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wednesday february 4, 2004

I. United States


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I. United States

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1. DPRK Multilateral Talks

New York Times (Christopher Marquis and Norimitsu Onish, "NORTH KOREA AGREES TO RESUME TALKS WITH US OVER ARMS," Washington, 02/04/04) and Washington Post (Anthony Faiola, "N. KOREA AND US HAVE PLENTY TO DISCUSS; DIFFERENCES ARE WIDE BEFORE NUCLEAR TALKS," Tokyo, 02/04/03) reported that a fresh round of six-nation talks addressing the DPRK's nuclear weapons program was agreed to despite the fact that the two key players -- the US and the DPRK -- still hold widely divergent positions, officials close to the negotiations said Tuesday, as they sought to lower expectations for a quick breakthrough in the standoff. After weeks of intensive diplomatic efforts, the DPRK announced earlier in the day that it would return to Beijing for a new round of talks starting February 25. In Washington, where the DPRK crisis has often split the Bush administration, officials said key issues needed to be resolved, both internally and with allies, before the talks. Among the questions are how to define a freeze, whether it will include the highly enriched uranium program that US intelligence says exists in the DPRK and what level of verification will be required. Attempts to bridge the differences between the US and the DPRK have met with little success, according to diplomats from three of the nations involved. Now, the parties appear to be shooting for a more modest goal of simply advancing the dialogue. "We're not bringing any agendas," said Lee Soo Hyuck, South Korea's deputy foreign minister. "The agenda is resolving the DPRK nuclear issue. It may be difficult to hold big expectations for a breakthrough from the talks, but the position of each party would become clearer." Russia's deputy foreign minister, Alexander Losyukov, echoed those sentiments. "The difference of stances between Washington and Pyongyang is very great," he told the Russian Tass news agency, saying that what is required is "not a breakthrough, but an understanding in what direction to develop the negotiating process."

Los Angeles Times (Barbara Demick, "N. KOREAN MOVE SPURS HOPES ON NUCLEAR ISSUE; AGREEMENT ON TALKS MAY INDICATE A HIGH-LEVEL DECISION TO DISMANTLE WEAPONS PROGRAM," Tokyo, 02/04/04) reported that the abrupt decision by the DPRK to return to the negotiating table has raised some hopes that the regime of Kim Jong Il has made a high-level decision to dismantle its nuclear program. "We hope the talks will be successful," US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Washington when asked about the announcement, which was confirmed by the ROK and the PRC. "This time we are expecting some progress," said a ROK diplomat familiar with negotiations. "North Korea is more open now to the American demand of a complete and verifiable dismantling." The diplomat, who asked not to be quoted by name, said the North Koreans have been chastened by Libya's agreement in December to dismantle its weapons program and by the current investigation into top Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who allegedly provided the DPRK and other nations with key nuclear technology. The diplomat said the North Koreans are also anxious to reach an agreement before the US presidential election, fearing that a second Bush administration would take a tougher line. Negotiations have continued furiously behind the scenes, with concessions made on both sides since August. President Bush has said he would offer the DPRK a letter of assurance that the US is not planning an invasion. The North Koreans, meanwhile, have dropped the demand that their conditions be met before talks begin. "The North Koreans are getting weaker. They can't stand it any longer. They feel they have to make a deal," said Toshio Miyatsuka, a Japanese expert on North Korea at Yamanashi Gakuin University.

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2. DPRK Nuclear Talks Demands

The Associated Press (Soo-Jeong Lee, "NORTH KOREA PREPARES FOR NUCLEAR TALKS," Seoul, 02/04/04) reported that the DPRK on Wednesday demanded compensation from the US for freezing its nuclear weapons programs as a first step in resolving a 15-month standoff, as preparations began for key nuclear talks later this month. The comments came during high-level talks in Seoul between the DPRK and ROK officials. "The US has not at all changed its demand that we first give up our nuclear programs," the North's chief negotiator Kim Ryong Song said, according to pool reports. "What is important is resolving the issue through our proposal of simultaneous action." A ROK delegate at the Cabinet-level inter-Korean talks in Seoul said the DPRK's offers didn't go far enough and asked the DPRK to be more flexible. "We urged North Korea to take a more progressive position on the dismantlement of the nuclear programs in general because it will be difficult to resolve the nuclear issue in the near future just with North Korea's offer of a freeze in exchange for compensation," delegate Shin Eon-sang said during a break in the meetings.

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3. PRC on DPRK-US Consensus

Kyodo ("CHINA SAYS 'CONSENSUS' REACHED AHEAD OF N. KOREA NUKE TALKS," Beijing, 02/04/04) reported that the PRC said Wednesday an unspecified 'initial consensus' has already been reached among the parties that will participate in a second round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons later this month. In a group interview with Chinese media, Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo anticipated 'some new consensus' on the direction for the Korean Peninsula and said a document could emerge from the talks. The PRC announced Tuesday that the talks, which were last held in August in Beijing, would resume February 25 in Beijing. "It can be said every side hopes to use a joint document to put into writing the consensus reached at the talks," Dai said. "We've at this point carried out consultations and formed an initial consensus. What kind of document we can issue when the talks end still depends on the progress of the talks and the results of every side's consultations," he said. "It's just our wish, we hope there can be a good joint document."

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4. Inter-Korean Ministerial Talks

Kyodo News ("KOREA URGES US TO COMPENSATE FOR FREEZING NUKE PROGRAM," Seoul, 02/04/04) reported that the DPRK's chief delegate to inter-Korean ministerial talks that formally began Wednesday in Seoul urged the US to offer compensation in return for the DPRK's freezing its nuclear development program. "We (North Korea) want the US to take compensatory steps corresponding to our freezing (of the nuclear program) and these fundamental issues should be settled at six-party talks," Kim Ryong Song, a senior cabinet councilor, said before a full session of the 13th inter-Korean ministerial talks in a Seoul hotel. Kim was responding to earlier remarks by ROK Unification Minister Jeong Se Hyun, head of the ROK team, that the settlement of the nuclear issue would help speed up inter-Korean cooperation. In the 110-minute full session that started from 10 a.m., Jeong called on the DPRK to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, said Shin Eon Sang, a member of the ROK delegation and the spokesman for the ROK side. "The North must take more concrete actions for the resolution of the nuclear issue," Jeong was quoted as saying in his keynote speech. Asked about what Jeong meant by "concrete actions," Shin said the ROK wants the DPRK to dismantle its nuclear program rather than just freeze it. Other topics expected to be taken up at the inter-Korean talks, which end Friday, include reconnecting cross-border railways and roads, establishing an industrial complex in the North, revitalizing a tourism project at the DPRK's Mt. Kumgang and arranging the ninth round of temporary reunions of separated family members, according to media reports.

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5. Japan-DPRK Bilateral Talks

Jiji Press Ticker ("JAPAN TO SEEK BILATERAL TALKS WITH N. KOREA," Tokyo, 02/04/04) reported that Japan will seek separate talks with the DPRK to resolve their row over the reclusive country's kidnapping of Japanese citizens at the coming multiparty meeting, Japanese officials said Tuesday. On the six-nation meeting on DPRK nuclear issues, seen to open on Feb. 25 probably for a three-day run, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he hopes it will be a major step for the DPRK to be accepted in the international community. Koizumi expressed his expectations of progress in nuclear weapons and abduction issues at the meeting comprising the US, the PRC, Russia, the ROK, Japan and the DPRK. Japan will explain to the US and the ROK its plan to seek a separate bilateral meeting with Pyongyang at a planned gathering of senior government officials from Japan, the US and South Korea slated for mid-February. On the DPRK's abductions, Japan already called for a bilateral dialogue when it sent Foreign Ministry officials in Pyongyang last month. But the DPRK has given no response. Japan will repeat its call at the planned six-way meeting to urge the DPRK to have bilateral talks on the sidelines of the multiparty meeting.

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6. US Role in DPRK Multilateral Talks

Agence France-Presse ("STATE DEPARTMENT'S KELLY TO LEAD NORTH KOREA TALKS TEAM," Washington, 02/04/04) reported that the State Department's top Asia hand James Kelly will lead the US delegation to six-nation DPRK crisis talks in Beijing this month, officials said. Kelly's appointment as delegation leader was expected, and had been previewed by officials speaking privately on Tuesday, after North Korea announced that the talks would open on February 25. "Assistant Secretary Kelly will lead our delegation at the six-party talks," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. As assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Kelly has played a lead role in weeks of diplomacy led by China aimed at convening a second round of nuclear crisis talks. Kelly headed the US team to the last set of six-way talks, in August, also involving the PRC, Russia, Japan, the ROK, and the DPRK which ended in stalemate.

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7. PRC-Taiwan Relations

Agence France-Presse ("CHINA EXPERTS REBUKE TAIWAN PEACE OFFER AS 'HOAX,'" 02/04/04) reported that PRC experts have shot down Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's offer to hold talks to avoid a military confrontation, calling his overtures "a hoax aimed at wooing votes". "All of Chen's proposals are full of hackneyed and stereotyped expressions, but lack the least amount of sincerity," said Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher at the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Chen made the offer Tuesday in a bid to dampen cross-strait tensions ahead of Taiwan's presidential elections in March. He suggested that the two sides swap representatives and liaison offices, forge closer political ties, set up demilitarized zones and organize exchange visits between members of the rival military forces. Li, quoted in the state-run China Daily, said Chen had based his proposals on the mistaken precondition of one country on either side of the Taiwan Strait that would be never be acceptable to Beijing. "Can you expect Beijing to talk about how to split Taiwan from China with the Taiwan authorities?," he said. Another analyst, Xu Bodong, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijing Union University, was quoted as saying said Chen's move was nothing more than a bid to woo votes. "Chen's overture is nothing but an election gambit aimed at covering up his pro-independence conspiracy and winning votes in the elections," he said.

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8. PRC-Algeria Oil Agreement

Agence France-Presse ("ALGERIA, CHINA DEEPEN COOPERATION WITH OIL AND GAS AGREEMENT," 02/05/04) reported that Algeria and the PRC signed several cooperation pacts during a two-day visit by PRC President Hu Jintao, including an agreement on oil and gas. On Wednesday, Hu left the north African country, on a trip focussing on raw materials in exchange for Chinese manufactured goods which also took in Egypt and Gabon. A framework energy agreement, along with accords on research and educational exchanges, and economic and technological cooperation, was signed Tuesday. Officials said the agreement was aimed at developing bilateral trade in the oil and gas sector. The PRC also granted Algeria a "preferential loan" worth 48 million dollars (38 million euros) linked to a memorandum of understanding on economic cooperation. Runaway growth in the PRC has seen the country's demand for oil surge, with domestic production unable to keep pace, and Algeria is seeking to expand its markets for oil and gas exports to fuel its economy.

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9. ROK Military Aircraft Purchases

The Associated Press ("SOUTH KOREA TO BUY FOUR EARLY WARNING AIRCRAFT BY 2011," Seoul, 02/04/04) reported that the ROK will buy four military radar jets for 2 trillion won (US$1=KRW1,167.8) by 2011 to increase air surveillance over the Korean Peninsula, officials said Wednesday. Seoul has been looking into purchasing an airborne observation system since the mid-1990s. Potential bidders include France's A320-200 system, Israel's IL-76 and G-550 systems and US plane maker Boeing Co.'s (BA) AWACS B737-700, defense ministry officials said. An official said US manufacturers won't be favored in the selection process, even though the ROK currently depends heavily on the US military for air surveillance. Most of the ROK's fighter jets and other high-tech military gear are from the US. "We won't reflect the South Korea-US combined operational capabilities, which had been an important factor in our (air force jet) projects," a spokesman quoted Won Jang-hwan, the Defense Ministry's chief arms procurement official, as saying. "We are pushing this program to have our own airborne early warning and control capabilities over the whole Korean Peninsula," Won was quoted as saying. "Capacity and economic efficiency" were two key guidelines in selecting a foreign contractor that will build the new aircraft, he reportedly said. The ministry said the bidding process will begin in March, with a decision in November.

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10. ROK Mayor Corruption Suicide

Agence France-Presse ("GRAFT-TAINTED MAYOR OF ROK CITY COMMITS SUICIDE IN JAIL," 02/04/04) reported that the mayor of the ROK' city of Busan has hung himself in jail while awaiting the verdict of his trial on corruption charges, officials said. The Justice Ministry said Ahn Sang-Young, 64, of the main opposition Grand National Party, was found dead early Wednesday in the Busan Detention House in the southern port city. The mayor was detained in October last year on charges of taking 100 million won (85,600 dollars) in bribes from a construction company. The trial verdict was expected next week. Prison guards said Ahn had torn his undershirt into strips to make a cord which he used as a noose. The death came six days after prosecutors questioned the mayor over a separate charge he took 300 million won (256,400 dollars) from a businessman and former Korea Olympic Committee member who was charged two months ago for bribing South Korea's sports czar Kim Un-Yong. Kim, vice president of the International Olympic Committee, was jailed last week awaiting trial on charges including bribery and embezzlement.

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11. Canada-DPRK Relations

Agence France-Presse ("CANADA TURNS DOWN ASYLUM PLEA OF NORTH KOREA DIPLOMAT," Montreal, 02/04/04) reported that Canada has refused asylum to a former DPRK diplomat, despite conceding he could be executed if returned to the gulags of the DPRK, a report said. Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) said the man, Song Dae Ri, did not deserve Canadian protection because as a former DPRK official he was tainted by the regime's crimes against humanity, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported. The board ruled however that Song's six-year-old son was eligible for refugee status in Canada because as the offspring of a dissident he would face persecution if sent back to the DPRK. Song's wife went home to the DPRK in April 2002 under pressure from her parents before she had a chance to claim refugee status and was executed as a defector. The report could not be immediately confirmed by the refugee board, which does not comment on individual asylum cases.

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Shanghai, People's Republic of China

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