- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters) — The United States and Russia told North Korea yesterday to stick to an agreement to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program reached in six-party talks in Beijing and not insist on a light-water reactor first.

“I think that we will not get hung up on this statement” by Pyongyang, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters at the United Nations. “We will stick to the text of the Beijing [agreement], and I believe we can make progress if everybody sticks to what we agreed to.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed, saying, “I also think we have to stick to the text of the agreement. … The most important thing is to see that the agreement is carried out.”

North Korea jeopardized a six-country deal on giving up its nuclear arms less than 24 hours after the pact was announced by vowing yesterday to keep the weapons until Washington provides the communist state with a civilian nuclear power plant.

In the agreement signed Monday in Beijing, North Korea agreed to scrap its nuclear programs in return for aid and recognition of its right to a civilian nuclear program.

The six countries — China, the United States, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and Japan — agreed to discuss providing a light-water reactor (LWR) “at an appropriate time.”

But the North took a different stance yesterday.

“The U.S. should not even dream of the issue of the DPRK’s dismantlement of its nuclear deterrent before providing LWRs,” it said in a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency. “This is our just and consistent stand as solid as a deeply rooted rock.”

DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Light-water reactors are used to make electricity that experts say are more proliferation-resistant than other reactors.

China asked all sides to fulfill their promises. Seoul said it would take the lead role in bridging the gap between the United States and North Korea.

President Bush spoke with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday and both agreed that verification that North Korea has abandoned its nuclear weapons program is “critical” for implementing the recent agreement, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The United States and others were following the sequencing as specified in the accord, Mr. McClellan said.

“Now, if North Korea needs some time to reflect on that agreement, we’ll give it to them. But all the parties are operating off the agreement that was signed by North Korea and all the others,” he said.

Japan saw a possible negotiating ploy in North Korea’s assertions.

“We must watch North Korea closely to see if there is really a fundamental difference on that point,” Japanese Chief Cabinet spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters. “If we are completely at odds, that will mean going back to the beginning. But we do not believe that is the case.”

Meanwhile Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said yesterday that Japan and North Korea will resume bilateral talks soon on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, missile program and abductions of Japanese citizens. The meeting would restart negotiations that have been stalled for nearly a year.

Japan has been eager to reopen the talks in hopes of resolving the cases of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and ‘80s. North Korea, meanwhile, could benefit from Japanese aid, investment and trade.

The United States, backed by Japan, had long argued that North Korea could not be trusted with atomic energy because it had broken a previous deal to halt weapons development.

But China, South Korea and Russia said that if Pyongyang scrapped its nuclear weapons and agreed to strict safeguards, it should have such an energy program in the future.

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