- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

The top U.S. negotiator on North Korea said yesterday that Pyongyang must abandon its nuclear-weapons programs if it hopes to see the economic and energy aid promised in a September 2005 deal to resolve the Korean nuclear crisis.

With another round of multilateral talks set to begin in Beijing on Thursday, State Department envoy Christopher Hill dismissed a possible diplomatic feeler from the North offering to re-create the 1994 deal with the Clinton administration in which Pyongyang merely “suspended” its nuclear programs in exchange for massive energy subsidies.

North Korea “must get out of the nuclear business entirely,” Mr. Hill told reporters in Tokyo yesterday en route to the Chinese capital.

“Of course, it is envisioned there’ll be some economic assistance and energy assistance,” said Mr. Hill, noting that both are promised to the North in the 2005 statement. “But the purpose of the exercise is to stop the North Koreans from operating this terrible nuclear reactor.”

The six-party talks on the Korean crisis involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China.

A Japanese newspaper close to the Pyongyang regime reported over the weekend that the North had offered to suspend operations at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and permit U.N. inspectors back to the site in exchange for more than 500,000 tons in fuel oil and help in constructing a nuclear reactor that could be used only for civilian power needs.

The “freeze-for-fuel” formula closely mirrors the Clinton administration’s 1994 Agreed Framework deal designed to halt the North’s nuclear-weapons program in exchange for U.S. and allied promises of energy aid.

The 1994 deal broke down after the Bush administration said in 2002 that it found evidence the North had cheated on the accord almost from the start.

For its part, North Korea said the United States failed to deliver on its promises to help build two civilian nuclear-power plants promised in the agreement or to supply large quantities of fuel oil while the plants were being constructed.

The September 2005 statement of principles went far beyond a suspension of nuclear-weapons activity, calling for a “verifiable denuclearization” of both North Korea and South Korea, with the North’s negotiating partners promising “economic cooperation” and “energy assistance” in return.

Mr. Hill said yesterday that he had not received any formal proposal from the North relating to the new fuel-aid request, but he said the U.S. bottom line has not changed.

Japan, which is demanding that North Korea release Japanese citizens kidnapped in the 1970s and ‘80s, would not consider offering Pyongyang any energy aid until the abduction issue is resolved, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday.

Although demanding a total end to the North’s nuclear weapons programs, Mr. Hill acknowledged that the six-party negotiators will make only partial progress in the latest round of talks. But U.S. officials have expressed cautious hope for progress after a meeting last month in Berlin involving Mr. Hill and North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-gwan.

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