Is Hill Getting Frustrated?
U.S. Nuclear Envoy Christopher Hill arrived in Seoul to meet with his South Korean counterpart, as well as with members of Lee Myung Bak’s administration. Upon his arrival, Hill told reporters:
”Time is an important factor because if we’re going to try to get this thing done in ’08, we really do need to pick up the pace…We cannot get on to the Phase Three elements until we complete Phase Two. And obviously it’s going to be difficult because we still don’t have a declaration (via Chosun Ilbo).”
Yesterday, Hill met with North Korea’s Kim Gye Gwan for the first time since the expiration of the end-of-2007 deadline to complete Phase Two of the February 13 agreement. No breakthroughs or new developments were brought to light. Hill, while on the surface remaining positive and upbeat about the future of the denuclearization process, acknowledged the difficult tasks that remain and for the first time, hinted that the status of the talks is not quite as hunky-dory as he might want us to believe. Among his telltale remarks were:
“We cannot pretend activities don’t exist when we know the activities have existed (via Reuters).”
And this one:
Hill described the nuclear talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States as being in a rough patch but said that they had not reached a dead end.
And he quoted Kim as saying North Korea was committed to making progress in the nuclear deal.
“Mr. Kim Kye-gwan was very careful not to describe this as any kind of stalemate,” he said (via Reuters).
The North still insists it has no uranium enrichment program; the US insist it does, basing its case on the following line of reasoning:
Washington points to Pyongyang’s purchase of thousands of aluminium tubes as evidence of a possible secret enrichment programme.
In December the Washington Post reported that the North had recently supplied smelted aluminium tubing to US scientists for testing.
The paper said minute traces of enriched uranium had been detected on the tubing, although these could have come from contamination from other equipment. (Via AFP)
That’s not exactly an open-and-shut case, but it was reported that Hill did give the North something of an out:
As the North Koreans “take steps to show us that they are not using the equipment for uranium enrichment, those will be considered positive steps,” the US envoy added. (via AFP)
Xinhua is reporting that Hill will travel to Japan on Wednesday.