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North Korea situation grave, says Seoul

SEOUL: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and United States President Donald Trump agreed during a phone conversation to maintain dialogue with the nuclear-armed North, Seoul said Saturday, with the two allies noting the situation had become “grave.”

Denuclearization negotiations have been at a standstill since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February and pressure is rising as an end-of-year deadline to offer concessions, set by Pyongyang for Washington, approaches.

The 30-minute talk was the first conversation between the US President and the South Korean leader since they met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

“The two leaders shared an assessment that the current situation on the Korean peninsula is grave,” said Ko Min-jung, the spokesman of the South’s presidential office.

“They agreed momentum for dialogue to achieve prompt results from denuclearisation negotiations should be continued,” she went on to say, adding that Trump had requested the call.

The discussion came after a week in which exchanges between Trump and North Korea raised the prospect of a return to a war of words, culminating in Pyongyang’s threats to resume referring to the US president as a “dotard” and to take military action if the US military moves against it.

The South Korean leader was instrumental in brokering the landmark summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore last year which produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearization.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program dates back to the 1980s.

Focusing on practical uses of nuclear energy and the completion of a nuclear weapon development system, North Korea began to operate facilities for uranium fabrication and conversion, and conducted high-explosive detonation tests.

In 1985 North Korea ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but did not include the required safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until 1992.

In early 1993, while verifying North Korea’s initial declaration, the IAEA concluded that there was strong evidence this declaration was incomplete. When North Korea refused the requested special inspection, the IAEA reported its noncompliance to the UN Security Council.

In 1993, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, but suspended that withdrawal before it took effect.

Under the 1994 Agreed Framework, the US government agreed to facilitate the supply of two light water reactors to North Korea in exchange for North Korean disarmament.

Such reactors are considered “more proliferation-resistant than North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors,” but not “proliferation proof.’’

The Agreed Framework was undermined by a Republican Congress during Clinton’s presidency, as Congress denounced the agreement and North Korea, imposed new sanctions on North Korea, and hindered the Clinton administration from providing the supplies to North Korea that were part of the Agreed Framework. AFP

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