WASHINGTON - The United States has set 2008 as the target for full
implementation of an accord to end North Korea's nuclear drive, including a
final peace deal for the Korean peninsula, top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill
"It would be in 2008 we would
really want to wrap this up," he told reporters in Washington on his return from
six-party talks in Beijing.
The truce village in Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone
(DMZ), seen from the North Korean side of the border. The United States
has set 2008 as the target for full implementation of an accord to end
North Korea's nuclear drive, including a final peace deal for the Korean
peninsula, top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said Monday.
"The sooner the better, I mean, from my humble perspective. But in 2008 we
would hope to wrap this up. I hope it wouldn't take 12 months," Hill said.
With the next US presidential elections in November 2008, the administration
of President George W. Bush is eager to complete the implementation of the
complex nuclear deal before he vacates the White House.
Under the deal, North Korea has to disable its nuclear program in return
for aid and diplomatic and security guarantees, including diplomatic relations
with Washington and a permanent accord to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea has already shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor as
promised under a February 13 accord reached by the six parties - the United
States, China, Russia, the two Koreans and Japan.
In September, the six parties hope to adopt a comprehensive program with
possibly a 2007 deadline for North Korea to declare and disable its entire
nuclear program under phase two of the nuclear accord.
Hill said that "realistically speaking, if we can get phase two done by the
end of the year, then we can address some of the other elements that are there,"
citing as an example the planned setting up of a Northeast Asian security forum
and signing of a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War.
"And realistically speaking, if we can't get that (second phase) going by the
end of '07, it's going to be tough to complete it by the end of '08, which would
be our target time," Hill said.
Hill hinted of difficulties facing such planned time frames.
"I suspect we're going to have some eleventh-hour negotiations," he said of
the process of putting together a so-called "sequencing plan" with the disabling
of North Korea's nuclear program.
"So let's see if we can get something that makes sense by early September and
then try to implement it," he said.
Once the program for North Korea to disable its nuclear program is ready
in September, Hill said foreign ministers of the six countries would meet for
the first time since the talks began in 2003 "to bless what we've done and look
Asked whether North Korea would have enough time to disband its nuclear
program within three months from September as anticipated, Hill said: "My
own view is yes, it could be done.
"If they want to get it done, it can be done. I think disabling activities
are not a matter of months; they're a matter of weeks," he said.
Hill explained that the program to disband the nuclear activities was
linked to energy aid - totalling 950,000 tonness of heavy fuel oil or the
equivalent of that in economic assistance - to North Korea.
Pyongyang, facing storage problems, may not be able to absorb all the pledged
fuel within a short time and a working group would determine what kind of
equivalent aid could be given, he said.
On North Korea's demand for a light-water reactor as compensation for
shutting down its nuclear program, Hill said Washington was prepared to discuss
it when North Korea"gets out of this dirty nuclear business that they've been in
and returns to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)."
The six nations agreed in September 2005 to discuss furnishing North Korea
with light-water reactors "at an appropriate time."
DPRK, ROK open high-level military talks
DPRK and ROK opened high-level military talks Tuesday, with a disputed
sea border off the divided peninsula's west coast likely to remain a key
Two-star generals are representing each side in three days of meetings at the
truce village of Panmunjom in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone running
between North Korea and South Korea.
The talks - the highest-level regular dialogue channel between the two
militaries - are aimed at following up on agreements reached at a previous
session in May. They include setting up a joint fishing area around the disputed
maritime border off the peninsula's west coast and preparing security
arrangements for joint economic projects near the border.
The two sides have since held three rounds of lower-level talks to discuss
the agreements, but no progress has been made because North Korea repeated its
long-running demand that the sea border be redrawn further south. This week's
meetings could also see little headway if North Korea raises the issue again.
The border issue has been a constant source of dispute on the divided
peninsula. North Korea does not recognize the current sea border demarcated by
the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pyongyang claims the border is too far north and complains that vessels from
the South often enter its waters. South Korea flatly denies the accusations.
North Korea's navy command has issued a series of warnings in recent months
that a skirmish along the disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea - the scene
of deadly clashes in 1999 and 2002 - could occur again unless South Korean
vessels stop entering North Korea's waters.