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The talks will be dominated by the fate of 8,000 uranium fuel rods, which are sitting in cooling ponds, after being withdrawn two months ago from the nuclear reactor in Yongybon, 60 miles north of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£14616 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading specialist in Electronic Ci...

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003