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DPRK's Shutdown of Nuclear Facilities Means Substantial Progress Toward Denuclearization
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The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula has recorded a substantial progress as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced that it had shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

"We have shut down the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon after we received the first shipment of heavy oil on Friday," the official Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday, citing a spokesman of the DPRK Foreign Ministry.

A substantial progress  

July 14 is remarkable for all parties participating in the negotiation on the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue. On the day, the DPRK informed the United States of its shutdown of the Yongbyon reactor, after a South Korean ship carrying 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil arrived at its northeastern port of Songbong. It also witnessed the return of a 10-member team of UN inspectors to the DPRK to verify and monitor the shutdown and sealing.

"We welcome this development and look forward to the verification and monitoring of this shutdown by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team that has arrived in the DPRK," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

The nuclear issue has finally recorded a substantial progress since all six countries -- the DPRK, South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia -- began negotiations in August 2003.

A process of common aim, dialogue and mutual trust

Analysts believe the shutdown of the DPRK's Yongbyon nuclear facilities is a result of the endeavor of all sides, which have definitely and unswervingly insisted on the aim of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

During the negotiation process, all parties concerned were firmly committed to solving the nuclear issue through dialogue. This has once again demonstrated that pressure and threat are neither workable nor conducive to resolving the nuclear issue, but only to make the situation more complicated.

Meanwhile, the process showed that it is very important for all parties concerned to establish mutual trust in solving the nuclear issue. The process of the six-party talks, especially the process of resolving the frozen fund dispute, has made people understand better the principles of "promise for promise" and "action for action."

A long way to go

Shutdown of the DPRK's Yongbyon nuclear facilities is only the first step toward the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, observers believe.

Among other steps, the DPRK, Under a joint document issued at the six-party talks on Feb. 13, should declare all nuclear programs and disable all existing nuclear facilities, including the graphite moderated reactor and its post-treatment plant.

Also under the joint document, the DPRK and the United States should start bilateral talks aimed at resolving pending bilateral issues and moving toward full diplomatic relations.

The United States should begin the process of removing the designation of the DPRK as a state-sponsor of terrorism and advance the process of terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to the DPRK.

The DPRK and Japan should also start bilateral talks aimed at taking steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of unfortunate past and the outstanding issues of concern, according to the document.

The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is complicated, covering a wide range of issues, such as a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, normalization of relations among the countries involved, establishment of a peace and security mechanism in Northeast Asia and economic and energy cooperation among the countries concerned. Obviously, difficulties lie ahead and there is a long way before these issues can be resolved completely.

At present, with an aim of achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia, all parties concerned should continue dialogues on an equal footing and fulfill their own commitments on the basis of the principle of "action for action."

Top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill gave the DPRK's shutdown a cautious welcome on Sunday, saying: "This is just a first step ... This is only a meaningful step insofar as it will be followed by other steps."

The DPRK also has urged other parties concerned to fulfill their commitments quickly according to the Feb. 13 agreement.

"The DPRK has done what it should do, now it's the time for other parties to abide by their obligation under Feb. 13 agreement," said a spokesman of the DPRK Foreign Ministry.

(Xinhua News Agency July 16, 2007)

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