Seoul grinds its teeth as Pyongyang rides high

With less than two months remaining before an agreement to neutralise North Korea's nuclear threat comes into effect, the South Korean Prime Minister warned yesterday that the deal would collapse if Pyongyang continued to reject replacement reactors from his country.

North Korea, meanwhile, was blithely detailing plans to invite the greatest number of foreign visitors in its history to a festival of sport and culture scheduled to start a week after the 21 April nuclear deadline. An organiser said in Peking that foreigners would even be allowed to stay with local families, an unheard-of concession in one of the world's most closed societies.

Last autumn. North Korea agreed with the United States to scrap its existing reactors, which produce large quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, in exchange for more modern light-water technology. Under the terms outlined in October, a contract should be signed by 21 April, but most of the practical details remain in dispute. Seoul's nervousness over the negotiations between its closest ally and its most bitter rival was allayed only by US insistence that South Korea would supply the replacement reactors, and that the North would have to agree to dialogue with the South.

Since then, however, Pyongyang has refused to negotiate - its latest ploy has been to demand an apology from the South Korean president, Kim Young Sam, for his failure to express sorrow at the death of the North's leader, Kim Il Sung, last July - and is insisting it will not accept reactors from the South.

Lee Hong Koo, the South Korean Prime Minister, issued his warning as Winston Lord, a senior American official, arrived in Seoul for three days of talks about the impasse. Sources in Washington have hinted that South Korea may be asked to agree to a face-saving formula, such as bringing in an American company to lend its name to the project, but the South Koreans, who are meeting 70 per cent of the $4bn (£2.6bn) cost, argue that their pride is also at stake. "We don't have any alternative - politically, financially or technically," one official said.

Seoul is likely to have to give in - an outcome implicit in Mr Lee's comment yesterday that South Korea would take a quiet approach. He said the South had no plans for annual military exercises with the US, codenamed Team Spirit, always denounced by the North as a preparation for war. The exercises were last held in 1992.

While the South grinds its teeth, North Korea is revelling in what it sees as success in forging a partnership with the US and previously hostile countries. According to a tour organiser, it expects 20,000 visitors for the festival, the biggest influx since the country was founded in 1948. South Korean passport holders will not be welcome, but visa requirements for others are being relaxed, especially for Americans and Japanese.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory