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N. Korea urges restart of nuclear talks ‘without preconditions’

N. Korea urges restart of nuclear talks ‘without preconditions’
North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy has called on six nations involved in the stalled talks on the country’s nuclear program to restart negotiations without any preconditions.

“We are ready to enter the six-party talks without preconditions,” North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister, Kim Kye-gwam, said at a forum organized by China’s foreign ministry in Beijing, as quoted by Sotuh Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Kim claimed the “preconditions” set by the US and South Korea “are in violation of the spirit of the September 19 Joint Statement,” a reference to the agreement reached in 2005 under which Pyongyang pledged to drop its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a promise from the US that Americans would not attack or invade North Korea. 

He was speaking at a one-day event organized by the Chinese government, which hopes to reignite the six-party channel. The forum, involving both Koreas, China, the US, Japan, and Russia, has been dormant since 2008. 

This comes as new satellite imagery surfaced earlier this week which seemed to show steam coming from a newly rebuilt nuclear reactor in North Korea. First reported by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, it could indicate that the solitary nation is making good on its promise to resume the production of plutonium to fuel its small nuclear program.

David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security - a Washington-based group that monitors the North Korean program - told The New York Times that he analyzed satellite images of the complex closely. 

It implies that the reactor is restarted, but that needs to be confirmed,” Albright said. “You want to get confirmation because you never know…They can surprise you but I can’t think of any alternative explanations.”

The North has conducted three nuclear tests, including two during US President Obama. In recent weeks, though, Pyongyang seemed to be open to the possibility of returning to the negotiating table with the other five parties. The US and its allies have said they would only commence talks if the North was willing to eventually turn over or eliminate its arsenal.