The United States said Tuesday it has no intention of accepting North Korea as a nuclear state. "The bottom line is very simply that what (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un has been choosing to do is provocative, it is dangerous, reckless and the United States will not accept the DPRK (North Korea) as a nuclear state," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after talking with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Washington, D.C.
"And I reiterate again the United States will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and defend our allies, Korea and Japan. We are fully prepared and capable of doing so, and I think the DPRK understands that," Kerry said.
Regarding the soon-to-be revised bilateral Atomic Energy Agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, Kerry was hopeful. .
“I think the foreign minister shares this hope, that this (revision of the agreement) can be resolved before the visit of President Park Geun-hye,” Kerry said at a joint press conference. The meeting came ahead of Park’s visit to the U.S. early May for a summit with President Barack Obama.
Yun said the revision should be done in a “mutually beneficial, timely and forward-looking manner” without specifying any timeline. Officials here later downplayed Kerry’s remarks, saying it’s “too early to tell when the negotiations will end” and what is more important is the “contents” of the revision.
Reportedly, Park Ro-byug, South Korea’s chief negotiator, plans to visit Washington soon to consult with his U.S. counterparts. Signed in 1973, the bilateral nuclear accord will expire in 2014 and the two nations have been in talks to amend it since 2010.
Seoul is asking to revise the pact in a way which will authorize the nation to enrich uranium, which it currently imports from the U.S., and to reprocess spent fuel rods. Both actions are prohibited under the current agreement.
Officials here argue Seoul needs a more stable source of nuclear fuel following its growth in the industry. U.S. officials, however, oppose Seoul’s proposal claiming acquiring such a capability could undermine global nonproliferation efforts and what is known as the nonproliferation “golden standard.” Uranium enrichment is essential to developing nuclear arms.
Seoul showed no signs of backing down, citing its “peaceful use of nuclear energy.” “We have a long record of close cooperation on this issue, and we are committed to finding a workable, expeditious way forward,” Kerry said. He said the decades-long nuclear energy partnership between the two sides will “continue in an agreed-upon fashion.”
The two top diplomats plan to have follow-up discussions on the matter when Kerry travels to Seoul next week. A diplomatic source, however, was quoted as saying the high-level commitments made by Yun and Kerry do not necessarily mean Seoul and Washington have narrowed their differences.
“The U.S. continues to ask South Korea to lower its bar, while South Korea shows no sign of backing down in its demands,” the source was quoted as saying.