(AFP) – Jul 1, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States emphasized Tuesday it would not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, saying that disbanding the hardline communist state's atomic arms program was critical.
"I must say, without denuclearization, it's tough to move ahead on anything with North Korea," top US envoy Christopher Hill said five days after Pyongyang submitted a declaration of its nuclear program criticized in Washington as incomplete.
"I mean, we're not going to accept North Korea as a nuclear state. I mean, we're going to have to get that part done," Hill said at a forum held by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on his return from Northeast Asia where the nuclear issue topped talks.
The declaration was part of a landmark six-nation deal reached last year, in which North Korea agreed to end its nuclear weapons program in return for energy aid, diplomatic recognition and security guarantees.
The White House said the declaration did not answer US allegations of nuclear proliferation to Syria, or its claims of a past secret enriched uranium weapons program, and left doubts about how many plutonium bombs North Korea may have produced.
North Korea, which tested a nuclear bomb in 2006, is said to have merely acknowledged in a separate document US concerns about the uranium and proliferation issues and assured it was not engaged in such activities now and would not be involved in them in the future.
"We have to keep working on issues that have still not been fully disclosed, although not denied by the North Koreans," Hill said, adding that Washington was scrutinizing the declaration, which has not been made public yet.
Measures to verify the North Korean statement are being devised.
"We're obviously going to look at the declaration very systematically this week. We're going to work on our verification, how we would approach verification," Hill said.
Verification measures would be adopted at a meeting of the six parties -- the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia -- in Beijing soon.
"Again, verification is absolutely key to this whole process. People often say, 'How can you trust them?' This has nothing to do with trust. This has everything to do with verification," Hill said.
Asked why the declaration was delayed by six months, Hill said it had to be made clear to North Korea that its main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, which had been shut down and nearly disabled, should be eventually abandoned.
"We needed them to understand that the purpose of disabling Yongbyon was not to figure out ways that it could be re-enabled but rather the purpose of disablement was for abandonment," he said.
North Korea also was asked to make progress on talks with Japan over the previous abductions by Pyongyang of Japanese citizens, he said.
"We needed to make very clear to the North Koreans that we could not have a situation where things go ahead on denuclearization and things fall behind on the relationship with Japan, because, in the long run, North Korea needs a healthy relationship with the Japanese," Hill said.
Tokyo has taken the hardest line in six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament due to the dispute over the fate of its citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang's agents, an emotionally charged issue in Japan.
North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in Japanese language and culture.
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