U.S. and North Korea envoys think key row cleared: sources
By Teruaki Ueno
TOKYO (Reuters) - Negotiators from the United States and North Korea believe they have settled a thorny dispute over Washington's allegations that Pyongyang had a program to enrich uranium for weapons and proliferated nuclear technology to Syria, diplomatic sources in Tokyo said on Wednesday.
Under the face-saving deal reached by U.S. and North Korean envoys in Singapore last week, Washington would state in a document its concerns about North Korea's suspected uranium enrichment program and transfer of nuclear technology and material to Syria, a diplomatic source said.
In the same document, North Korea would "acknowledge" the U.S. assertions, the source told Reuters.
"The negotiators concerned think that the issue over uranium and Syria has been settled," a Japanese government source said. "It is hard for North Korea to admit (the U.S. assertions)," a Japanese government source said.
The deal was reached when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill held talks with North Korea's Kim Kye-gwan in Singapore on April 8, the sources said.
The first diplomatic source said it remained unclear whether top officials of the two governments would accept the compromise deal.
Uranium enrichment could provide North Korea with a second way to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons in addition to its plutonium-based program, which it used to test an atomic device in October 2006.
The Japanese government source said a huge gap remained over details of North Korea's declaration of its plutonium-based nuclear arms program, stalling six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Six-party talks involve the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.
Washington has said a major sticking point in talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs is the need for Pyongyang to deliver a "complete and correct" declaration of its programs as called for in a February 2007 six-party nuclear deal. That account was due at the end of last year.
If the North makes the declaration, it stands to be removed from a U.S. terrorism blacklist and be better able to tap into finance that could boost its economy.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday that the United States would have to verify whatever North Korea discloses about its nuclear programs but Washington was not yet at a point where it could do so.
Rice said the United States was "still in the process of trying to determine if the North Koreans are going to fulfill their obligations" under the six-party process.