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S. Korea to press N. Korea to honor 1992 denuclearization pact: official

All Headlines 16:49 January 31, 2011

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to press North Korea to abide by their 1992 denuclearization pact that bans the two sides from having facilities used to enrich uranium, a senior official here said Monday, as they prepare to hold their first defense talks in months.

The agreement prohibits the two Koreas from making, introducing or stockpiling nuclear weapons. It specifically bans the Koreas from building reprocessing or highly enriched uranium (HEU) facilities.

North Korea announced last year it was operating a modern facility to perform low-level enrichment of uranium for peaceful energy use. Uranium, if highly enriched, can be used to create arms.

U.S. and South Korean officials have dismissed the North Korean announcement as a thinly veiled effort to have a second track to building nuclear bombs in addition to its plutonium-based one.

Citing the 1992 agreement that bans uranium enrichment plants, a senior South Korean Unification Ministry official said Monday the North should "display determination and actions that show that it will substantially follow through with the denuclearization pledge."

His comments indicate the grounds on which Seoul will press Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arms when they resume their talks later this year. Inter-Korean dialogue had come to a halt after a multinational investigation found Pyongyang responsible for sinking a South Korean warship in March and the North bombarded a South Korean island in November last year.

The planned defense talks, which the North proposed first earlier this month as part of its renewed peace offensive, are seen as a crucial step toward resuming stalled six-nation denuclearization talks.

The talks, which group the Koreas, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan, have not been held since late 2008. Since then, North Korea has conducted its second nuclear test and conducted a rocket launch considered as an effort to advance its arms delivery capabilities.

A 2005 six-party agreement specifies that the Koreas observe and implement their 1992 joint declaration, while leaving room for the North to have "the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

"None of the two can replace the other," the South Korean official said, referring to the landmark deals and calling them the most effective avenues to removing the threat of nuclear war on the peninsula.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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