Fears grow over bombs as N Korea talks restart

THE United States will resume nuclear talks with North Korea in Geneva today, while radioactive fuel rods, which could make five nuclear weapons, remain off- bounds to international inspectors in the Communist country. It is four weeks since the sudden death of Kim Il Sung disrupted the last talks, and anxiety is mounting in Washington that North Korea's nuclear programme might become uncontainable.

The talks will be dominated by the fate of 8,000 uranium fuel rods, which are sitting in cooling ponds, after being withdrawn two months ago from the nuclear reactor in Yongybon, 60 miles north of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. The spent fuel rods could be reprocessed to yield sufficient plutonium for five or six nuclear bombs, according to US estimates.

North Korea has said that it will neither reprocess the used rods, nor will it put new rods into the reactor, while talks with the US are going on. The unspoken corollary is that if Washington does not offer sufficient economic and diplomatic enticements during the talks, Pyongyang can always revert to its nuclear programme.

The US negotiator, Robert Gallucci, is upbeat in public about the chances of a breakthrough in the talks, apparently hoping that the departure of the old Socialist ideologue, Kim Il Sung, will make the North Koreans more amenable to suggestions of economic development, in exchange for abandoning their nuclear ambitions. In recent days, he has even criticised the South Korean government for provoking North Korea, by staging a press conference with a North Korean defector who claimed Pyongyang already had five nuclear bombs. 'It does not seem to me that it added clarity and warmth to the dialogue,' Mr Gallucci said .

But, despite Pyongyang's avowed commitment to the success of the talks, the Communist state has yet to prove by its actions that it is committed to giving up its single remaining bargaining tool in its test of wills with the US and South Korea. In the last two years Pyongyang has gained most when it was most intransigent, since Washington and Seoul have understandably wanted to avoid a breakdown of talks that could ultimately lead to war.

Although two inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are still in North Korea and are apparently confident that the 8,000 rods have not been removed from the cooling ponds, they have not been able to determine what state the rods are in. North Korea has said something must be done with the rods by the end of August, before they start corroding and become dangerous to handle. The US would like the rods to be shipped out of North Korea entirely and put into long- term storage elsewhere.

The US would then help North Korea to build a light- water reactor, which is safer than North Korea's graphite reactor. But Mr Gallucci, who has finished a tour of Japan, South Korea, China and Russia to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue, has been unable to persuade anyone to accept the rods.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried