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US serious about denuke talks with North Korea: IAEA Chief

Rafael Grossi & Yukiya Amano (IAEA Imagebank/Flickr)

During his two-day visit to the US for the first time since taking office two months ago, the UN nuclear watchdog chief said his agency will undertake a reliable, independent verification process once Washington and Pyongyang reach a disarmament deal.

But he added the verification process will not be easy, given North Korea’s expanded nuclear arsenal since 2009, when it expelled four IAEA inspectors upon the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution denouncing Pyongyang’s rocket launches.

“North Korea is a nuclear weapons state, illegally, and we don’t legally recognize that,” Grossi said.

The IAEA chief said the UN Security Council will have to sanction a revision to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make that happen, but it seems highly unlikely.

North Korea joined the IAEA in 1974 and signed the NPT in 1985, but it dropped out of the watchdog in 1994 and withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

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Washington and Pyongyang hit an impasse in nuclear talks after their latest bilateral meetings fell apart in Stockholm last October.

Pyongyang has insisted the talks will resume if Washington meets all of its demands, since January when Kim Jong-un announced he would unveil a “new strategic weapon” in the face of what the communist state denounced as US “hostile policy.”

President Donald Trump’s top officials have expressed optimism that the US could reopen the talks with North Korea, and said it has reached out to the communist state “through various channels” to restart the negotiations.

“We’re hoping that the North Koreans will implement the (denuclearization) commitment that their leader made to not just President Trump but to the world,” US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday while addressing foreign ambassadors in Washington, DC.

He said the US will continue its work of diplomacy even though Chairman Kim has yet to deliver on his promise of denuclearization.

He described China’s help as essential in bringing about that change, saying “The Chinese have to enforce the sanctions against North Korea.”

“We need the Chinese to assist us as we pressure the North Koreans to come to the table,” he added. “We don’t take any notice of the domestic political calendar. We just try and get wins for the American people.”

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