Accessibility links

Breaking News

North Korea Says Quitting Talks, Restarting Nuclear Program

A newsreader of North Korea's official KCNA-TV reports the statement by the Foreign Ministry rejecting a UN Security Council statement condemning the North's recent rocket launch.
(RFE/RL) -- Ignoring international pleas to the contrary, North Korea says it is abandoning previous agreements aimed at ensuring it divests itself of nuclear-weapons capability.

A statement issued by the North Korean Foreign Ministry describes the six-party talks as "useless," and said it will restart the Yongbyon nuclear plant, which is capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.

Under a disarmament-for-aid deal it reached with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, Pyongyang was gradually dismantling the Yongbyon plant. But that has now changed, according to the statement as carried by North Korean state television.

"We will take measures for restoring to their original state the nuclear facilities that had been disabled under the agreement of the six-party talks, and putting their operation on normal track, and fully reprocessing spent fuel rods churned out from the pilot nuclear power plant," state television announced.

The North's rage -- or apparent rage -- stems from a UN Security Council statement on April 13 unanimously condemning the April 5 rocket launch as a violation of a ban on missile tests by the country. The council demands an end to further launches and the enforcement of existing sanctions against Pyongyang.

China, Russia Join Statement

What is galling for the North is that Russia and China joined the criticism. After a week of resisting pressure from the United States and Japan for strong action, those two countries agreed to the compromise statement.

Chinese analyst Shi Yinhong of the People's University in Beijing says China's decision to support the criticism is particularly surprising.

"If we compare these actions to the Chinese government's stance on the North Korean rocket launch in recent weeks, I think we see this is a dramatic change in foreign policy," Shi says. "This kind of large, fast, and dramatic change on a diplomatic issue by the People's Republic of China is something we have rarely seen previously."

The North's decision to walk away from the talks and resume its nuclear activities appears at first sight to negate all the progress made by the international community so far.

But analysts point out that it could take up to a year to reassemble the North's nuclear facilities to the same level they were before. This offers time for further contacts with the North, given that there could be a measure of bluff in Pyongyang's threats.

What would it take to bring the North back to the negotiating table? Lavish new offers of aid? Perhaps. But the actions of Chairman Kim Jong Il’s secretive regime have historically been difficult to predict, and it may be that he genuinely intends to press ahead with nuclear-weapons development.

compiled from agency reports