South Korea has rebuffed a North Korean suggestion that multilateral denuclearization talks should resume without preconditions, including on the North’s uranium-enrichment program. South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters March 17 that Pyongyang’s offer for renewed talks “is far short of what is needed,” calling on North Korea instead to “show with action, not words, its sincerity about its commitment” to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.
In 2005, North Korea agreed to abandon all nuclear activities as part of six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.
A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry quoted in the official Korean Central News Agency March 15 said that North Korea expressed its willingness to return to the six-party talks to visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and was “not opposed” to discussing its uranium-enrichment activities, including accepting international inspections of an enrichment facility it revealed last year.
For several years, Pyongyang denied pursuing an enrichment capability. The issue was central to the collapse of a 1994 U.S.-North Korean denuclearization agreement in 2002.
The United States and its allies in the region have maintained that prior to restarting negotiations, North Korea must demonstrate its commitment to uphold previous denuclearization agreements and improve relations with South Korea.
North-South relations have remained tense since two incidents last year involving a suspected North Korean attack on a South Korean naval vessel and North Korean artillery strikes against its southern neighbor.