1. North Korea Agrees to Nuclear Disarmament Steps
Jack Kim and Chris Buckley
(for personal use only)
North Korea agreed to take steps toward nuclear disarmament under a groundbreaking deal struck on Tuesday that will bring the impoverished communist state some $300 million worth of aid.
Under the agreement, which was reached by six countries in Beijing after nearly a week of talks, Pyongyang will freeze the reactor at the heart of its nuclear program and allow international inspections of the site.
The United States also agreed to resolve the issue of frozen North Korean bank accounts in Macau's Banco Delta Asia within 30 days, chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill told reporters.
Washington will initiate, under a separate bilateral forum, a process to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, four months after the secretive state's stunning test of a nuclear device.
"We think it's a very important first step toward the denuclearization of North Korea and the Korean peninsula," White House spokesman Tony Snow said in Washington.
He said, however, that Pyongyang faces the continuing threat of international sanctions if it reneges on the deal.
Hill and North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan warmly shook hands and patted one another's arms during a closing reception.
Pyongyang's KCNA said the other parties decided to offer economic and energy aid equivalent to one million tonnes of heavy oil in connection with North Korea's "temporary" suspension of the operation of its nuclear facilities.
U.S. trade sanctions, which anger Pyongyang, will also begin to be lifted from a country President George W. Bush once lumped with Iran and Iraq on an "axis of evil."
The proposed plan hammered out by the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia, and China will only be the first step in locating and dismantling North Korea's nuclear arms activities, leaving many questions to future negotiations.
One area of uncertainty is whether North Korea has a highly enriched uranium program as alleged by Washington. North Korea has not acknowledged the existence of such a program.
"We have to get a mutually satisfactory outcome on this. We need to know precisely what is involved," Hill said.
Highly enriched uranium can be the fissile material for nuclear weapons and its production can be much harder to detect than plutonium refinement.
Snow insisted the ultimate goal is that: "When this is concluded there will be no nuclear technology in North Korea, period."
As details of the draft leaked out, Japan was already voicing doubt that any agreement could be made to stick.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and outspoken conservative, said the Communist state should not be rewarded with "massive shipments of heavy fuel oil" for only partially dismantling its nuclear program.
"It sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world," he told CNN.
The deal says North Korea must take steps to shut down its main nuclear reactor within 60 days. In return, it will receive 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil or economic aid of equal value.
The North will receive another 950,000 tonnes of fuel oil or equivalent when it takes further steps to disable its nuclear capabilities, including providing a complete inventory of its plutonium -- the fuel used in Pyongyang's first nuclear test blast in October.
The 1 million tonnes of fuel would be worth around $300 million at current prices.
POWER TO COME
The steps for now do not involve providing 2,000 megawatts of electricity -- at an estimated cost of $8.55 billion over 10 years and about equal to North Korea's current output -- that South Korea pledged in September 2005 and which is due after North Korea's denuclearization is completed.
The Beijing talks had focused on how to begin implementing the September 2005 accord, which offered Pyongyang aid and security assurances for dismantling its weapons capabilities.
The United States would contribute to the infusion of oil and aid for North Korea, meaning that Bush must win Congressional approval for the deal, the New York Times said.
The deal faces a tricky path to fruition amid profound distrust between North Korea and its would-be donors.
North Korea stepped down the path to nuclear disarmament before, in a 1994 agreement with the Clinton administration that also promised aid and collapsed in 2002 after Washington accused Pyongyang of seeking to produce weapons-grade uranium amid accusations of bad faith by both sides.
The United States maintains some 30,000 troops on the Korean peninsula, which has remained in a technical state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War truce.
Japan will not join in giving aid to North Korea because of past abductions of its nationals by Pyongyang's agents, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo.
1. European Officials Agree to Widen Economic Sanctions against Iran over Nuclear Program
STEVEN R. WEISMAN
The New York Times
(for personal use only)
European negotiators, yielding to pressure from the United States, have agreed to widen a ban on financial transactions with Iran and the export of materials and technology that Iran could use to develop nuclear weapons.
European officials said a resolution embodying the wider ban was negotiated over the last week and should go far toward satisfying the Bush administration, which has been pressing European governments for firmer action against Iranian individuals and companies as part of a campaign to isolate the Tehran government because of its suspected nuclear arms program.
ï¿½This is a very positive initiative because it takes the European Union beyond where they were until recently,ï¿½ said R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs. ï¿½Itï¿½s not everything we would like to see happen. But the trajectory is good and the momentum is good, so we think this is a positive event.ï¿½
A text of the resolution, released Monday evening by officials of the European Union, calls for steps to carry out a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted in December. Europeans have been slow to follow through, saying governments do not have the legal tools to act against Iranian companies.
Two European officials said that in some respects the draft complies with American wishes for a broad move against Iran, but in other respects it could fall short. If the European Union adopts the resolution, European governments will have to enact laws individually to carry it out.
ï¿½The point is that it takes time for the Europeans to work out exactly where the center of gravity is so they can do something like this,ï¿½ said a European official, asking not to be identified because of the delicate nature of the discussions. ï¿½Itï¿½s not as if the European Union can snap its fingers and get it done right away.ï¿½
In a separate development, two top diplomats from the European Union said in Brussels that their talks in Tehran over the weekend left them encouraged that negotiations might resume over Iranï¿½s nuclear program.
There was no sign, however, that Iran would be willing to suspend its enrichment of uranium, which the West has insisted is a precondition for a resumption of talks.
ï¿½We got the impression that in Iran thereï¿½s a new ambition to return to the negotiating table,ï¿½ said the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has taken the lead for the European Union because Germany serves as its current president.
Both Mr. Steinmeier and Javier Solana, the European Unionï¿½s foreign policy chief, spoke in Brussels a day after returning from Tehran, where they had held talks with Ali Larijani, the top Iranian national security official.
The Security Council resolution of Dec. 23 listed a dozen individuals and several Iranian corporations as effectively off-limits to transactions with European banks and European companies, including those that might get government-backed guarantees for loans to facilitate transactions with Iran.
Responding to the urgings of the Bush administration, the draft would seek to freeze funds of those entities and also of others that might later be designated as engaging in ï¿½sensitiveï¿½ nuclear or weapons activities.
The draft would also call for a ban on visas for individuals identified as involved in Iranï¿½s nuclear programs, except for limited relief purposes. The draft would encompass anything ï¿½that could contribute toï¿½ uranium enrichment or processing of nuclear fuel that could be used for a nuclear weapon.
The draft has a bit of an escape clause, saying it does not apply to payments under contracts that were concluded or that were even discussed before Dec. 23, the date of the Security Council resolution.
It calls on European countries ï¿½in accordance with their national legislationï¿½ to take ï¿½the necessary measuresï¿½ to prevent teaching or training of Iranians in their countries of any studies that might contribute to nuclear proliferation.
International sanctions alone will not prevent Iran making enough high-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb, according to an internal European Union study leaked on Tuesday.
The U.N. has imposed sanctions banning transfers of technology and know-how to Iran's nuclear programme and hinting at broader penalties if Tehran has not halted nuclear work within 60 days, by February 21.
"Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded," said the report, whose contents were summarised to Reuters by EU diplomats.
"In practice ... the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the U.N. or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme ... The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone."
Iran says its programme is aimed at electricity production. The U.S. suspects Tehran's goal is nuclear weapons.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday his country was "opposed to any proliferation" of nuclear weapons and was always ready to talk about its nuclear programme.
Member states commissioned the "reflection paper" from EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to assess the effectiveness of their twin-track approach of sanctions and dialogue with Tehran.
FAR FROM DESPAIR
The diplomats disputed the interpretation of the Financial Times, which first revealed the study, that it concluded it was too late to stop the programme.
"What we don't like is the implication that sanctions are not going to work and that we are (therefore) contemplating military action," said one diplomat adding its content was "far from despairing of a negotiated solution."
A senior EU official noted the paper had not been endorsed at a political level nor did it recommend any change of policy.
"The message of the paper is the need to continue the two track approach -- to be ready for talks but also to be ready to apply disincentive measures toward Iran," the official said.
In an interview with U.S. ABC television, Ahmadinejad raised the prospect of fresh negotiations but gave no hint that Tehran was willing to meet the international community's key condition of a prior halt to its uranium enrichment programme.
"We are always ready to talk within the framework of regulations and as long as the rights of the human nation are safeguarded," he said.
EU diplomats stressed the paper took a broader view, noting that while Iran was geopolitically stronger given the U.S.-led overthrow of foes ruling Afghanistan and Iraq, its economy was deteriorating and could prove vulnerable to sanctions.
EU ministers said on Monday Iran was showing "new ambition" to negotiate an end to the nuclear row and the door was open for new talks, but they also agreed to implement U.N. sanctions to keep pressure on Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
The diplomats said the EU had not discussed imposing further sanctions, and banning investment in and export credits to Iran, as some U.S. officials have urged the Europeans to do.
Solana and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held exploratory talks with Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani last weekend, the first such contact since sanctions were imposed on December 23 after previous talks collapsed.
Larijani offered no ideas to bridge the dispute with the West, diplomats said.
"It would be wrong to say these (meetings) were the first in a series of events like this. To get to that point, we would like to see some ideas from Larijani," the EU diplomat said.
1. Ankara Meeting Considers Ways to Confront Nuclear Terrorism
Jacquelyn S. Porth
(for personal use only)
A group of partner nations is meeting in Turkey to sketch out an agenda of future counterterrorism and nonproliferation activities to prevent and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.
The gathering in Ankara, Turkey, February 12 and 13 will be the second meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The first was held in Morocco in October 2006.
The United States and Russia have been looking for ways to increase international cooperation on the initiative, which first was unveiled by the leaders of the two countries in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2006.
The initiative recognizes the international community must devote more resources to deny terrorists the ability to attack nuclear facilities or acquire nuclear or radiological materials. In some cases, heading off this threat would require nations to strengthen national laws to deter nuclear smuggling or broader engagement by the private sector to deny terrorists access to nuclear technology.
Thirteen nations endorsed the initiative in Rabat, Morocco, to enhance security for civilian nuclear facilities, agreed to look for ways to account better for the existence of radioactive and nuclear materials, and acknowledged the need to find more sophisticated detection mechanisms for such materials as a hedge against illicit trafficking.
Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Turkey, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom agreed then to share information broadly to deny safe haven to terrorists and the financing that terrorists need for access to nuclear bomb-making materials.
Nations agreed to find ways to improve their ability to search for and seize these nuclear materials and investigate and determine the forensic origin of substances that might be used by terrorists to construct crude nuclear explosive devices.
The head of the U.S. delegation to Rabat, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, observed: ï¿½It is no exaggeration to say that the devastating catastrophic consequences that could result from the use of such a weapon would change the world as we know it.ï¿½ The initiative, he said, provides a way to ï¿½build our collective and individual capacity to combat nuclear terrorism on a determined and systematic basis.ï¿½
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak told the first meeting of states interested in pursuing the initiative that the nuclear terror threat needs to be countered through cooperation ï¿½on a multilateral basis and on a global scale.ï¿½
ï¿½We must stop terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons,ï¿½ Joseph told reporters following the initiativeï¿½s progress. And, outreach, at all levels, is clearly an important component of achieving that objective.
State Department official Andrew Grant told a port security conference in Virginia in January that the initiative provides another opportunity ï¿½to partner with governments who are committed to protecting the global maritime supply chain from nuclear and radiological threats.ï¿½
The initiative also seeks to build on existing international legal frameworks that relate to terrorism including U.N. Security Council resolutions 1373 and 1540, the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and a related 2005 amendment.
Any nation that shares the goals of the initiative may participate voluntarily in supporting its execution. States seeking to participate send a written endorsement of the initiativeï¿½s statement of principles to the U.S. and Russian co-chairs of the Implementation and Assessment Group. Participants also agree generally to take steps to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.
The scope of activities associated with the initiative includes but is not limited to participating in or hosting simulated nuclear counterterrorism exercises and sponsoring or sending representatives to workshops to develop mechanisms for rapid, confidential exchanges of technical and operational information that could stop the illicit transfer of nuclear materials or identify ways to respond should a deadly attack occur.
None of the activities associated with the initiative relate in any way to the military programs of nuclear weapons states that are members of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Additionally, the initiativeï¿½s activities are not meant to restrict access to the legitimate use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
A fact sheet on the initiative and the full text of the guidelines for participation are available on the State Departmentï¿½s Web site.
1. Lugar Wants $100 million Nunn-Lugar Budget Increase
Office of Sen. Richard Lugar
(for personal use only)
U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar will offer amendments to this yearï¿½s U.S. Defense authorization and appropriations bills to increase by $100 million Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program funds in response to the threat of biological weapons.
ï¿½While the Nunn-Lugar Program has established an outstanding record of success in this area, the Department of Defenseï¿½s budget request for fiscal year 2008 is insufficient to take advantage of the nonproliferation opportunities available today,ï¿½ Lugar said.
ï¿½Adding $100 million to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program budget is necessary to expand ongoing efforts to respond to the threat posed by the proliferation of human and animal biological pathogens and syndromes. In the absence of a substantial funding increase, important nonproliferation will go unfunded and dangerous pathogens could be left unprotected and vulnerable to theft or diversion.
ï¿½Last August I visited Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Albania and observed important progress in Nunn-Lugar programs to combat nuclear, biological and chemical terrorism. I was particularly encouraged to hear the leaders of these countries describe the Nunn-Lugar partnership against weapons of mass destruction as a vital element of the global war on terrorism and a cornerstone of our relations,ï¿½ Lugar said.
ï¿½Biological threat reduction programs, which I helped launch during earlier visits to Eurasia, are consolidating and securing dangerous pathogens and building capacity for early warning and containment of biological attacks and potential pandemics. Through this program Georgia and Azerbaijan have provided our Department of Defense laboratories unique pathogen strains of much value to our biodefense.
ï¿½Pentagon funding constraints, especially in fiscal year 2008, hamper our urgent effort to combat bioterrorism in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Insufficient funding has prevented the timely expansion of this program to other important countries like Armenia and Ukraine,ï¿½ Lugar said.
ï¿½The U.S. will be unable to ensure that some pathogens are safeguarded and secured because of the deficiency in this yearï¿½s budget request. These pathogens include: anthrax, plague, hemorrhagic fever, avian influenza, glanders, and encephalitis. In addition, we are forfeiting the opportunity to strengthen international early warning capabilities for detecting biological attacks and pandemics.
ï¿½It is in U.S. national security interests to improve the security around these deadly diseases, but it is also in our interests to assist these governments in becoming a more effective partner in stopping the spread of pandemics, detecting their sources and identifying a response. We have learned from our experiences battling avian influenza that we must work closely with other countries to succeed in protecting the people of the United States,ï¿½ Lugar said.
ï¿½The Nunn-Lugar Program is an integral part of President Bushï¿½s National Policy for Biodefense, the National Security Strategy and the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction by engaging in proactive prevention, early warning, bio-security and threat reduction with international partners. The Nunn-Lugar Program plans to build Central Reference Laboratories in each of these countries. Each lab will provide safe and secure storage for pathogen strains that are currently stored in facilities around the countries. In addition, the labs would become a national hub to enhance global disease surveillance that strengthens early warning capacity for biological attacks and potential pandemics. The Pentagonï¿½s plan would support the central labs with a network of Epidemiological Monitoring Stations that provide disease surveillance, investigation and analysis. The monitoring stations, in turn, are supported by smaller Sentinel Stations that provide local disease reporting and transportation capabilities. This is a win-win for the United States: Not only do we safeguard dangerous pathogens and diseases but we expand U.S. strategic partnerships in this critically important area.
ï¿½Unfortunately funding constraints are delaying implementation of a host of projects. In fact, work has not started on central labs in four out of the five countries prepared to cooperate with the U.S. Funding shortfalls have also denied us the opportunity to move forward with other states, including Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. Projects in these states have been shelved awaiting additional funds,ï¿½ Lugar said.
ï¿½To its credit, the Pentagonï¿½s long-range spending plans include major funding increases for biological threat reduction programs in the future. In fact, reports suggest the Department of Defense will request funding for these efforts will increase annually through 2013. While this is a step in the right direction, it is too little, too late. By adding funds to the fiscal year 2008 budget we can significantly increase our efforts in this area, speed up timelines dramatically and permit such cooperative efforts to proceed.
Specifically, additional funds this year will permit the Nunn-Lugar Program to commence construction of Central Reference Laboratories in Ukraine and Azerbaijan two years ahead of current projections. In Kazakhstan, completion of a central lab and the supporting network will come online some three years ahead of schedule. Lastly, pathogen security upgrades and scientific engagement programs will start in Armenia and Moldova; whereas right now, current Pentagon budget plans have not even identified target dates to start cooperation,ï¿½ Lugar said.
ï¿½There are dangerous consequences in delaying these projects. A large number of biological pathogens and disease strains in these countries remain scattered in various locations, often with poor safety and security. With additional funds, Nunn-Lugar will be able to quickly consolidate strain collections in safe and secure storage. Epidemiological monitoring systems focused on disease and pandemic detection and response will reach full operating capability, on average, two years earlier than current budget levels permit. In addition, these funds will permit us to commence the establishment of these same programs in five additional countries.
ï¿½The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the number one national security threat facing the United States today. We cannot afford to shortchange important threat reduction programs. My amendment is not a silver bullet to counter every biological threat, but it takes a big step in the right direction. As a Congress we will need to maintain close oversight to ensure that the Nunn-Lugar Program and its partner efforts at the State and Energy Departments do not become pennywise and pound-foolish. $100 million is a small price to pay compared to the economic costs and deaths that could result from a biological weapons attack, pathogen outbreak or disease pandemic,ï¿½ Lugar said.
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