North Korea makes new overture for nuke talks
MOSCOW — North Korean leader Kim Jong-il says his country is ready to impose a nuclear test and production moratorium if international talks on its atomic program resume, in Pyongyang’s latest ploy to restart aid-for-disarmament talks.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Mr. Kim’s reported gesture at a summit Wednesday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will satisfy the most skeptical of the five other nations at talks meant to end the North’s nuclear weapons ambitions — the United States, South Korea and Japan.
Mr. Kim, at the summit in eastern Siberia, reportedly made no mention of an issue that lies at the heart of negotiators’ worries: North Korea’s recently revealed uranium enrichment program.
Medvedev spokeswoman Natalya Timakova was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying that Mr. Kim expressed readiness to return to the nuclear talks without preconditions, and, in the course of the talks, North Korea will be ready to resolve the question of imposing a moratorium on tests and production of nuclear missile weapons.
The North promised to freeze its long-range missile tests in 1999, but has since routinely tested short-range missiles and launched a long-range rocket in April 2009.
It also has conducted two nuclear tests, most recently in 2009, and last year it shelled a South Korean front-line island, killing four, and allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46.
Mr. Kim and Mr. Medvedev met at the hotel of a military garrison near the city of Ulan-Ude in Buryatia, a predominantly Buddhist province near Lake Baikal. It is Mr. Kim’s first trip to Russia since 2002, and it follows a marked easing in tensions between North Korea and South Korea.
Nuclear envoys from the Koreas met last month on the sidelines of a regional security summit for what were described as cordial talks. A senior North Korean official then traveled to New York for talks with his U.S. counterparts.
The North repeatedly has said it wants the six-party nuclear talks to resume. Washington and Seoul, however, have been wary, calling first for an improvement in the abysmal ties between the Koreas and for a sincere sign from the North that it will abide by commitments it made in previous rounds of the nuclear talks.