- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Deal faces hurdles

The U.S. ambassador to India yesterday predicted that American and Indian negotiators will complete a major nuclear-power deal and overcome the remaining but “considerable” hurdles.

“There is considerable work to be done on what is a very technical and detailed agreement,” Ambassador David Mulford said on the eve of another round of talks over the proposal to sell civilian nuclear technology to India and reverse three decades of U.S. sanctions over India’s nuclear-weapons program.

“We want to finish as soon as we can, and both sides are positive we can do this.”

R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, is due to open the talks today in New Delhi.

The obstacles confronting the envoys from both sides include amendments the U.S. Congress imposed on the deal to ensure that nuclear-energy technology is not used to produce more nuclear weapons.

Congress insisted on halting future sales if India conducts another nuclear-weapons test and on preventing India from using spent nuclear fuel, which can be reprocessed for more fuel or for producing plutonium for weapons. India, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has rejected both conditions as an infringement on its sovereignty.

Mr. Burns has called the nuclear-power deal the “symbolic centerpiece” of the U.S.-India relationship.

“Like all good things, it will continue to require hard work and difficult compromises to reach completion,” he told the Heritage Foundation in Washington last week.

“Despite some difficulties of late, I believe we will reach the mountaintop and realize the enormous promise of this breakthrough agreement.”

No partial solution

The United States is ready to begin establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea if the secretive, Stalinist state proves it has eliminated its nuclear weapons, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea said yesterday.

“We are not ready for a partial solution,” Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said at a peace symposium in Seoul. “It is only with complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization that we can contemplate the full normalization of relations with [North Korea] and the conclusion of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

Mr. Vershbow noted that North Korea failed to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility by the April deadline established in a Feb. 13 agreement with the United States and its negotiating partners, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. The United States, meanwhile, has unfrozen $25 million of North Korean funds in a bank in Macao and is ready to begin the process of removing North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorist nations.

The ambassador added that progress toward diplomatic relations with North Korea “depends on achieving the complete elimination of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons and nuclear programs.”

“These are ambitious goals, but we believe that they can be achieved before the end of President Bush’s term in office, if the North Koreans have the political will to do so,” he said.

“We stand ready to do our part, if they do theirs.”

In a related development yesterday, the top U.S. envoy to the North Korean talks met with his Chinese counterpart to discuss the North Korean funds at Macao’s Banco Delta Asia, which the United States had accused of aiding North Korea in money laundering and counterfeiting U.S. currency.

North Korea wants the money transferred to another foreign bank, but so far no other financial institution wants to touch the funds out of fear of U.S. retaliation. North Korea has linked the transfer of the money to its agreement to shut down its Yongbyon reactor.

Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, discussed ways to break the deadlock with Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei, according to reports from Beijing.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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