AAP staff report
WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2012) — A U.S. delegation has just returned from Beijing following a third exploratory round of bilateral talks between the United States and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea).
To improve the atmosphere for dialogue and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization, North Korea has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The North Koreans have also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities.
According to White House spokesperson Victoria Nuland, the U.S. still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these.
“We have agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with our proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance,” Nuland stated.
The following points flow from the February 23-24 discussions in Beijing:
• The United States reaffirms that it does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.
• The United States reaffirms its commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement.
• The United States recognizes the 1953 Armistice Agreement as the cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
• U.S. and DPRK nutritional assistance teams will meet in the immediate future to finalize administrative details on a targeted U.S. program consisting of an initial 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need.
• The United States is prepared to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports.
• U.S. sanctions against the DPRK are not targeted against the livelihood of the DPRK people.
On Wednesday, senior Administration officials on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton have long made clear the concern for the welfare of the North Korean people. Following an assessment last summer of humanitarian needs in North Korea, the U.S. put forward a proposal designed to feed babies, to feed mothers, to feed the elderly – which is to say the most at-risk marginalized population of North Koreans.
“These are people whom the regime either cannot or has chosen not to feed,” Nuland stated. “And the plan to provide nutritional assistance included monitoring requirements designed to ensure that the right type of food gets to the right people.”
Until the meeting in Beijing last week, the North Koreans had declined to allow the program to go forward. Officials said they demanded large quantities of rice and grain that could be, in our view, diverted to elites or to the military.
The North Koreans have now dropped demands and agreed to the program as proposed, with an understanding that further assistance would be based on verified need.
“This progress today is a direct result of close coordination with our key partners. Close coordination with the Republic of Korea deprived the North of the chance to drive a wedge between us or to weaken our strong alliance,” Nuland stated. “As we move forward with the DPRK, we will continue to place great emphasis on the need for the North to pursue rapprochement and reconciliation with the South through sustained and substantive inter-Korean contacts.”
The steps are positive but modest. The State Department hopes that eventually the Six-Party talks will build on this progress and set the stage for a real and lasting multilateral phase. Officials believe this is an initial sign of Pyongyang’s seriousness of purpose to move into substantive and meaningful negotiations on denuclearization.