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U.S., South have nuclear roadmap for North Korea

Jan 01,2019
Seoul and Washington have come up with a general roadmap for the denuclearization of North Korea, which includes a plan to delay full disclosure of its nuclear facilities and arsenal, and inspections of them, revealed a government source Monday.

“The South Korea-U.S. working group’s goal is ultimately North Korea’s denuclearization,” the source, who is familiar with the situation, told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We have prepared for nearly all scenarios that can be raised by North Korea.”

This source continued, “The roadmap includes a plan to push back [North Korea’s] full disclosure and inspection of its nuclear facilities, arsenal and weapons in the initial denuclearization stage.”

A general framework toward North Korea denuclearization was agreed on during the second South Korea-U.S. working group meeting held from Dec. 19 to 22, during a visit to Seoul in late December by Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea.

Biegun and Lee Do-hoon, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, launched the working group in November to improve coordination between Seoul and Washington.

Washington has been adhering to an international protocol for denuclearization, which starts with a full declaration of nuclear facilities and their inspection.

However, the latest roadmap, including a scenario in which a declaration of nuclear facilities and arsenal can be slightly postponed, could indicate more flexibility, at least in the initial stages of the denuclearization process. It could also be a tactic to end the impasse in negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

The Oct. 21, 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework between North Korea and the United States called for a nuclear freeze in return for the construction of a light-water reactor. A Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement following six-party talks agreed on steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a phased manner, and a Feb. 13, 2007 six-party agreement came up with the initial steps to implement the 2005 agreement, in which Pyongyang committed to shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear complex. The six-party denuclearization talks - involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States - have been stalled since Pyongyang walked away from them in late 2008.

As previous denuclearization agreements all ended up fizzling out, Seoul and Washington officials have tried to analyze why.

A diplomatic source requesting anonymity said, “The fact that a roadmap was produced shows that the United States has prepared as much as they can for the North-U.S. dialogue and that North Korea just has to show up [to the negotiating table.]”

In mid-November, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hinted in an interview with NBC that the United States may be able to proceed to a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump without a declaration of its nuclear weapons and missile sites.

BY LEE YU-JUNG, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]