Increased activity confirmed at N.Korea reactor

Increased activity confirmed at N.Korea reactor: report | Top News | Reuters.com

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s intelligence agency confirmed reports of increased activity at North Korea’s nuclear reactor, possibly indicating a shutdown, a South Korean daily said on Wednesday.

The report came after a United States official said Washington had not seen any sign that North Korea has begun to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility as called for in a February 13 six-country agreement.

The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said the National Intelligence Service had confirmed its report on Tuesday quoting unnamed intelligence sources as saying satellite photographs showed increased vehicle and personnel movements near Yongbyon.

A spokesman for the agency was not immediately available for comment.

A U.S. official said on Tuesday that news reports in South Korean media are “just not accurate … We have seen no actions on the North Koreans’ part that at this point leads us to believe they are fulfilling their part of the 60-day actions.”

North Korea was required to start closing the reactor and source of its weapons-grade plutonium by April 14, as well as allow U.N. nuclear inspectors back into the secretive country, as part of a deal it reached at the six-way talks in February.

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N. Korea To Shut Down Nuclear Reactor, South Korean Envoy Reports Progress In Six-Party Talks In Beijing

N. Korea To Shut Down Nuclear Reactor, South Korean Envoy Reports Progress In Six-Party Talks In Beijing – CBS News

(AP) North Korea told delegates at nuclear talks on Saturday that it is preparing to shut down its main reactor, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy said, a key step promised in a landmark disarmament pact.

The apparent progress in implementing last month’s agreement came only hours after North Korea’s lead nuclear envoy said his government would not close its main nuclear facility until all $25 million of its money frozen in a Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia, is released.

“We will not stop our nuclear activity until our funds frozen in the BDA are fully released,” Kim Kye Gwan told reporters as he arrived in Beijing for follow-up meetings on the agreement.

But U.S. Assistant Secretary of States Christopher Hill, the top American envoy, said late Saturday that North Korea was still “fulfilling their obligations.”

The fate of the frozen funds, the result of a blacklisting by U.S. authorities, has become a central issue in the talks. Washington promised to resolve the bank issue as an inducement to North Korea to return to the negotiations, but its solution — an order this past week to U.S. banks to sever ties with the Macau bank — has been criticized by China and left North Korea sending mixed signals.

At one follow-up meeting Saturday, another North Korean diplomat, Kim Song Gi, said North Korea has “begun preparations to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility,” South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo told reporters afterward.

Kim promised that North Korea will submit a list of its nuclear programs and disable its nuclear facility “as soon as the right conditions are created,” Chun said, without explaining what the conditions were.

N. Korea agrees to nuclear disarmament – Focus on North Korea

I don’t like the huge energy concessions.  But this comes at the right time, IMO. 

N. Korea agrees to nuclear disarmament – Focus on North Korea – MSNBC.com
BEIJING – In exchange for fuel aid, North Korea agreed Tuesday to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually dismantle its atomic weapons program, just four months after the communist state shocked the world by testing a nuclear bomb.

Reached after talks in Beijing with five other nations, the deal marks the first concrete plan for disarmament in more than three years of negotiations. The plan also could potentially herald a new era of cooperation in the region with North Korea’s longtime foes — the United States and Japan — also agreeing to discuss normalizing relations with Pyongyang.

“Obviously we have a long way to go, but we’re very pleased with this agreement,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters. “It’s a very solid step forward.”

Accord elusive at North Korea nuclear talks

Talking about no deal is better than not talking.  Hopefully, the details of NKs demands will be made available. 

Accord elusive at North Korea nuclear talks | Top News | Reuters.com
BEIJING (Reuters) – Talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program failed to reach agreement on Sunday, stalled on Pyongyang’s demands for energy compensation and leaving one more day for negotiators to scramble for a deal.

Envoys from North and South Korea, the United States, Russia, Japan and host China have agreed on most of a plan that would oblige Pyongyang to close nuclear facilities in return for economic and security assurances.

But the initially promising session has faltered over North Korea’s demand for a huge infusion of energy aid, which has left other countries suspicious that Pyongyang may then be unwilling to fully scrap its nuclear arms capabilities.

“We’re not looking to provide energy assistance so that they could avoid taking the further steps on denuclearization,” the chief U.S. envoy, Christopher Hill, told reporters late on Sunday. “I think we have a real problem if we can’t reach an agreement on this.”Negotiators will now have Monday to seek a deal. None sounded hopeful.

New Developments with North Korea

I’ll reserve comment for now…hopefully, more details will be available tomorrow.

BEIJING (Reuters) – Six-party talks on the fate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program resume in Beijing on Thursday with the U.S. envoy denying a report of a prior deal but holding out hopes Pyongyang will offer steps to disarm.

Negotiators from the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China will gather at a secluded compound in western Beijing to discuss how to nudge forward a 2005 statement offering North Korea economic and security concessions in return for abandoning nuclear weapons ambitions.

Top U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and Washington officials dismissed a report in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun that North Korea and the United States had signed a memorandum in Berlin last month in which Pyongyang agreed to freeze its Yongbyon nuclear reactor in exchange for aid.

Joe Dresnok: An American In North Korea

(CBS) Joe Dresnok could be the ultimate runaway. Growing up an orphan in Virginia, he kept running away from abusive foster homes. Then, as a soldier serving on the DMZ between North and South Korea, Dresnok did the unthinkable: in 1962, he ran through a minefield and defected into North Korea, where his unthinkable act led to an unimaginable life.

As Bob Simon reports, Dresnok has had for 44 years a mysterious isolated existence in that mysterious isolated country. No one outside North Korea has heard from Dresnok – until now.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/25/60minutes/main2398580.shtml

U.S. missile defense maturing, latest test a success.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Within a year, the U.S. missile defense system should be able to guard against enemy attacks, while testing new technologies, the deputy director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Monday.

The United States activated the ground-based system last summer when North Korea launched one long-range and six short-range missiles.

North Korea’s intercontinental Taepodong 2 missile fell into the Sea of Japan shortly after launch but the short-range tests appeared successful, said Brig. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

O’Reilly said there would be no formal announcement that the system was operational. He predicted the capability to defend against enemy missiles and to continue testing and development work would be achieved within a year.

“It’s just a matter of maturation,” he told reporters after a speech hosted by the George C. Marshall Institute, a public policy group.

O’Reilly said work by North Korea and Iran on long-range ballistic missiles underscored the need for a viable U.S. missile defense system.

The war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants last summer also highlighted the dangers of ballistic missiles and their use by non-state actors, he said. “We know we must be prepared for all contingencies.”