Split between China, U.S. over North Korea surfaces at meeting of U.N. nuclear agency | VailDaily.com

Split between China, U.S. over North Korea surfaces at meeting of U.N. nuclear agency

VIENNA, Austria – A U.S.-Chinese split surfaced Thursday at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency over the issue of rewarding North Korea with an atomic reactor for scrapping its nuclear arms.Any resolution approved by the 139-nation IAEA General Conference has only symbolic value, because the meeting has no enforcing powers. But the dispute reflected the depth of disagreement between the two nations on how to proceed at a more important level – future talks among North Korea, China, the United States and three other nations meant to build on Pyongyang’s commitment to mothball its nuclear weapons and return to the nonproliferation fold.Confirming differences and outlining Washington’s concerns, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United State was insisting that any resolution agreed on at in Vienna would “not in any way try to change any understandings or what was agreed to at the six-party talks.”This month, delegates from North Korea, the United States, China Russia, South Korea and Japan reached a landmark accord in which North Korea pledged to abandon all its nuclear programs in exchange for economic aid and security assurances.In return, it won recognition of its desire to keep its civilian nuclear program and a pledge to discuss its demand for a light-water nuclear reactor – after it meets international safeguards and rejoins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.But just hours later, Pyongyang said it will not dismantle its nuclear facilities until it gets light-water reactors from the United States, casting a shadow on the agreement. Washington has rejected that demand.The U.S.-China dispute surfaced in private, confidential negotiations on the periphery of the conference and continued into Thursday evening.Matthew Boland, spokesman for the U.S. diplomatic mission dealing with the IAEA, said only that “discussions on this resolution are ongoing.” A European diplomat – who requested anonymity in exchange for discussing the confidential details of the dispute – said “we’re either going to fail or we’re very close to getting a resolution.”He and others said China was acting on behalf of North Korea in wanting mention of a light-water nuclear reactor and other commitments made to the North in any resolution.The European diplomat said the Americans wanted to minimize mention of the reactor and other rewards in mention of official texts, “whether here or in a (U.N) Security Council resolution … because once you start saying it you end up with a catalog of references.”The Americans were particularly worried about the promise of a light-water reactor because it is less easily diverted to weapons use than other models but can still be harnessed for such aims, said the diplomats. Instead, they wanted any resolution to focus on North Korea’s commitment to ending its nuclear confrontation with America.China is Pyongyang’s last major ally and its chief source of food and other assistance, and its influence over the reclusive Stalinist regime remains pivotal.Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi will visit North Korea next week, China’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday, amid the ongoing international push to convince the reclusive regime to give up nuclear weapons development.Since North Korea quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003, the annual IAEA general conferences have routinely adopted resolutions calling on it to reverse its decision and recommit to nonproliferation.Vail, Colorado

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