South Korean minister says momentum is waning

North Korea has said it will no longer accept Japan's part in six-nation negotiations aimed at resolving the stand-off over its nuclear weapons program, RFA reports.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carried a statement from a foreign ministry spokesman in Pyongyang, which said that North Korea "would not allow Japan to participate in any form of negotiations for the settlement of the nuclear issue in the future."

It said Tokyo had aligned itself with Washington on the nuclear crisis, and it lashed out at a crackdown on a pro-North Korean group in Japan known as Chongryon. It also criticized Japan for using the talks to raise the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea during the 1970s and 80s.

"Japan is nothing but an obstacle to the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States," the statement said. "It has lost its qualification to be a trustworthy dialogue partner."

It reiterated Pyongyang's call for a non-aggression treaty with Washington. "Now that unilateralism of the U.S. as a superpower has reached its height, what is necessary for the DPRK is not a document changeable when the U.S. chief executive is replaced by another but a non-aggression treaty with a legal binding force," it said.

North Korea wants a bilateral nonaggression pact with the United States before it abandons its nuclear arms program, while the United States wants North Korea to move quickly to scrap the nuclear program first.

Negotiators from Japan met with those from North and South Korea, China, the United States, and Russia in Beijing in late August for multilateral talks on the crisis, which began in October 2002 when North Korean officials admitted they had restarted their nuclear weapons program.

U.S. and North Korean officials met privately and informally on the sidelines of the talks, but both sides simply reiterated prior demands. The talks concluded with an agreement to continue, but no date has been set.

In an apparent move to put pressure on U.S. negotiators ahead of fresh talks, Pyongyang vowed last week to further boost its production of nuclear weapons, saying it had finished processing 8,000 plutonium spent fuel rods, enough to manufacture up to six nuclear warheads.

South Korea's unification minister said Tuesday that the momentum for holding a second round of multilateral nuclear negotiations in late October or early November, as originally expected, has now been lost.

Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun told the South Korean Yonhap news agency that the situation had become fluid recently, noting that countries involved in the six-way talks previously predicted the second round could take place during that period.

China, however, which brokered and hosted the August talks, said the process would continue. "We hope that no matter what happens, the six-way talks, this whole process, will continue," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali.

Zhang added: "All sides during the six-way talks have agreed that the six-way talks should continue. So I think this process, through the joint efforts, will continue."

The issue of U.S. domination in a unipolar world is also a key issue for Beijing's foreign policy, which is being forced to a greater maturity by the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. #####


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