1. 6 Nations to Negotiate Tough Steps on Dismantling North Korea's Nuclear Programs
David Schearf, VOA News
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The top United States and North Korean negotiators spent Tuesday afternoon in meetings to prepare for the six-nation talks that begin Wednesday.
The six-nation talks are expected to take on new momentum now that international nuclear inspectors have confirmed that North Korea has shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
This week, delegates from North Korea, the United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China will discuss the next steps in ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs - identifying all of its nuclear facilities and dismantling them.
Before leaving Pyongyang Tuesday, the North's head negotiator, Kim Kye Kwan said detailed progress needs to be made at the Beijing talks.
"There should be discussion on how to define the targets of the second phase, the obligations for each party, and also the sequence of the actions," he said.
Some analysts have said those steps may be harder to accomplish than the shutdown of the reactor, because North Korea will be required to reveal details of its secret efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang promised in February to dismantle its nuclear programs in return for aid and an end to its diplomatic isolation. The first step - shutting down the reactor - took months longer than expected because of a financial dispute that only was resolved last month.
Once the facilities are dismantled, foreign ministers from all six nations will meet for the first time.
On arriving in Beijing Tuesday, the chief U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, told reporters there is a lot of work to do. He indicated talks are on track for the foreign ministers' meeting to take place, but exactly when would have to be discussed, "We will have a ministerial. But, we've got to work on the timing and then work out exactly what we are going to do with that." Hill said.
The effort to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions began in 2002 after the U.S. accused Pyongyang of trying to make bombs out of enriched uranium, in violation of international pledges the North had made to not build nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has never publicly admitted having such a program, but says it has nuclear weapons. Last year, North Korea tested its first nuclear explosive device.
2. UN Confirms North Korea Has Shut its Nuclear Reactor
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U.N. inspectors have verified that North Korea has shut down its sole functioning nuclear reactor, the chief of the watchdog agency said Monday, confirming Pyongyang's first step to halt production of atomic weapons in nearly five years.
"Our inspectors are there. They verified the shutting down of the reactor yesterday," said Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The process has been going quite well and we have had good cooperation from North Korea. It's a good step in the right direction," ElBaradei said, speaking in Bangkok ahead of an event sponsored by Thailand's Science Ministry.
North Korea pledged in an international accord in February to shut the reactor at Yongbyon and dismantle its nuclear programs in return for 1 million tons of oil and political concessions. However, it stalled for several months because of a separate, but now-resolved dispute with the U.S. over frozen bank funds.
The shutdown over the weekend, confirmed by a 10-member team of IAEA inspectors who arrived in North Korea on Saturday, was the first on-the-ground achievement toward scaling back Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions since the international standoff began in late 2002.
The Yongbyon reactor generates plutonium for atomic bombs; North Korea conducted its first nuclear test explosion in October.
On Monday, South Korea sent the second of two initial shipments of what eventually will be 50,000 tons of oil to reward North Korea specifically for the reactor shutdown. The first arrived Saturday, prompting North Korea to begin the shutdown of the Yongbyon.
The second shipment departed Monday, South Korea's Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said.
The North's Foreign Ministry said Sunday that further progress under the disarmament accord would now depend "on what practical measures the U.S. and Japan, in particular, will take to roll back their hostile policies toward" North Korea.
The ministry noted that North Korea shut its reactor even before receiving all 50,000 tons of oil, adding that this was "a manifestation of its good faith towards the agreement," according to a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea is set to participate in a renewed session of nuclear negotiations this week in Beijing, along with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.
Hill, a U.S. assistant secretary of state, has said the negotiations would focus on a timeframe for how disarmament would proceed, adding that he planned to meet his North Korean counterpart Tuesday ahead of the formal start of talks.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hill laid out an aggressive agenda of a steps Washington hopes can be made in the reconciliation process as Pyongyang lays aside its nuclear weapons program.
"If North Korea wants to denuclearize, all of this stuff is very doable," Hill told the AP.
A first step will be the North declaring a complete list of its nuclear programs to be dismantled. However, the North has yet to publicly admit to embarking on a uranium enrichment program ï¿½ which the U.S. in 2002 alleged it had done to spark the nuclear crisis. Washington wants the facilities disabled by the end of the year so they cannot be easily restarted, Hill said.
Along with the oil deliveries, Hill said the U.S. would look at other incentives for the North such as humanitarian aid.
"We have never had a quarrel with the North Korean people," he said. "We have wanted to help the North Korean people and will continue to look for options, look for ways which we can do that."
The U.S. will also discuss starting the process to remove the North from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, Hill said. The designation rankles Pyongyang, which has not been tied to a terrorist attack since it bombed a South Korean plane in 1987.
All foreign ministers from countries involved in the arms talks could meet as soon as next month to lay the foundation for a regional security forum in northeast Asia, Hill said. The region has struggled with territorial and historical disputes in addition to the North Korean standoff.
Hill said talks on replacing the 54-year-old Korean War cease-fire with a peace regime that would formally end the conflict could start next year "with understanding that we can't complete that until we complete denuclearization."
Officials cautioned the road ahead would be difficult.
"We cannot presume that North Korea will do everything if it is given oil," South Korea's nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo said after meeting Hill.
"It's a complicated process," ElBaradei said. "Ultimately we will have to go and make sure the nuclear weapons arsenal of (North Korea) are dismantled. It is a very positive step we are taking this week. But we have a long ways to go."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called North Korea's shut down of its nuclear reactor a "welcome" move.
"This is just one step, but I think it is an important and encouraging step," he told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York.
1. Iran Hopes to Settle Differences with IAEA within Two Months
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Iran on Sunday said it hoped that all differences with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its nuclear programme would be settled as scheduled within the next two months.
ï¿½We hope to settle everything with the IAEA within the scheduled two months and if necessary, the deadline could be extended,ï¿½ foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said in his weekly press briefing.
Based on an agreement reached last month in Vienna between Iranï¿½s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, the two sides are to draw up a plan of action under which Iran would clarify all the remaining technical ambiguities of its nuclear programme to the IAEA within 60 days.
The agreement is supposed to resolve all technical aspects and serve as a basis for Larijani and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to reach a political consensus over the nuclear dispute.
Any political agreement between Iran and the West is currently blocked by the Western insistence that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, a demand Teheran rejects.
A visit to Teheran by an IAEA delegation headed by deputy director Olli Heinonen was the first step to clarify the modalities of the plan of action.
The main agreement reached with Heinonen was IAEA inspections of the heavy-water reactor at Arak, currently under construction in central Iran. The spokesman confirmed the agreement over Arak.
Hosseini did not rule out direct negotiations with the United States over the nuclear dispute, as proposed by ElBaradei, but said that ï¿½all anglesï¿½ of such an option should be clarified in advance.
Iran is threatened by the West with more financial sanctions if the Islamic state continues to defy United Nations Security Council resolutions on halting enrichment.
The spokesman, however, said that Iranï¿½s nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment, would be continued regardless of political considerations.
1. Asean's 1st Nuclear Lab to be Located in Rompin
Roslina Mohamed, The Star
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Aseanï¿½s first nuclear monitoring laboratory will be built in Bukit Ibam, Rompin and is expected to be operational in three yearsï¿½ time.
In making the announcement, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the laboratory would cost RM100mil and it would be a landmark for Bukit Ibam.
ï¿½It is one of the Governmentï¿½s efforts to see a balanced development among the regions in the country,ï¿½ he said when addressing the crowds at meet-the-people session at the Muadzam Shah sports complex field here yesterday.
Also present were Rompin MP and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis and state exco member and Rompin Umno deputy chief Datuk Maznah Mazlan.
Najib added that Pahang would be seeing more development in the future especially when the Eastern Regional Development masterplan that would be led by Petronas started to take shape.
Jamaludin, when met later, said the laboratory would be the first of its kind for developing country and 16th in the world after those located, among others, in Europe, Japan and Australia.
ï¿½The site, covering some 200ha, will be run by locals and we have 66 scientists who are expert in nuclear-related subjects.
ï¿½Many of them are already involved in various multi-lateral works with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),ï¿½ he added.
He also said the Cabinet agreed to implement the project following recommendations made by IAEA as none of the developing countries had such a facility.
The agency noted that Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand had announced their intentions of developing nuclear energy programmes and as such, there was a need for a nuclear monitoring laboratory to be set up in the region, he added.
ï¿½This is to ensure that the region is free of any nuclear destruction weapon,ï¿½ Jamaludin said.
Its other function included providing services, with a fee, for countries that needed to check whether their nuclear-powered facilities and surrounding were safe, he added.
He also described the trust that IAEA had in Malaysia to establish the laboratory as an international recognition.
ï¿½The agency is of view that Malaysia has the expertise in nuclear-related matters and that the country is well-respected, worldwide.
ï¿½This is indeed an honour for Malaysia,ï¿½ he added.
On choosing Bukit Ibam as the site, Jamaludin said it was a safe area and that there was an army base located nearby. He also said IAEA director general Dr Mohamed ElBaradei would be in Malaysia on July 17.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's new government ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats Monday over the Kremlin's refusal to extradite the key suspect in the fatal poisoning of a former KGB officer - Britain's first use of the sanction in more than 10 years.
Russia quickly threatened retaliation, marking a new low point in Britain's relations with Moscow under President Vladimir Putin.
Alexander Litvinenko died Nov. 23 in a London hospital after ingesting radioactive polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, the 43-year-old accused Putin of being behind his killing.
British prosecutors have named Russian businessman and former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi as the chief suspect. Litvinenko said he first felt ill after meeting Lugovoi and business partner Dmitry Kovtun at a London hotel.
But Russia has refused to extradite Lugovoi, saying its constitution prevents that. Brown, speaking in Berlin, said, ``I have no apologies for the action that we have taken, but I do want a resolution of this issue as soon as possible.''
``When a murder takes place, when a number of innocent civilians were put at risk ... when an independent prosecuting authority makes it absolutely clear what is in the interest of justice and there is no forthcoming cooperation, then action has to be taken,'' the British leader said.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband told lawmakers in the House of Commons that ``the Russian government has failed to register either how seriously we treat this case or the seriousness of the issues involved, despite lobbying at the highest level and clear explanations of our need for a satisfactory response.''
Russia immediately threatened to retaliate.
``London's position is immoral,'' Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
``They should understand well in London that the provocative actions conceived by British authorities will not go unanswered and cannot fail to produce the most serious consequences'' for bilateral relations, he said.
Lugovoi said Monday the British decision ``once again confirms that the Litvinenko affair had a political subtext from the very beginning,'' the Interfax news agency reported.
Russia formally rejected an extradition request a week ago, and British prosecutors then spurned an offer from Moscow to try Lugovoi there.
Lugovoi could be extradited under international agreements if he travels outside Russia, Miliband said. ``The heinous crime of murder does require justice,'' he said. ``This response is proportional and it is clear at whom it is aimed.''
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration has urged Russia and Britain to cooperate on the case.
``We believe that it is important to bring closure to that terrible crime.'' McCormack told reporters. ``We believe that it is important, as a matter of justice, to see some cooperation between the U.K. and Russia.''
The Russian diplomats had yet to leave the country and the Foreign Office declined to provide their titles.
Britain also will place restrictions on visas issued to Russian government officials and is reviewing cooperation on a range of issues, Miliband said.
The expulsion order underlined how British-Russian relations have deteriorated since an initially promising start when Putin came to office in 2000.
Russia bristled at British criticism of its war in Chechnya, and later was irate at Britain's refusal to extradite Chechen separatist envoy Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovsky, the tycoon and one-time Kremlin insider who fell out with Putin and obtained asylum in Britain.
In 2006, Russia accused four British diplomats of spying and funneling funds to non-governmental organizations critical of Putin's government.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who pursued closer relations with the West, said the expulsion order was a mistake.
``There have already been such instances in the history of our joint relations. They didn't lead to anything good,'' he was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.
One senior British diplomat, who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said he hoped Russia would not react by jeopardizing delicate discussions over the future of Kosovo or Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Moscow would likely respond by expelling three British diplomats, said Oleg Gordievski, a former KGB defector to Britain.
Litvinenko's widow Marina said in a statement that she was grateful for the government's stand.
``It makes me proud to be a U.K. citizen because I can see that my strong faith in the British authorities was well-founded and that they too share my determination,'' she said. Litvinenko's friend Alex Goldfarb said the British action was encouraging.
``Hopefully this strong response will be the beginning of a policy change,'' Goldfarb said. ``The murder of Litvinenko was made possible by years of appeasement of Putin's regime by Western governments.''
Russia's ambassador to London met with Sir Peter Ricketts, a senior aide to Miliband, shortly before lawmakers were told of the measures being taken against Moscow.
Britain and Russia last clashed over diplomatic expulsions in March 1996, when Moscow expelled nine British diplomats alleging that they were part of a spy ring. Britain kicked out four Russians in response.
``If anyone was under the illusion that the Gordon Brown government would take a softer stance on Russia than its predecessor, they no longer should be,'' said Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
``While we most definitely are not in a new Cold War, it is very chilly in Russian-British relations,'' he said.
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