The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has promised to return to the fifth round of six- party nuclear talks in early November unconditionally, Bill Richardson, US governor of the New Mexico State said on Saturday in Seoul.
Christopher Hill (R), U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and top U.S. negotiator for the six-party talks, speaks to journalists before continuation of talks in Beijing September 16, 2005. [Reuters]
Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, led a 10-member delegation to the DPRK for a four-day trip earlier this week and met with several senior DPRK officials.
"The trip was successful and the most important success was the unconditional return commitment the North Koreans gave me, to return to the six-party talks in early November," he was quoted by South Korean Yonhap News Agency as saying at a press conference held earlier in the day.
"North Koreans assured me that they will return probably in the latter part of the first week of November," he said.
While, the DPRK side denied the existence of any uranium enrichment program and facilities, said Richardson, adding "They said they use natural uranium for fuel rods."
"The North Korean government allowed my delegation to visit the Yongbyon military nuclear reactor. I believe that was a show of transparency and it bodes well for the six-party talks that will be coming up in Beijing," he said.
The US official also quoted DPRK officials as saying that they would invite Director Mohamed ElBaradei and other appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency's officials to Pyongyang "at an appropriate time."
"I found North Koreans are in a positive mood towards the ( nuclear) talks," he said. "North Koreans stated they would abide by the statement of principles where they dismantle, adhere to IAEA safeguards and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Treaty). "
"They indicated that the important principles of words for words and actions for actions would accompany any of the initiatives they will take," he added.
On Sept. 19, delegations from China, the United States, the DPRK, Russia, South Korea and Japan adopted a joint statement at the end of the fourth round of the six-party talks aimed to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
In the joint statement, the DPRK is committed to abandoning " all nuclear weapons" and "existing nuclear programs" and returning to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of Nuclear Weapons and to the IAEA safeguards at an early date.
In return, the other five parties, namely, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States, stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to the DPRK in the joint statement.
On the light water reactors (LWRs) issue, Richardson said the DPRK showed "flexibility" on it.
The DPRK insists it will start abandoning nuclear weapons program only after the US agrees to provide LWRs to the DPRK. But Washington holds that the issue of LWRs can be discussed after the DPRK fulfills the commitment it made at the fourth round nuclear talks.
"They stated they will be prepared to have us or any other six- way talk countries participate in fuel-cycle on the front end and back end," Richardson was quoted by Yonhap as saying.
Asked to elaborate on the "front end and back end" issue, Richardson said: "We found further flexibility that the US or some combination of the six-way talks countries could bring in the fuel for light-water reactor. At some point there was talk on bringing in an American CEO to run the light-water reactor."
He also said the DPRK officials hinted the countries can also take away spent fuel rods to ease the concern that the DPRK may use it for development of nuclear weapons.
The US official flew to Seoul Friday night from Tokyo where he also held press conference over his DPRK visit. He left here for home earlier Saturday.