China backs US-N. Korea nuclear freeze deal
China Thursday welcomed North Korea‘s agreement to freeze nuclear activities in return for US food aid, a deal that raised cautious hopes of an easing of tensions under Pyongyang’s new young leader.
| File photo from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows a Korean People’s Army military parade in Pyongyang in 2010.
The announcement came after the death in December of longtime leader Kim Jong-Il and the transition to his untested son Jong-Un, and ahead of a major celebration in North Korea next month marking 100 years since the birth of the Kim dynasty’s late founding leader.
The breakthrough followed US-North Korean talks in Beijing last week, the first under the new regime.
China, the North’s sole major ally and economic prop, welcomed the warmer relations between North Korea and the United States.
“China is willing to work with relevant parties to continue to push forward the six-party talks process, and play a constructive role to realise long-term peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia,” said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
The six-nation nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled for some three years but countries involved have been talking for months about ways to revive them.
The disclosure in November 2010 of the enrichment programme, which could give the North a second path to an atomic bomb, lent urgency to the diplomacy.
South Korea, whose relations with its neighbour have remained icy under the new leadership, also backed the agreement disclosed simultaneously by the US and North Korea Wednesday night.
“The US-North Korea announcement reflects the close work Seoul and Washington have done to try to resolve the nuclear standoff,” said a foreign ministry spokesman.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the deal was “an important step” but called for concrete action. Tokyo still wants “the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, he said.
That is also the stated goal of the six-party talks which began in 2003 and group the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.
The North angrily quit the forum in April 2009 and staged its second atomic weapons test a month later.
Analysts said Wednesday’s deal could help revive the talks, but many remain sceptical that the North will ever abandon its nuclear weaponry.
“At this point the best that can be done is to freeze the nuclear programme,” said Peter Beck, Korea representative for the Asia Foundation.
“For now, the agreement is a welcome development. Talking is better than not talking and a freeze is better than an unfettered nuclear programme.”
Kim Jong-Un, Beck told AFP, appeared to have decided that “feeding his people is seen as more important than expanding nuclear facilities”.
The United States has pledged 240,000 tonnes of food designed for young children and pregnant women and difficult to divert to the North’s military.
The North has suffered persistent severe food shortages since a 1990s famine, but still spent massively on a nuclear programme thought to have produced enough plutonium for six to eight weapons.
The North says it needs such a deterrent against US hostility.
Washington “reaffirms that it does not have hostile intent” towards the North and is prepared to take steps to improve the relationship, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Pyongyang said it would let the International Atomic Energy Agency monitor the suspension of uranium enrichment. Agency chief Yukiya Amano called this “an important step forward” and said his inspectors were ready to return.
US administration officials, already under fire in an election year from Republican critics, were cautious.
“Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We of course will be watching closely and judging North Korea’s new leaders by their actions.”
Jon Kyl, the second highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, said he was “deeply disappointed” and accused the administration of reneging on repeated promises not to link humanitarian assistance to the nuclear issue.
Nguồn: Dan Tri News
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