Any steps agreed on by Pyongyang at talks this week on ending
its nuclear arms program should be carried out within three months,
but the talks in Beijing won't resolve everything, US envoy
Christopher Hill said on Tuesday.
Diplomats have pointed to signs that North Korea may be ready to
agree to an initial deal over demands that it stop building a
nuclear arsenal in exchange for energy aid at the six-party talks,
which resume in Beijing tomorrow.
Under a joint statement reached in September 2005, North Korea
agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for economic aid
and security guarantees.
"The upcoming talks will explore initial steps needed to
implement the joint statement," Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular briefing Tuesday.
Hill, in Tokyo for bilateral talks before heading for Beijing
today, told Japanese reporters that any actions identified or
announced in Beijing should be implemented within "single-digit
weeks," a US Embassy spokesman said.
Later, though, he said the Beijing talks would not lead to a
complete resolution of the Korean nuclear issue.
"Whether we can make some progress, and I was emphasizing the
fact that if we make some progress, we're not going to be able to
resolve the nuclear issue and achieve the complete implementation
of the September 2005 statement in one step," he told reporters
after meeting Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa
"We are going to need several steps."
North Korea agreed in September 2005 to scrap its nuclear
weapons program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Hill said Pyongyang could demand that other parties provide it
with fuel oil.
"I think it is quite possible that it will come up in the
six-party context this weekend," he told reporters after meeting
his Japanese counterpart, Kenichiro Sasae.
Japan, for its part, stuck to its tough stance of refusing to
give North Korea aid unless Pyongyang settles a feud over Japanese
kidnapped decades ago.
Japan faces dilemma
That could put Tokyo in a bind if this week's talks make
progress toward ending the North's nuclear arms programs.
The matter of the abductees, spirited away from their homeland
in the 1970s and 1980s to help train North Korea spies in Japanese
language and culture, is an emotive one in Japan.
It is also high on the agenda of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who
made his name by talking tough to Pyongyang and who is unlikely to
soften that tone at a time when his public support rate is slipping
ahead of an upper house election in July.
But Japan could be isolated from other partners at the talks if
it keeps its tough stance, analysts said. "If Japan does not
provide aid, it will be isolated. If it does give aid, then it will
face harsh public opinion," said Noriyuki Suzuki, chief analyst at
Tokyo-based Radio press news agency, which specializes in
monitoring North Korean media.
(China Daily via agencies and Xinhua, February 7,