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Can Six Parties Get Results This Time?

Jeong Jae Sung  |  2008-12-10 17:46
The six countries envoys are trying to firm up the verification protocol for the North Korean nuclear program at the third round of the sixth Six Party Talks on Wednesday in Beijing.

China suggested yesterday a draft verification protocol, as the chair country, and submitted an amended one after collecting the opinions of other countries. Today they will reportedly pursue an agreement on it. If the member countries agree with the amended protocol, this round of talks will likely close today.

If, due to dissenting opinions, an agreement is impossible, the Six Party Talks would last a few days more.

Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs of the MOFAT Kim Sook took a prudent position on the future of the Talks.

The draft protocol suggested by China yesterday contains targets, methods and schedules for verification, and what parties will complete the verification, based on the agreements from the former rounds of talks held in July and October.

Regarding the biggest sticking point, whether or not sampling from the North's nuclear facilities will be put into the document, the six countries agreed with expressions in the draft that guarantee them sampling rights from the context of it, using international standards and scientific procedures.

One reporter asked: some things you have demanding in the verification like scientific procedures, sampling - were those in the draft? U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill answered Its fair to say yes.

The Bush administration, which has not had any outstanding diplomatic results for eight years, wants presumably to complete the disablement of the North Korean nuclear program somehow. North Korea must have considered economic and energy aid, and also negotiations with the next Obama administration yesterday.

Jeon Sung Hoon, researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification pointed out that, Sampling is only one way of verification. After sampling, there could be some different interpretations from North Korea about the scientific procedures, and where sampling will be analyzed is also destined to be problematic.

The IAEA activities, standards and range of inspection over undeclared facilities

A source from the South Korean government related to the Six Party Talks said that, The pending question is definitely the role of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in verification and the approach to undeclared facilities.

Additionally, it is known that the U.S. and Russia insisted on inserting a sentence requiring that North Korea should return to the NPT.

In the heads-of-delegation meeting of the Six Party Talks held in July in Beijing, the six parties delegates agreed that the IAEA supply advisors and backup in the verification procedures. However, experts on the North Korean nuclear issue have pointed out that the role of the IAEA needed to be specified.

The source said that, The role of the IAEA, an expert group on verification, should be enlarged, so the verification of North Korean nuclear activities can be swiftly and correctly implemented according to international standards.

However, it is still unknown whether or not North Korea accepts it. Since the first North Korean nuclear crisis in the early-1990s, North Korea has shown reluctance to the IAEA.

Negotiations on undeclared nuclear facilities are also unclear. In the results of the U.S. and North Korea Pyongyang meeting in October, the two countries stipulated that they would approach verification of the undeclared facilities under a mutual agreement. In practice, approaching such facilities under a mutual agreement means the five parties cannot access the undeclared sites without North Korean agreement, and the targets of the verification should be limited by the declaration submitted by North Korea.

Jeon predicted that, According to the North Korean precedent, we cannot expect North Korea to have a good attitude to verification. The most important issues are how much North Korea accepts the IAEAs activities during the verification procedure and how wide a range of inspections of undeclared facilities North Korea grants.

If the U.S. makes many concessions, an agreement could be reached. However, it is still uncertain that North Korea will practically go through the proper verification procedures, Jeon added.
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