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Disarmament Diplomacy No. 77, Cover design by Paul Aston

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 77, May/June 2004

In the News

Little Progress as North Korea Working Group Meets

Nicola Butler

The six parties (North and South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan) discussing North Korea's nuclear programme have held "working level talks", but there has been little sign of any progress to date. The parties remain deadlocked over US demands for "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement" of North Korea's nuclear programme, whilst North Korea continues to insist on a reward for a freeze.1

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the parties had had "good, open discussions" in Beijing on May 12 and 13, but admitted that, "no particular breakthroughs occurred."2 Shortly prior to the talks, the US made a small gesture in North Korea's direction indicating that "after resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue, [the six party talks format could] be used to discuss broader issues of peace and security in Northeast Asia".3 However, this falls well short of North Korea's demand for a non-aggression treaty before it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons programmes.

The parties have continued to engage in further bilateral contacts, with US Vice President Dick Cheney visiting the region in April to reinforce the US position with the other parties. Cheney particularly emphasised the US claim that North Korea has been pursuing a programme to produce highly enriched uranium - a claim about which China has been sceptical in the past. Speaking at Fudan University in China, Cheney suggested that information obtained from the A.Q. Khan network and Libya had confirmed the US claims: "one of the things we've learned in recent months... [is that] Mr. Gadafy and the Libyans acquired their technical expertise, weapons design and so forth from Mr. A.Q. Khan, Pakistan. And we now know that Mr. Khan also provided similar capabilities to the North Koreans. So we're confident that the North Koreans do, in fact, have a programme to enrich uranium to produce nuclear weapons."4 North Korea continues to deny the allegations.

China has continued in its attempts to keep negotiations moving along, holding a summit meeting in April with North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong Il, at which Beijing reportedly offered additional aid to the country. China put a positive gloss on the working group meeting, arguing that "mutual trust" had been enhanced, while acknowledging that, "there is undoubtedly still a long way to go".5

Japan has also held high level talks with North Korea in the last month, resulting in the release of five children of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Meeting in Pyongyang, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi promised food and more than $10 million in humanitarian aid and pressed North Korea to "completely abandon its nuclear programme".6

The parties have agreed to a further round of working level talks prior to a third round of high level talks. China hopes that the third round will be held by July, but no date has been set.


1. See earlier updates, notably '"Differences, difficulties and contradictions" at North Korea nuclear talks', Disarmament Diplomacy 76 (April/May 2004)

2. 'G-8 Ministerial Press Conference', US State Department, Washington File, May 14, 2004.

3. 'Six-Party Format Could Be Used for Korea Peace Treaty', Washington File, May 4, 2004.

4. 'Cheney Says War on Terror Should Not Stifle Individual Rights', Washington File, April 15, 2004.

5. 'Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo Meets with Heads of the Working Groups for the Six-Party Talks', China Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 19, 2004.

6. Akiko Yamamoto and Philip P. Pan, 'N. Korea Frees 5 Children Of Kidnapped Japanese', Washington Post, May 23, 2004

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