In the April 28, 2005 edition of the Nuclear News, the title of an article on the Lepse, a Russian spent nuclear fuel storage vessel, contained a misspelling. The proper title should read ï¿½Bellona Conference on Lepse Pits Skepticism Against Optimism in Europeï¿½.
1. Siberian Nuclear Plant to be Shut Down With US Funds
BBC and Ren TV
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[Presenter] The USA continues to allocate money for overhauling Russian nuclear plants. In the town of Seversk, Tomsk Region, the revamping of a local heating plant has started. The plant will supply the town with thermal power after two nuclear reactors are closed down in Seversk. All work is funded by the US side and will cost 285m dollars. Andrey Gerasimov has the details.
[Correspondent] Russia and the US agreed to shut down two nuclear reactors in Seversk in 1997. A relevant agreement was signed by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernnomyrdin and Vice President Albert Gore. According to the document, by 2008 Sibirskiy Khimicheskiy Kombinat [Siberian Chemical Plant] which houses the reactors should stop producing weapon-grade plutonium.
[Vladimir Shidlovskiy, general director of Siberian Chemical Plant, captioned] Our reactors, although they are called the first Siberian nuclear plant, are old machines that were built for a particular purpose. And their main task was not generating heat and energy, but producing plutonium.
[Correspondent] Weapon-grade plutonium is still made here, for peaceful purposes. This is necessary to supply heat for Seversk and part of Tomsk. Providing heating and light to flats in these towns is dependent on the reactors' work for 50%. After they are shut down, the local heating plant will be responsible for domestic comfort.
[Nikolay Kuzmenko, Seversk mayor, captioned] Today is in essence the first stage, the real stage of starting the overhaul of the heating plant. After it is completed two reactors that at present produce weapon-grade plutonium will be shut down.
[Correspondent] At present the Severskaya heating plant cannot work to full capacity. It has exhausted its capacity three times over. Only seven out of 21 boilers function on a permanent basis. To persuade Russia to freeze the reactors, the Americans have agreed to fund upgrades to the plant. The programme, named Building Replacement Capacities, will cost US taxpayers 285m dollars.
The reactor should have been shut down earlier, says the plant's general director, Vladimir Shidlovskiy. He says the plant spends too much money on storing 24 t weapon-grade plutonium.
[Shidlovskiy] They produce plutonium which nobody needs any longer. And plutonium is a very expensive thing to store, especially the useless part of it. Americans estimate that storing one gram of plutonium costs about five dollars a year.
[Correspondent] Nobody can say how long the revamped heating plant will be in service. However there is already talk of building a new nuclear plant. Although the money for this will have to be found in Russia. The cost of the issue at stake is 2bn dollars.
1. Great Britain Takes Part in Russian Submarine Scrapping
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The scrapping of a decommissioned multi-purpose nuclear-powered submarine of the Russian Northern Fleet began at the Nerpa plant in the Murmansk region on Tuesday. The project is financed by Great Britain within the framework of a global partnership program.
"This is the first nuclear submarine scrapped with financial support of Great Britain," the director of the plant, Alexander Gorbunov, told Itar-Tass. "Prior to that, similar work at our plant was financed from the federal budget, as well as was carried out with financial support from the USA and Norway," the director emphasized.
He said Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who is now on an official visit to Murmansk, would visit the plant on Wednesday. On Monday, the son of Queen Elizabeth II visited the Murmansk enterprise Atomflot, which carries out repair work on nuclear-powered vessels, and the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya.
British specialists took an active part in ensuring their radiation safety. He made sure that the money allocated by the British government with an aim to ensure radiation safety on the Kola Peninsula, had not been misappropriated.
1. Radiation Rockets Not Being Sold in Transdniester ï¿½ Officials
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The authorities of Moldovaï¿½s breakaway region, the republic of Transdniester, deny reports that Soviet Alazan radiation rockets are openly sold in the region, RIA Novosti reports.
Deputy State Security Minister Oleg Gudymo called the recent report by a correspondent from The Sunday Times, who was reportedly offered three rockets for $500,000 by a local arms dealer, a hoax.
The regionï¿½s arms expert Victor Kasprevich told RIA that the Alazan rockets that Transdniestr possesses were used for disrupting weather patterns and hail in particular, but all of them are outdated and out of use. He added that they are of no interest to terrorists.
The Sunday Times reported last week that one of its correspondents, posing as a middleman for an Algerian Islamic group, managed to approach a senior officer in Transdniesterï¿½s secret police who helped him to get in touch with a local arms dealer, willing to sell rockets. The newspaper withdrew from the negotiations once the availability of the weapons had been confirmed.
Three radioactive rockets capable of contaminating a city centre were offered for sale last week to a Sunday Times reporter posing as a middleman for Islamic terrorists.
The Alazan rockets, which have a range of eight miles, were among 50,000 tons of weapons left behind at an arms dump in the breakaway eastern European republic of Transdniester when the Russian army withdrew after the cold war.
They were offered to the reporter for $500,000 (ï¿½263,000) after he approached a senior officer in Transdniesterï¿½s secret police, claiming to represent a militant group in Algeria. The officer contacted a local arms dealer who arranged meetings with the reporter on a bridge in Transdniester and later at a hotel in neighbouring Moldova.
At their first meeting two months ago, the dealer said the price of a single rocket would be $200,000. The rocket could be independently inspected with a Geiger counter to verify that its warhead contained radioactive strontium and caesium, he said.
Last month the reporter was told that he would have to transfer $2,000 to a bank account in Cyprus before the inspection. He would then pay $8,000 for forged documentation that would enable the rocket to be smuggled across Transdniesterï¿½s border with Ukraine. It could be collected at an airfield in southwestern Ukraine once the rest of the asking price had been handed over.
Last week the dealer said that the terms had changed. ï¿½My people want to sell three Alazans for a total sum of $500,000,ï¿½ he said.
According to the dealer, the rockets would be moved to Ukraine tomorrow if the terms were accepted. The Sunday Times withdrew from the negotiations once the availability of the weapons had been confirmed.
Experts said the Alazan rockets, which were originally intended for use in Soviet weather experiments, could spread radiation for more than 20 miles from their point of impact. Few people would die, they said, but the contamination would cause widespread fear and disruption. Large areas would have to be evacuated for a costly clean-up operation.
ï¿½The psychological impact would be devastating and the economic damage would run into millions of pounds, ï¿½ said Andy Oppenheimer, a consultant to Janeï¿½s Information Group. ï¿½The Alazan would be especially attractive for terrorists seeking to strike a high security target.ï¿½
United Nations and regional officials are pressing for tighter security at the arms dump in Transdniester.
1. "We Must Have Tangible Guarantees on Nuclear Objects"
Defense and Security/Vremya Novostei
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Safety of Russian nuclear objects and access of US experts to them will be under discussion over the course of US President George Bush's upcoming visit to Moscow on May 8-9. This topic generates a loud response in Russia, where they say Washington is seeking control over Moscow's nuclear power. Professor Graham Allison, former assistant secretary of defense, told Andrei Zlobin, a special reporter of Vremya Novostei, what the Americans are actually striving for.
G. Allison: This is not the first year the United States and Russia are carrying out reciprocal visits of experts to nuclear objects of one another. The aim of this is to strengthen the confidence measures and learn from one another how the nuclear objects could be protected better. For instance, Russian experts have attended the Pentax base in Texas, whereto US nuclear weapons are taken for disposal. They inspected the protection system, the enclosures, and sensors, shared experience and made suggestions. The same concerns the objects in Russia. However, Moscow's or Washington's control over the nuclear weapons of one another is out of the question.
Question: In other words, no US soldiers will attend nuclear objects of Russia?
G. Allison: I'm unable even to discern the source of this assumption. No similar idea exists and we have no opportunities for this.
Question: Nevertheless, the United States still thinks that nuclear weapons are "left loose" in Russia?
G. Allison: It is not about Putin's lesser concern for safety of nuclear objects as compared with Bush. However, he had inherited plenty of nuclear materials in various locations from the USSR. The collapsed atomic industry was in charge of some of them. To facilitate protection of these objects since 1991, the United States is providing Russia with financial and technical aid worth billions of US dollars annually under the Nunn-Lugar program. This is aid alone. Russia has its nuclear objects under its sole control.
I was in charge of these projects at the US Secretariat of Defense. And I know that people ensure safety in the Russian system, whereas electronic systems are more trusted in the USA. We helped Russia with technical protection facilities: electronics, displays, enclosures. However, the Russian personnel are maintaining all of this. Russia has become stronger financially and you're getting new techniques. As of now, we are giving lesser aid in the framework of the Nunn-Lugar program.
Question: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hoped over the course of her visit to Moscow this April that progress would be achieved on the issue of inspecting Russian nuclear objects...
G. Allison: It is required that Putin and Bush would guarantee safety of nuclear objects under the highest standards. But we must have tangible guarantees on nuclear objects so that Putin could realistically assure the Russians that USA is ensuring full safety of its nuclear objects and Bush could announce the same proceeding from the opinion of his experts who have sufficient access to Russian nuclear objects.
2. Russia to Allow US Inspectors Into Some Nuclear Sites, But Not All
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Russia said it will allow US inspectors to visit nuclear sites whose security systems are financed by Washington but not sites deemed sensitive.
At a summit in Bratislava in February US and Russian Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin agreed to work together to enhance what was described as a "security culture" at nuclear sites.
"In sites where technical security means have been installed with US money, we are bound by the agreement to allow American inspectors entry at least three times," Alexander Rumiantsev, head of the Russian Federal Energy Agency, told the daily newspaper Vremia Novostei, quoted by the Ria Novosti news agency.
"But on more sensitive sites, those where we look after security ourselves, access will be closed to the Americans."
The agreement was signed after Washington voiced fears that nuclear materials were being stolen from poorly protected sites and being sold.
Rumiantsev explained several dozen sites would be open to the American inspectors, including those that housed nuclear reactors and research centres, so that they could see for themselves where the money they invested had been spent.
"It concerns tens of millions of dollars," he said.
He also revealed that Russia "would not insist that America allow Russian inspectors to view their sensitive sites" in the United States.
Russian daily Kommersant reported in February that all nuclear sites in Russia, including military ones, would be subject to the inspections.
However, Russian Defence Minister Serguey Ivanov said that no visit to any site was obligatory.
It was heartwarming to see President Bush welcomed warmly in Riga, Latvia, and drawing huge crowds in Tbilisi, Georgia, but his trip through the former Soviet Union hit a home run on public relations while striking out on substance. The one overriding American concern when it comes to Russia is nuclear security and nonproliferation, and on that front, it appears nothing was accomplished.
Strong United States support for two of the most democratic former Soviet republics is appropriate and welcome, although it cannot disguise the precipitous decline in American relations with many of the larger countries of Western Europe. But it is Russia, not Latvia or Georgia, that still has more than 10,000 armed nuclear warheads and vast insecure stockpiles of nuclear bomb fuel. And it is also Russia whose willingness to cajole and pressure Iran could help dissuade that country from taking the few remaining steps needed for it to become a nuclear weapons state.
The Moscow stop brought no significant new announcements on either nuclear front, just elaborately orchestrated theatrics that were apparently meant to show that despite Mr. Bush's anti-Moscow finger-pointing from beyond Russia's borders, his strong personal bond with Mr. Putin remains intact. In fact, the worrisomely authoritarian Mr. Putin seemed to come off rather better than the incontestably democratic Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill - in a lunge at historical revisionism, Mr. Bush glibly took those great World War II leaders to task for acceding to Stalin's power grabs in Eastern Europe that they were militarily powerless to halt.
Previous meetings between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin have yielded agreements on sharp cuts in long-range nuclear-armed missiles and bombers. The last time they met, in February, they announced an agreement to combat nuclear terrorism by accelerating joint programs meant to secure poorly safeguarded Russian bomb fuel. What is needed now is final resolution of a dispute over liability that threatens to hold up those vital nuclear security programs, along with joint moves to take thousands of nuclear warheads off hair-trigger alert (Russia's are increasingly vulnerable to a catastrophic accidental launching as its early warning system continues to erode). The two nations should also proceed to overdue reductions in tactical nuclear warheads, which are more easily stolen or bartered than missile-mounted long-range warheads.
Measurable progress on these fronts would have been helpful to the struggling Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference now under way in New York, where nonnuclear nations are increasingly challenging the reluctance of the major nuclear powers to reduce their weapons inventories. Any presidential trip that skirted that issue has to be judged a failure. Still, Mr. Bush is returning home with lots of politically priceless footage from Riga and Tbilisi.
MARGARET WARNER: So, do you think, staying with you for a minute Professor cFaul, that this trip advanced -- I mean, the U.S. has a lot of interests with Russia: Proliferation of dangerous weapons being one and terrorism, and as well as democracy within Russia -- do you think this trip advanced, retarded or made no difference on that front?
MICHAEL McFAUL: I don't think it made a big difference. I mean there was no agenda. There were no deliverables, as our State Department colleagues like to say. They didn't sign any documents. They didn't talk about that. If anything, it was just a kind of holding pattern, stable but stagnant is the way I would describe it.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Professor Cohen, how would you describe it? What do you think this trip did to advance, if it did, the larger plate of U.S. interests with Russia?
STEPHEN COHEN: I think we have only one common interest with Russia of any significance. And that is the two of us now live because of the collapse of the Soviet-Russian state in a much more dangerous world, much more dangerous because all the controls that the Soviet Union exerted over weapons of mass destruction barely exist. And therefore, what we need from Russia is cooperation in dealing with these problems. President Bush said something very interesting, and it could be the subject of a debate that we're not going to have this evening, but President Bush said that democracy is more important than stability. And I would guess that Michael agrees.
MICHAEL McFAUL: I do.
STEPHEN COHEN: I profoundly disagree.
MICHAEL McFAUL: You're right.
STEPHEN COHEN: At this moment in our time, at this moment in our time, we are living on a nuclear razor's edge. And we must have stability in Russia. We must not pursue a policy that destabilizes Russia. And I think that's what we're doing.
MARGARET WARNER: But would you agree that Russia or would you agree that Russia has not been 100 percent cooperative on, for instance, on selling, its still selling nuclear technology to Iran, its selling missiles to Syria?
STEPHEN COHEN: It won't allow our inspectors at their nuclear sites. But, look, Margaret, if you say to somebody you're a rotter, and you're an anti-democrat and you have no legitimate interest even among neighboring states and, oh, by the way that oil that used to be yours, we're going to take it now, but by the way, how would you feel about us coming into your country and looking around and won't you please let us exert some control over your nuclear arsenals -- you're not going to get cooperation. What you're going to get is a negative reaction. And it's spreading all through the Russian political class against us. And, therefore, I think it's not in our national security interest.
MARGARET WARNER: Stephen Cohen, Michael McFaul, we have to leave it there.
Russia is planning to channel nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant in late 2005 or early 2006, Vremya Novostei, a daily, reported, citing Director of the Federal Nuclear Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev, who also told the paper U.S. inspectors would not be allowed to visit sensitive nuclear facilities and that Russia could ensure their adequate protection.
According to Rumyantsev, a supplement to a Russian-Iranian inter-governmental agreement was signed in late February. Tehran pledged to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
"We also agreed to supply fresh nuclear fuel to the NPP, fully conforming to its construction cycle. This means that Bushehr will receive nuclear fuel somewhere in late 2005 or in early 2006," he said.
About 100 tons of fuel will be delivered under IAEA control to Iran by special shipments.
All international safety measures will be observed, Rumyantsev said.
Spent nuclear fuel will be stored inside a special tank near the reactor core for three to four years. The required fuel batches will be returned to Russia. Spent nuclear fuel will lie inside special compounds for another ten years. Such fuel will eventually be processed and 95 percent will be recycled. The remaining five percent will be fused into glass and stored accordingly.
"Any country that has less than 8 to 10 nuclear power units will find it unprofitable to create its own nuclear cycle. It is much more profitable to receive fresh nuclear fuel and to return used fuel," Rumyantsev said.
Rumyantsev also addressed U.S. concerns over the project.
"Russia allows U.S. inspectors to visit its research reactors and R&D institutes where protective systems were installed with U.S. assistance," he said. "However, the Americans will not be allowed to inspect our most sensitive facilities and those that are adequately protected by us. I visit these facilities all the time and I know that we do not do this work any worse."
2. Russian Specialists to Train Iranian Engineers at Nuke Plant
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Engineers from the Iranian Bushehr nuclear power plant will undergo training at the plant under the supervision of Russian specialists, the head of the Novovoronezh training center of the state-run atomic energy concern Rosenergoatom told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
ï¿½After theoretical studies in Novovoronezh, 20 Russian teachers will go to Iran to continue training Iranian engineers directly at the site of the future power plant,ï¿½ Alexander Ivanchenko said.
He said about 700 engineers from Iran have undergone training in Novovoronezh, and the last group is expected to arrive here shortly. Simultaneously, Iranian specialists will begin practical studies in Bushehr.
ï¿½There is no doubt that they will brilliantly cope with that task, as they did during theoretical studies,ï¿½ Ivanchenko believes. So far, Iranian engineers have got only the highest marks for their studies, he added.
The concernï¿½s Novovoronezh center is the only establishment in Russia where specialists learn how to work at WWR-1000 reactors. Studying there apart from Russian and Iranian specialists are engineers from China, India and Bulgaria, where nuclear power stations have been or are being constructed with Russian assistance.
Russia says Iran's nuclear conversion plan is 'legitimate' Thu May 12, 7:09 AM ET
Iran's intention to restart sensitive nuclear activities earlier frozen under a deal with the European Union is "legitimate" and will not alter Russia's nuclear cooperation with the Islamic state, a Russian nuclear official told AFP.
"The fact that Iran has restarted conversion will not have an impact on nuclear cooperation between Russia and Iran," said the official, speaking on condition she not be named.
"This does not threaten international security because this uranium will be used for peaceful ends and under the strict IAEA control," the official said Thursday, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"It is legitimate and legal," she said, adding that differences between Russia and the United States regarding Moscow's nuclear cooperation with Iran were "narrowing."
The official's comments came after a top Iranian nuclear official said the country was set to announce the resumption of "a noticeable part" of uranium conversion work, a precursor to uranium enrichment.
A European diplomat told AFP in Tehran that such a move would automatically trigger referral of the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council.
"The Iranians are well aware of the consequences," the diplomat said. "If they do decide to resume conversion, or any other activity linked to the process of enrichment ... the matter will be sent to the United Nations Security Council."
In a newspaper interview published Thursday, the head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, said Russia planned to make its first delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran at the end of the year or early next year.
Russia and Iran signed an agreement in February under which Iran agreed that all spent nuclear fuel from the civilian reactor being built at Bushehr under Russian direction would be repatriated directly to Russia for reprocessing.
"They have to start to fire it up in mid-2006," Rumyantsev said, referring to the Bushehr reactor. "The fuel has to be at the plant six months before that."
Under the accord between Russia and Iran signed in February, Russia is to send nearly 100 tonnes of fuel to Iran in several consignments under IAEA supervision. Tehran initially rejected the condition that it repatriate to Russia the spent nuclear fuel, but relented after two years of negotiations.
"All the necessary precautions have been made in line with international standards," Rumyantsev said.
The United States alleges that the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran is part of a cover for weapons development.
Washington is convinced that Iran is seeking to build atomic weapons -- charges that Tehran denies -- and has been trying to convince Moscow to halt its nuclear cooperation.
Three EU countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- have been leading efforts since last year to persuade Tehran diplomatically to drop any activities in the treatement of uranium that could result in acquisition of capacity to build a nuclear weapon.
But Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, a vice president and head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told state television, that Iran intended to resume some activities that it had suspended under a deal with the EU countries.
"Based on the reviews and decisions which were made, we are going to restart a small part of the suspended activities," including some work at a uranium conversion facility near the central city of Isfahan.
The Isfahan facility is used to convert mined uranium "yellowcake" into uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and then into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a feed gas for centrifuges that carry out the highly sensitive enrichment process.
3. Source: US, Russian Positions on Iran's Nuclear Program Are Quickly Becoming More Similar
(for personal use only)
The positions of the United States and Russia on Iran's nuclear program are quickly becoming more similar, a source in the US administration, now in Moscow, told RIA Novosti.
"We are openly discussing all aspects of the Iranian nuclear program with the Russian side, we are making progress quickly and there is a chance for disagreements on the subject to be taken off the Russian-US agenda," the source said.
According to the US source, the strategic goals of the United States and Russia coincide as far as the issue is concerned, but there are minor disagreements on technicalities. To ease the concerns about Iran's nuclear program, Washington "has been cooperating with Russia and the European Union in a constructive manner."
The US stance on Iran's nuclear program is that Iran must quit its plans for uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons development, the source said.
As far as the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is concerned, the United States took the agreement on return of spent nuclear fuel by Iran very positively.
"Russia might handle nuclear fuel supplies to Iran if Tehran abandons uranium enrichment," the sources concluded.
1. WMD Bill Gives Another Chance for Nuclear Cooperation: Russia
Press Trust of India
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Russia on Wednesday said the anti-nuclear proliferation Bill introduced in parliament this week would allow countries to cooperate with India in the transfer of nuclear and missile technology stopped after the Pokhran-II tests.
ï¿½The legislation is another guarantee that India is against nuclear proliferation,ï¿½ said Russian ambassador to India Vyacheslav Trubnikov.
The Bill, called weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems (prohibition of unlawful activities) Bill, gives outside states ï¿½another chanceï¿½ to cooperate with India, he told reporters at a felicitation ceremony for the two former Indian soldiers who participated in the 60th anniversary celebrations of Russian victory over nazi Germany.
India's position on nuclear proliferation will become filly transparent once the Bill is adopted by parliament, he said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow where he pushed for the supply of Russian nuclear reactors for the atomic plant in Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu.
The Bill also seeks to ban transfer of biological and chemical weapons and their delivery systems. Any person who indulges in nuclear proliferation would face imprisonment for at least five years, which could be extended to life term.
The Bill says India is committed not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices. Further it reasserts its commitment not in any way to assist, encourage or induce any other country to manufacture nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Russia's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of the World War II provided a unique chance for the concerned parties of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program to gather in one place. And apart from North Korea, the leaders of the five other countries involved in the talks - South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia - were in Moscow on Monday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was invited, but declined to attend. The nominal head of state, President Kim Young-nam of the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium, also did not attend, although several North Korean military officials participated in the memorial as war veterans.
Rather than attend, Kim just sent a congratulatory message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Sixty years ago, the people of Russia shouldered a heavy responsibility in World War II and wiped out fascism in a heroic conflict, protecting the fatherland and contributing to the establishment of world peace and security," Kim said in the message. The reclusive North Korean leader also expressed hope for the continued development of relations between Pyongyang and Moscow.
Earlier this year, rumors swirled that a second intra-Korean summit could take place on the sidelines of Russia's World War II victory celebration. The Kremlin has repeatedly offered to act as mediator in the Korean standoff, urging for the resumption of the six-nation talks to convince North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program, and for the non-nuclear status of the Korean peninsula.
In September 2004, Putin held summit talks in Moscow with his South Korean counterpart, President Roh Moo-hyun. They pledged to support a nuclear-free zone on the Korean peninsula and block the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
But the North Korean announcement in February that it possessed nuclear weapons not only raised the stakes in the standoff, it also undermined mediation attempts, including Russian moves to renew the six-party talks. As a result, Russia has been watching recent developments around North Korea from the sidelines.
On Monday, Roh held express meetings with Putin and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan about ways of resolving the North Korean standoff. Officially, North Korea was not a part of this week's bilateral agenda, but it was clearly on everyone's minds and talk about it went ahead anyway. The nuclear crisis was understood to dominate Roh's informal, 15-minute discussion with Putin. Roh reportedly urged Russia's closer cooperation.
Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao, however, did not discuss North Korea, Putin's foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko told journalists. Both Russia and China are wary of moves by the US administration to bring the North Korean issue to the United Nations Security Council, which they believe would exacerbate tensions.
During his visit on Monday Hu said he planned to make an official visit to Russia in July, though officials did not reveal details of the purpose of the visit. Hu merely said at a meeting with Putin that it would give them "more time to discuss questions".
"We are awaiting your visit, Mr Chairman, to Russia in the near future. It will be the highest point in our relations," Putin told Hu at their Kremlin meeting.
Hu, one of more than 50 leaders attending the Moscow festivities, also brought some anti-Japanese overtones to the Moscow celebration, stating that China this year marked the anniversary of the "anti-Japanese war".
"For eight long years the Chinese fought a very tough fight against Japanese invaders. Our people's victory also came at great cost," he said.
China and South Korea have called on North Korea to return to the stalled nuclear talks, saying they will renew efforts to restart negotiations. Concerns are mounting that the North might be planning a nuclear test soon. Roh and Hu called on North Korea to return to the six-party talks to discuss ways of resolving the escalating crisis through peaceful dialogue.
During a meeting in Moscow on Sunday, the two heads of state agreed that the nuclear issue must be addressed without resorting to military options. They reportedly voiced concern over the uncertain situation involving the North Korean nuclear problem. Roh and Hu also discussed ways to mediate an end to the dispute.
The meeting came in the wake of a strong outcry in both China and South Korea regarding Japan's attempts to whitewash its actions during World War II. During their meeting, Hu and Roh urged Japan to address its historical wrongdoings in a more sincere and apologetic manner. The two leaders discussed the dispute over Japan's school textbooks. However, they did not release a joint statement on the outcome of the talks.
While Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologized for Japan's wartime actions during an Asia-Africa conference in Indonesia in April, there was no apology in Moscow. Tokyo still believes it was Russia that invaded Japan, and not vice versa; Japan is yet to sign a peace treaty with Russia and World War II is technically yet to end between the two. Putin and Koizumi met on Monday for the first time since November. However, the two sides are yet to agree on a visit by Putin to Japan.
Therefore, Moscow's hopes of using a rare chance to boost the six-party diplomacy on North Korea came to little. Moreover, a series of express meetings in Moscow just served to highlight continued divisions among major players in Northeast Asia.
China and South Korea remain at odds with Japan over their wartime past, with Beijing and Seoul furious at Tokyo's approval of textbooks that critics say whitewash Japan's wartime atrocities. Japan is yet to sign a peace treaty with Russia over a territorial dispute. Therefore, a united stance on Pyongyang's brinkmanship appears to remain as elusive as ever.
2. Russian President Pessimistic About North Korea Nuclear Standoff
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Russia's President Vladimir Putin expressed pessimism about the international standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions during a meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, a news report said.
"There is no significant progress. Rather than a bright prospect, we have a difficult situation," Putin told Roh during a meeting in Moscow on Monday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing presidential aide Chung Woo-sung.
During their brief talks on the sidelines of celebrations of the end of World War II in Europe, the two leaders "agreed to enhance their cooperation in seeking a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue," Yonhap quoted Chung as saying.
Putin also mentioned his meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Moscow, and said Russia would continue to seek a resumption of international arms talks and a peaceful end to the North Korean nuclear standoff, Chung said.
No arms talks have been held since last June, and the North has said it will stay away until Washington drops its "hostile" policies and apologizes for labeling it one of the world's "outposts of tyranny."
1. Alexander Yakovenko, Spokesman, Answers a Question About Progress in Russia-US Talks in Moscow on Elaboration of Common Approach to Liability Protections for Cooperative Programs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
Question: How do you evaluate the progress in Russia-US talks in Moscow on a common approach to resolving the question of liability protections for cooperative programs?
Answer: After the meetings in Moscow, the White House press secretary said, "During the past few days, American and Russian negotiators have made significant progress on a common approach to resolving soon the question of liability protections for important cooperative programs. This agreement will help put these programs on solid ground for the long haul and enable us to strengthen and extend our cooperation, including on reducing the risks of proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction."
We share the American side's assessment of the progress made in dealing with this problem.
2. NNSA Completes Security Upgrades at Nuclear Site in Moscow
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) achieved a major milestone last week with the completion of comprehensive security upgrades at the Kurchatov Institute, a leading nuclear research center in Moscow, Russia.
NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Jerald Paul joined Nikolai Ponomarev-Stepnoi, the vice president of the Kurchatov Institute who hosted the ceremony. Sergey Antipov, deputy director of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) of the Russian Federation, attended along with other Russian and U.S. officials.
The upgrades were completed by NNSAï¿½s Office of International Material Protection and Cooperation in cooperation with the Russian Federation. The office works with foreign countries to secure nuclear materials by upgrading security at nuclear sites, consolidating these materials to sites where installation of enhanced security systems have already been completed, and improving nuclear smuggling detection capabilities at border crossings.
NNSA personnel, supported by nuclear security experts from several U.S. national laboratories, worked with Russian counterparts to secure nuclear material used at the research center.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for maintaining and enhancing the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; working to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; providing the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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