Russia: North Korea Ready to Resume Nuclear Negotiations

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 3:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is ready to impose a temporary freeze on his country's nuclear weapons program if international negotiations about the program resume.

Natalya Timakova says Mr. Kim made the offer during a meeting between the two leaders Wednesday at a military base in Siberia. She says the North Korean leader has offered to return to the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks “without preconditions.”

The United States says the reported offer is a “welcome first step” but insufficient to resume the six-party talks. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday North Korea's disclosure of uranium enrichment facilities last year remains a matter of serious concern because it violates U.N. resolutions.

South Korea and the United States have called on Pyongyang to suspend work on its atomic program before the talks resume.

The isolated regime is seeking economic concessions in exchange for abandoning its nuclear efforts. It quit the disarmament talks in 2009 after it tested a long-range missile, which drew a new round of international sanctions, and it subsequently conducted a nuclear test.

Russian media released photos of the two leaders shaking hands at the base in the city of Ulan-Ude on the shores of Lake Baikal. Mr. Kim spent Tuesday taking a boat ride on the lake and touring an aircraft factory. He thanked Mr. Medvedev for the special care and attention he received during what he called a pleasant trip.

The two also discussed disaster aid and a proposed gas pipeline that would carry Russian natural gas through North Korea and into South Korea.

Such a pipeline would give South Korea huge savings on natural gas shipments from Russia, which are to begin later in this decade. North Korea would be able to ease its shortage of hard currency by charging up to $100 million a year in transit fees.

Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said Russia also has proposed three-party cooperation in other energy fields and on a rail line linking Seoul to Russia's Trans-Siberia Railway.

The talks come as a senior delegation of Russian military officials visits Pyongyang for talks on expanded military cooperation.

Mr. Kim's visit came a day after the Kremlin said it would ship 50,000 tons of grain to the country in an effort to offest food shortages.