Archive for February, 2007

N. Korea offers to resume humanitarian projects

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


North Korea has proposed to resume inter-Korean humanitarian projects on a full scale immediately as the two Koreas held the first ministerial meeting in seven months, South Korean officials said Wednesday.

North Korea also offered to hold a meeting to discuss ways of boosting economic ties as soon as possible during a plenary session of the meeting held in the North’s capital Pyongyang, according to the officials.

“We have yet to determine the scope of full-scale resumption of humanitarian projects. The details will emerge from working-level, high-level negotiations,” said Lee Kwan-se, spokesman for the South’s five-member negotiating team.

Lee stressed the two sides did not discuss the resumption of Seoul’s food and fertilizer aid to North Korea during the two-hour session but sounded a note of optimism over the upcoming negotiations. “We think that the North’s offer expresses its firm will to resume humanitarian projects.”

In a keynote speech, Kwon Ho-ung, the North’s top negotiator, proposed to resume humanitarian projects on a full scale immediately when the four-day ministerial talks end and resume a meeting for economic cooperation at the earliest possible time in Pyongyang.

Kwon did not specify about humanitarian projects in his keynote speech, but analysts said that the North hopes to link the resumption of emotional family reunion events with Seoul’s food and fertilizer aid to Pyongyang.

Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung, Seoul’s top negotiator, proposed to conduct test runs of reconnected cross-border railways in the first half of this year and launch operations by the end of 2007, according to pool reports.

As a precondition for the operation of cross-border railways, Lee said it is necessary to make headway in the inter-Korea economic project such as exchanging raw materials from the South for the North’s minerals.

Lee also expressed regrets over the North’s missile and nuclear weapons tests, which he said led to the earlier-than-scheduled end of the last ministerial meeting and a seven-month hiatus in inter-Korean dialogue.

In this vein, he urged the North to fulfill the promise to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for energy aid in a “quick and smooth” manner, saying all the parties concerned are equitably responsible for taking action to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on the basis of the principle of “action for action.”

Lee said the construction of a family reunion center at the Mount Geumgang resort should resume immediately and proposed that face-to-face family reunions be held no later than April. The construction has been suspended since the North conducted missile tests in July.

He also proposed to hold the cabinet-level meeting every quarter of the year regardless of the political situation, adding that the two sides should have to make efforts to resolve the issue of South Korean prisoners of war (POWs) and abductees held in the North.

During the meeting, North Korea is widely expected to ask for the immediate resumption of the South’s rice and fertilizer aid, while the South hopes to use it as leverage to make the North take quick steps in complying with the six-party agreement.

In the afternoon, the South Korean delegation is to visit the Kim Won-kyun Pyongyang Music College. North Korea chose the school in the district of Munsu near the Taedong River, defying concern that it may attempt to stage a visit to a politically sensitive place.

On Tuesday, negotiators from both sides attended a gala dinner hosted by North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju, shortly after the South’s delegation arrived in North Korea.

The talks, the 20th since the leaders of the two Koreas held their first-ever summit in Pyongyang in June 2000, come as the world is paying keen attention to whether North Korea will honor its promise to take the first steps toward ending its nuclear weapons program in return for energy aid.

The ministerial talks, the highest-level channel of regular dialogue between the two Koreas, had been suspended amid tension over North Korea’s missile tests in July and its nuclear weapon test in October.

On Feb. 15, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to resume ministerial dialogue after a seven-month hiatus, just two days after the North pledged to take action to end its nuclear weapons program in return for economic and diplomatic benefits from South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Shortly after the North conducted missile tests in July, the South suspended food and fertilizer aid. After the North’s nuclear weapon test in October, the possible resumption of aid was blocked.

In retaliation, the communist nation immediately suspended inter-Korean talks and reunions for families separated by the sealed border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Seoul is expected to ship some of the fertilizer aid to Pyongyang shortly after the Cabinet-level talks so that it can be used for the planting of rice seedlings this spring. The rest will likely be offered according to how much progress the North makes in implementing the steps agreed upon during the six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear dismantlement, according to sources.

“Our aid to North Korea will be within the scope of the amount that can be understood by the public,” a government official said, asking to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, suggesting the aid will not exceed 500,000 tons of rice and 350,000 tons of fertilizer this year, the amount given in previous years.

In April, the South offered more economic aid to the North in exchange for finding a resolution to the POW and abductee issue, but the North was reluctant to deal with the humanitarian issue.

Official Seoul government data shows that 485 South Koreans have been abducted to North Korea since the Korean War ended, and that 548 South Korean soldiers were taken prisoner by the North during the three-year conflict.

North Korea abruptly canceled test runs of cross-border railways in May under apparent pressure from the hard-line military. It also led to mothballing an economic accord under which South Korea was supposed to provide raw materails in exchange for the North’s minerals. North Korea’s subsequent missile and nuclear weapons tests further clouded hopes of implementing the accord.

The tracks, one line cutting across the western section of the border and the other crossing through the eastern side, have been completed and were set to undergo test runs. A set of parallel roads have been in use since 2005 for South Koreans traveling to the North. NKeconWatch: (Click here to download the North Korean Railway system onto Google Earth)

South Korea has repeatedly called on North Korea to provide a security guarantee for the operation of cross-border railways, but the North has yet to give an answer on the issue.

The reconnection of the severed train lines was one of the tangible inter-Korean rapprochement projects agreed upon following the historic summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

In 2005, South Korea agreed to provide the North with US$80 million worth of raw materials to help it produce clothing, footwear and soap starting in 2006. In return, the North was to provide the South with minerals, such as zinc and magnesite, after the mines were developed with South Korean investments, guaranteed by the Pyongyang government.

On Feb. 13, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities and eventually dismantle them in exchange for energy aid and other benefits. The U.S. also agreed to discuss normalizing relations with the communist nation.

In the deal, North Korea will receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon, 80 kilometers north of Pyongyang, within 60 days. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will determine whether the North carries out the steps properly.

North Korea can eventually receive another 950,000 tons in aid if it disables the reactor irreversibly and declares that it has ended all nuclear programs. The cost of the aid will be equitably distributed among the five other countries.

N. Korea Wants More Aid
Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo

North Korea on Wednesday urged South Korea to resume inter-Korean humanitarian aid immediately.

On the second day of the inter-Korean Cabinet talks, which resumed after a seven-month hiatus, Kwon Ho-ung, chief Cabinet councillor of the North, also proposed that the two Koreas hold a meeting to discuss economic cooperation in its capital at an early date. The two Koreas discussed the details of aid shipments, especially rice and fertilizer, during the economic cooperation meeting.

Seoul seemed somewhat reluctant to accept Pyongyang’s requests before the Stalinist state shows that it will keep its promise to take the first steps to shut down and seal its primary nuclear reactor and resume the reunion of separated families.

Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said in a keynote speech that the North should fulfill its promise to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for energy aid, which was agreed upon in the six-party talks in Beijing on Feb. 13.

Lee also suggested that the construction of a family reunion center at Mount Kumgang in North Korea be resumed immediately and that family reunions resume no later than April.

Last July, Pyongyang notified Seoul that it would stop constructing the reunion center, which was scheduled to be completed this year. The North also suspended inter-Korean family reunions scheduled for Aug. 15 last year.

The North abstained from specifying whether its request for humanitarian aid meant the shipment of rice and fertilizer from Seoul to Pyongyang.

During the four-day talks here, Seoul is expected to offer the shipment of some 500,000 tons of rice and 350,000 tons of fertilizer to Pyongyang.

The North, however, wants the South to include an additional 500,000 tons of rice and 100,000 tons of fertilizer, shipments that were postponed after the North’s test-firing of seven missiles on July 5, sources said.

“We’re doing the best we can. It remains to be seen what kind of results we can produce until the two Koreas release a joint press release on Friday,’’ Lee was quoted as saying after the meeting.

Later in the day, the South Korean delegation visited the Kim Won-kyun Pyongyang Music College. North Korea chose the college near the Taedong River for the visit, defying predictions that it would attempt to arrange a visit to a politically sensitive venue such as national cemeteries where North Koreans who sacrificed themselves during or after the 1950-53 Korean War were buried.

The ministerial talks, the highest-level channel of regular dialogue between the two Koreas, were suspended amid tension over North Korea’s missile tests in July and its nuclear test in October.

On Feb. 13, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities and eventually dismantle them in exchange for energy aid and other benefits. The United States also agreed to discuss normalizing relations with the communist nation.

North Korea is supposed to receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon, 80 kilometers north of Pyongyang, within 60 days. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will determine whether the North carries out the steps properly.

North Korea can eventually receive the remaining 950,000 tons in aid if it disables the reactor irreversibly and declares that it has ended all nuclear programs.


Russia to reopen trade talks with NK next month

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


Russia and North Korea will resume meetings of their trade and economic cooperation committee late next month, ending an over six-year suspension, Russian government officials here said Wednesday.

The joint panel’s last meeting was held in Pyongyang in October 2000, the officials said.

The upcoming meeting, the fourth of its kind, will be held in Moscow from March 22-23, and discussion will focus on Pyongyang’s financial debt to Moscow, according to the officials.

The North’s debt reportedly amounts to US$8 billion dollars, and a considerable part of it is expected to be written off.

Russia, N. Korea to discuss debt payment, other issues in Moscow
(Hat Tip DPRK Studies)

Russia and North Korea will meet March 22-23 in Moscow to discuss debt repayment by the reclusive regime and other economic matters, a Russian official said Tuesday.

Russia and North Korea agreed February 27 on a timeframe for the intergovernmental bilateral commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation to hold its first session since 2000, Yevgeny Anoshin, press secretary of the Russian half of the commission, said.

Konstantin Pulikovsky, the former presidential envoy in the Far Eastern federal district and now head of the Russian technical standards body, Rostekhnadzor, will lead the commission on behalf of Russia, Anoshin said.

“The intergovernmental commission will yield real results only if Russia’s and North Korea’s finance ministries find during February an acceptable solution to the repayment of Pyongyang’s debt to Russia,” Pulikovsky earlier said.

According to Russian experts, North Korea owes more than $8 billion to Russia, including interest.

In addition to the debt repayment, the commission is expected to focus on Korean labor in Russia, plans to continue building the trans-Korean railroad and connecting it to the Trans-Siberian rail, and the possibility of delivering and refining Russian crude in North Korea.

Representatives of Russia’s economics, transport and finance ministries and the rail monopoly Russian Railways will attend the commission’s session, Anoshin said.


U.S. intelligence shows N. Korea progress

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Korea Herald

North Korea appears to have started complying with a recent nuclear disarmament agreement, but U.S. intelligence officials are telling skeptical lawmakers they will continue to watch the country’s actions closely.

Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday that officials had seen North Korea begin inspections of its main nuclear reactor, which the North pledged to shut down and seal in return for an initial load of fuel oil. More aid would follow once North Korean technicians had disabled its nuclear programs.

“There are parts of this nuclear program that we have to pay a lot of attention to, to see if we have the kind of disclosure and the inspection capabilities that we’re looking for,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He also said North Korea is technically capable of building a long-range missile that can hit the United States despite a test failure last year.

He said North Korea has probably learned from the failure of its Taepodong-2 missile during a test in July, and made changes to its other missiles.

“I believe they have the technical capability, as we saw by the Taepodong, but they have not successfully tested it yet,” he said.

Asked how long before North Korea would have a missile capable of reaching the United States, he said, “I would probably estimate it’s not a matter of years.”

The Bush administration was likely to face more tough questions on Wednesday, when the chief U.S. negotiator at North Korean disarmament talks, Christopher Hill, was to appear at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Many in Washington are deeply skeptical of the Feb. 13 agreement. Conservatives say it rewards North Korea for bad behavior.

In Seoul, a senior U.S. security official expressed “cautious optimism” that Pyongyang will take steps to disable its nuclear facilities and is coordinating with Seoul for progress.

“I think we have a good first start, and I think we are approaching with energy and with cautious optimism,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Jack Crouch told Yonhap News Agency.

Amid lingering doubt that Pyongyang may backtrack, he said there are now “big differences – we have a coordinated policy with the five members of the six-party talks.”

Crouch was here to meet Seoul’s chief nuclear negotiator Chun Young-woo to coordinate on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament after a stop in Tokyo.

Foreign Minister Song Min-soon also met him before heading to the United States to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Thursday.

A flurry of diplomatic efforts are underway to start carrying out the six-party agreement reached in Beijing on Feb. 13, in which North Korea pledged to shut down and eventually dismantle its nuclear facilities.

Japan said yesterday it will hold talks with North Korea next week in Hanoi, hoping for progress in a row over abductions that has led Tokyo to shun a six-nation nuclear deal with Pyongyang.

“After coordinating with North Korea, the first working-level talks for the normalisation of the Japan-North Korea ties will be held on March 7 and 8 in Hanoi,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a press conference.

A prepatory meeting will be held in the Vietnamese capital on March 6, he added.

Japan is expected to use the forum to push for answers on the abduction of its citizens by North Korea, which says the issue is closed.

North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan is expected to arrive in the U.S. this week to meet his U.S. counterpart Christopher Hill in New York and discuss normalizing diplomatic relations. Their meeting may discuss removing the North from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring nations, according to Crouch.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is also set to visit the region next week, stopping in Japan, South Korea and China.


New Method of Breeding Terrapins Developed

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007


Scientists in the Zoological Institute of the Branch Academy of Biology under the DPRK State Academy of Sciences have proved successful in research into the artificial breeding of terrapins.

The terrapin is efficacious for weaklings and for the treatment of circulatory troubles. The new method shortens the growth period of terrapins to one fourth.

At the end of several-year experiments, they found out raw materials of assorted feed needed for the rapid growth of terrapins and their composition rate, and an effective method for reducing incubation duration by more than ten days compared with the natural conditions.

The productivity of the male terrapins is higher than that of the females. They, basing themselves on this, developed a technique by which they can control the rate of female and male freely.

The scientists also redesigned structures of the terrapin breeding farm to suit the habitation of the terrapins so as to make them grow healthily.


Highly-Efficient Machine-tools Produced in DPRK

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007


The Huichon Machine-tool Plant in the DPRK is manufacturing highly-efficient machine-tools.

The plant has completed a flexible machining system for producing boxes which is of great significance in the development of the machine-building industry so as to lay its solid material and technical foundation.

It has also introduced into production a new control system by which various kinds of lathe accessories are processed in an automatic way. It greatly helps make machine-tools precise and high-speed.

Among its products are a new kind of universal lathe, universal cylindrical grinder, movable radial drilling machine and NC milling machine.

The universal lathe has a processing diameter bigger than others and the universal cylindrical grinder, controlled by already-set program, improves the precision of products and productivity.

The movable radial drilling machine can process a large object, moving from place to place by itself.

In addition, the plant produces various sizes of ball screws which are applicable to machines which need flexibility and to floodgates of power stations.

The plant is making many efforts to introduce new advanced technologies into production.


US Concludes Probe Into NK-Linked Bank in Macau

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Korea Times

U.S. officials said Monday they had wound up their probe into a Macau bank accused of laundering millions of dollars of illicit North Korean funds, Agence France-Presse reported.

The U.S. move raised expectations that sanctions placed on the lender may soon be lifted, AFP said in its dispatch from Hong Kong.

AFP quoted Daniel Glaser, an assistant to the U.S. Treasury Department’s deputy secretary, as saying that a team of U.S. officials had met Macau financial authorities during their one-day visit.

“We’ve completed our investigation,’’ Glaser was quoted as telling reporters at a hastily convened press briefing in nearby Hong Kong hours after the talks ended.

“Everything that we have seen throughout this investigation has confirmed and reinforced the concerns we initially expressed in September 2005,’’ he added.

The talks follow a deal announced two weeks ago between the U.S., the two Koreas, Japan and Russia on initial steps towards dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

As part of the agreement, the U.S. Treasury team probing Banco Delta Asia (BDA) and other banks believed to have links to North Korea said they would begin talks that would lead to the lifting of sanctions.

“All of this work has put us in a position where we can begin to take steps resolve the BDA matter,’’ Glaser was quoted as saying, adding that he had discussed the matter with North Korean and Macanese authorities.

However, he would not say when a decision would be made on lifting the sanctions, nor on what would happen to some $24 million worth of bank assets frozen by the Treasury.

“I don’t think it would be responsible for me to get into a specific timetable, but we do intend to take steps to resolve the matter and we do intend to do that in a timely fashion and to do it as soon as possible,’’ Glaser said.

BDA has been under administration in Macau since the Treasury announced its inclusion on the watch list in 2005.

The government stepped in after fearful depositors began withdrawing funds at a rate that threatened to destabilize the southern Chinese territory’s financial system.

AFP said that in December the bank admitted to buying gold bullion produced by North Korea.

According to the AFP report, the bank also admitted to continued dealings with Tanchon Commercial Bank for three months after the North Korean lender was blacklisted.

Promising never again to deal with North Korea, BDA has appointed an outside compliance officer and hired Hong Kong-based consultants to upgrade its computer system.

Macau’s authorities, meanwhile, with the backing of China’s central government in Beijing, have instituted tough new laws against money laundering and counterfeit currency.


NK Nuclear Envoy to Visit US for Diplomatic Normalization Talks

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Korea Times

The U.S. State Department confirmed Monday that a North Korean nuclear negotiator would visit the United States soon to start working group talks on bilateral diplomatic normalization, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Kim Kye-gwan, Pyongyang’s top envoy to the six-party nuclear talks, will go to San Francisco then travel to New York, where he will meet his Washington counterpart, Christopher Hill, Yonhap quoted the department as saying.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Kim-Hill talks will be to both establish and hold the first round of the working group talks that address issues to be resolved for an eventual normalization of ties between the two countries.

A well-informed source told Yonhap, South Korea’s semi-official news service, last week that Kim will arrive in San Francisco on Thursday.

“I think that he (Kim) has meetings, potentially with some NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) out there in San Francisco,’’ McCormack was quoted as telling reporters.

“We are still working through the logistics of a meeting between him and Chris Hill. We expect the venue will be New York.’’

South and North Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, members of the so-called six-party process, struck a deal in Beijing on Feb. 13 under which Pyongyang would shut down its primary nuclear facilities in phases. In return, the North would receive heavy fuel oil as energy assistance.

The agreement establishes five working groups, including those to deal with diplomatic normalization between North Korea and the United States and between North Korea and Japan. The groups would meet within 30 days of the agreement.

Most of the contacts between Pyongyang and Washington are made in New York, where North Korea has a mission to the United Nations.


Golf Courses Due in Kaesong

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Korea Times
Kim Yon-se

Hyundai Asan is considering building three golf courses in Kaesong, North Korea, by 2012 as its first round of development projects at the Kaesong Industrial Complex have almost been completed.

According to sources, the inter-Korean tourism operator of Hyundai Group is in talks with the North to build an 18-hole golf course in the North Korean city by 2010 and two more by 2012.

A Hyundai Group official said the proposed golf course would be the second of its kind. One golf course has already been developed near Mount Kumgang and is scheduled to open to South Korean tourists later this year.

In a statement, however, Hyundai Asan predicted that it will take some time before the plan is realized as the North’s stance has yet to decided.

The company said talks between the two countries for the second development project would be possible after the first project is completed.

North Korea has stirred controversy by negotiating with a small South Korean company, Unico, to build a golf course despite its initial contract with Hyundai Asan to develop golf courses around the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Since last July, the North has banned South Korean visitors to the industrial complex from visiting the city’s downtown area including historic sites.

Hundreds of South Koreans, mostly businesspeople and government officials, had been allowed to make an excursion to the city of Kaesong during their visit to the industrial complex.

Hyundai had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Emerson Pacific Group, which has been constructing golf courses at the scenic resort area at Mount Kumgang, for the project in Kaesong.


S. Korea to set aside US$20 million to send heavy fuel oil to N. Korea

Monday, February 26th, 2007


South Korea has earmarked 20 billion won (US$21.3 million) to provide 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea as part of a recent nuclear agreement in which the North agreed to take the initial steps toward nuclear disarmament, the Unification Ministry said Monday.

“The government embarked on internal preparations to provide 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for North Korea in accordance with the six-nation agreement,” said Yang Chang-seok, spokesperson for the ministry.

He said the oil shipment will cost an estimated 20 billion won, including delivery expenses, adding that the details will be worked out during the upcoming meeting of a working group on energy aid.

Earlier in the day, the ministry made the announcement to a panel of the National Assembly on unification and foreign affairs, after the decision was approved by the state-run committee of inter-Korean exchange and cooperation.

“The government will commission the Public Procurement Service to choose a local oil refinery for the project. It will cost about $350 per metric ton, and incidental charges of delivery will constitute about 20 percent,” Yang told reporters.

On Feb. 13, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities and eventually dismantle them in exchange for energy aid and other benefits. The United States also agreed to discuss normalizing relations with the communist nation.

Under the deal, North Korea will receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon, 80 kilometers north of Pyongyang, within 60 days. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will determine whether the North carries out the steps properly.

The communist nation can eventually receive another 950,000 tons in heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid if it disables the reactor irreversibly and declares that it has ended all nuclear programs. The cost of aid will be equitably distributed among the five other countries in the six-party talks, which are South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.

The agreement also calls for the establishment of five working groups, one of which is to address the normalization of Washington-Pyongyang diplomatic relations. The groups are to convene within 30 days of the Feb. 13 accord.


Australia to send diplomatic team to N.K.

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Korea Herald
Yoav Cerralbo

Last week, the Australian government announced that it would be sending a diplomatic team to North Korea to help strengthen bilateral ties.

In Seoul, Australian Ambassador Peter Rowe spoke about this news with The Korea Herald, explaining that the Australian team will be looking at ways they can help in energy, aid and safeguards expertise.

“These are things that Australia can contribute,” he said.

Rowe said that Australia, a strong proponent of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, would be “happy” to provide expertise and training in nuclear safeguards as part of North Korea’s dismantling process.

This bilateral exchange is not new to both countries. After the 1994 framework agreement, Australia helped to train and install safeguards in North Korea.

“That was when we started to develop the bilateral relationship,” he said. “It was only as the North Koreans were doing things like missile and nuclear tests that we had to run backwards.”

He added that Australia wants to see North Korea as a constructive, positive member of the international community.

“If North Korea wants to join the international community in this process, that is return enough for us because it contributes to regional security and stability,” the ambassador said.

The diplomatic mission would be coordinated with the other members of the six-party talks and as the secretive and unpredictable regime fulfills the benchmarks that were set up in the deal, Australia would be there in support and would reciprocally increase the relationship.

The idea of this mission, Rowe said, is to urge North Korea to fulfill the obligations they’ve undertaken in this most recent agreement. “That will be its main task.”

At the six-party talks recently, fueled-starved North Korea agreed to start the process of shutting down their Yongbyon nuclear reactor within 60 days in return for initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil after international inspectors have confirmed the shutdown.

“I’m reasonably confident that North Korea will go with the commitments they made for the first 60 days,” he said.