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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness