the past by North Korean agents.
Backers of a stringent North Korea policy are also not pleased. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton calls the verification compromise "pathetic," and says it does not compel North Korea to be sufficiently forthcoming about its nuclear capabilities.