1. NKorea OKs Talks Next Month on Aid Pledged for Nuclear Disarmament
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North Korea agreed to hold working-level talks next month to discuss energy aid promised under an international nuclear disarmament accord, a South Korean official said Friday.
The Northï¿½s agreement made it highly likely that the "working group" meeting will be held at the truce village of Panmunjom at the frontier between the two nations on Aug. 7-8, the official said on condition of anonymity because the meeting has not yet been fixed yet.
"One or two countries" have yet to agree to the proposed meeting that will be chaired by South Korea, the official said without elaborating.
The other participants in the nuclear disarmament accord are China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
At the countriesï¿½ latest meeting in Beijing earlier this month, North Korea agreed to hold a series of working-group talks in August to discuss how to move a February disarmament-for-aid deal forward. But specific schedules for those meetings have not been announced.
The two-step February deal calls for North Korea to shut down its Yongbyon reactor in exchange for 45,000 metric tonnes of heavy fuel oil, and then tell the world about all its nuclear programs and disable its facilities for an additional 860,000 metric tonnes of oil or equivalent aid.
The first step is almost complete. North Korea has already shut down the reactor and South Korea sent most of the promised oil to the North. The shutdown earlier this month was the first concrete North Korean move to scale back its nuclear programs since the nuclear standoff erupted in late 2002.
Other working group meetings - including those on improving the Northï¿½s relations with Washington and Tokyo - have yet to be scheduled.
Meanwhile, a second team of U.N. nuclear experts arrived in Beijing Friday on their way to North Korea to monitor the reactorï¿½s shutdown and sealing.
The six-member International Atomic Energy Agency team will replace an initial team that went to North Korea on July 12 to supervise the shutdown of the key component of the Northï¿½s nuclear program.
1. Australia May Sell Uranium to India if New Delhi Strikes Nuke Deal with US
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Australia might lift its ban on selling uranium to India if New Delhi forms the nuclear partnership it is negotiating with the United States, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Thursday.
Australia, which holds 40 percent of the world's known uranium reserves, currently won't sell uranium to India because New Delhi is developing nuclear weapons and refuses to join an international nonproliferation treaty.
But Downer said India's dramatic economic expansion and the threat of global warming has forced the government to reconsider that ban.
Australia will take its cue from the civilian nuclear partnership deal that Washington and New Delhi have been negotiating for the past two years, Downer said.
Under the deal, the U.S. would ship nuclear fuel and technology to India in return for India opening its civilian nuclear reactors to international inspectors. India's military reactors would remain off-limits.
Downer said those negotiations were "heading in the right direction."
If a deal is reached, "it is a possibility that we would begin negotiations with India over supplying uranium for those power stations which were subject to United Nations inspections and to the regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Downer said.
Senior government ministers gave conditional support Thursday to making India Australia's only uranium customer that is not a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane argued that if Australia did not sell uranium to India, someone else would.
"If it's not from Australia under the strictest guidelines and safeguards, they will simply source it from other countries with much less restriction," Macfarlane told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
The Australian Democrats, a minor opposition party, said in a statement that selling uranium to India "will undermine the most fundamental international treaty on weapons proliferation and could lead to further escalation of tensions in South Asia."
Security analyst Sandy Gordon said Australian uranium, while quarantined for peaceful purposes, would enable India to divert uranium from other sources to weapons.
"India is in some form of nuclear competition with China and Pakistan ... and it would have an effect on that," Gordon told ABC.
Pakistan's Religious Affairs Minister Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq said his country, which came close to nuclear war with India in 2002, expected a similar offer of Australian uranium.
"As a Pakistani, I can tell you the entire nation will be very upset" if Pakistan is excluded, ul-Haq told ABC.
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty calls on nations to pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by five nuclear powers ï¿½ the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China ï¿½ to move toward nuclear disarmament.
India and Pakistan, known nuclear weapons states, remain outside the treaty, as does Israel, which is considered to have such arms but has not acknowledged it.
1. Southeast Asia Wants Nuclear Powers' Pledge to Keep Nukes out of Region
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Southeast Asian countries want the world's leading nuclear powers to promise not to violate a treaty banning nuclear weapons in the region if they cannot formally accede to it, the countries said in a document.
Foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will review the decade-old treaty to find ways of better enforcing it when they gather for an annual meeting in Manila next week.
Southeast Asia lies along the world's busiest sea lanes traversed by both civilian and foreign military vessels. The United States has a heavy military presence in the region but has traditionally refused to confirm or deny whether it transports nuclear weapons or stores them on its bases.
The possibility of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists has also been a concern.
"The emergence of possible non-state actors that might be eager to resort to the threat or use of nuclear weapons highlights the seriousness of this problem," Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said Friday.
While no violation of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone treaty has been detected by ASEAN since the accord came into force in 1997, ASEAN has failed to convince key nuclear powers ï¿½ the United States, China, Great Britain, Russia and France ï¿½ to formally endorse it.
Under a five-year plan outlining steps to better ensure treaty compliance, ASEAN plans to ask those countries to at least promise to respect it.
Pending the nuclear powers' accession to the pact, ASEAN should "secure unilateral or collective declarations that they would not contribute to any activity that would violate the SEANWFZ treaty," according to the plan, a copy of which was seen by The Associated Press on Friday.
The plan, to be adopted by ASEAN foreign ministers in Manila next week, calls for more collaboration with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to improve the region's capability to detect any violation of the treaty.
It also seeks the establishment of a regional network for an early warning system for possible nuclear accidents and the development of a regional emergency preparedness and response plan.
A regional nuclear safety watchdog would be established under the plan to monitor ASEAN members pursuing nuclear energy programs. The plan encourages all ASEAN members to accede to international conventions on nuclear safety and those banning nuclear tests.
The treaty was signed in Bangkok on Dec. 15, 1995, and came into force two years later. Signatories agreed not to develop, manufacture or control nuclear weapons in the region and not to station, transport, use or test them.
The accord also bans the dumping at sea and on land and the discharge into the air of radioactive material or waste in the region. It allows the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, particularly for economic development.
The United States has expressed reservations about the treaty because of possible restrictions on the passage of U.S. ships with nuclear weapons through the region's vital sea lanes.
U.S. warships presumed to be carrying nuclear weapons have frequently been the targets of protests in the region.
ASEAN's members ï¿½ Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam ï¿½ have all signed the treaty.
1. IAEA to Develop Nuclear Safety Data System with Russia
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Russia's industrial safety regulator said Friday it would establish this year a system for exchanging information with the UN nuclear watchdog to ensure radiation safety.
The system will help Russia to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency's code of conduct on radiation safety and security, which was revised as part of counter-terrorism measures following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
"Rostekhnadzor and the IAEA are planning to set up in 2007 a system for radiation safety regulating bodies to exchange information in this sensitive field," said, Yevgeny Anoshin, an aide to the head of the regulator.
The official said a pilot project had been launched by the service to set up the database and train experts from regulatory authorities in Russia and other former Soviet republics. At the request of the Russian watchdog, an IAEA mission will look into its operations in 2009.
In 2006, representatives of the Russian regulator attended 28 consultations under the aegis of the IAEA, and events arranged under 11 regional and international projects.
1. United States and India Complete Civil Nuclear Negotiations, Joint Statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Indian Minister of External Affairs Shri Pranab Mukherjee
Department of State
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The United States and India have reached a historic milestone in their strategic partnership by completing negotiations on the bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, also known as the 123 agreement.
This agreement will govern civil nuclear trade between our two countries and open the door for American and Indian firms to participate in each others civil nuclear energy sector.
The conclusion of negotiations on this agreement marks a major step forward in fulfilling the promise of full civil nuclear cooperation as envisioned by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The successful completion of the text permits us to move forward on the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation initiative, first announced by the two leaders on July 18, 2005, and reaffirmed on March 2, 2006. The next steps include Indiaï¿½s negotiation of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and support for nuclear trade with India in the forty-five member Nuclear Suppliers Group. Once these additional actions have been completed, President Bush will submit the text of the agreement to the U.S. Congress for final approval.
Civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and India will offer enormous strategic and economic benefits to both countries, including enhanced energy security, a more environmentally-friendly energy source, greater economic opportunities, and more robust nonproliferation efforts.
This achievement reinforces the growing bilateral relationship between two vibrant democracies. We are committed to the strategic partnership outlined by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and look forward to working together to I implement this historic initiative.
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