N.Korea agrees to restart UN nuclear inspections: RichardsonSeoul (AFP) Dec 20, 2010 - North Korea has agreed to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors as part of a package of measures to ease acute tensions on the peninsula, US troubleshooter Bill Richardson said Monday. In a statement issued as he visited Pyongyang, Richardson said North Korean leaders also agreed to negotiate the sale of nuclear fuel rods to a third party, "such as South Korea", and to discuss a military commission and hotline. Richardson, a former US ambassador to the UN, said also he was "very encouraged" that North Korea's military had forsaken retaliation after South Korean forces held a live-fire artillery drill on a flashpoint border island.
"During my meetings in Pyongyang, I repeatedly pressed North Korea not to retaliate," the New Mexico governor said. "The result is that South Korea was able to flex its muscles, and North Korea reacted in a statesmanlike manner. I hope this will signal a new chapter and a round of dialogue to lessen tension on the Korean peninsula," he said. Confirming a CNN report, Richardson's statement said Pyongyang had agreed to allow the return of inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
North Korea in April 2009 pulled out of six-nation nuclear disarmament talks and ordered US and IAEA nuclear inspectors out of the country, after the UN Security Council condemned Pyongyang for an April 5 rocket launch. It staged its second nuclear test a month later. Tensions have soared anew since a North Korean artillery attack last month on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, which killed four people including civilians and damaged dozens of homes. In addition, the North's disclosure last month of a new uranium enrichment plant on top of its longstanding plutonium operation has sparked fears of a potential new source of bomb-making material. Richardson said the North Koreans would allow "IAEA monitors access to North Korea's uranium enrichment facility".
They were also prepared to negotiate "a deal for a third party, such as South Korea, to buy fresh-fuel rods from North Korea". They would discuss the military commission, grouping representatives from the two Koreas plus the United States, "to monitor and prevent conflicts in the disputed areas of the West (Yellow) Sea". And they were ready to create "a hotline between the North Korean and South Korean militaries to avert potential crises", Richardson's statement said. In Pyongyang over the weekend, Richardson met top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan and Major General Pak Rim-Su, who leads North Korean forces along the tense border with the South. Richardson was due to brief reporters in Beijing on Tuesday, after his flight out of Pyongyang was cancelled on Monday owing to bad weather.
Beijing (AFP) Dec 20, 2010 China on Monday called for "maximum restraint" on the Korean peninsula, saying no one had a right to "preach or promote conflict" after South Korea staged a live-fire drill on a border island. Beijing, North Korea's main ally, had earlier warned that any bloodshed on the Korean peninsula would be a "national tragedy", as tensions soared in the build-up to Monday's drill on the island bombarded by Pyongyang last month.
"China always maintains that peace and stability must be maintained on the peninsula. This is a goal we have been working very hard to achieve all along," Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told reporters.
"No one has any right to preach or promote conflict or war, and no one has any right to cause bloodshed between the peoples in the north and south of the peninsula," he said when asked to comment on the drill carried out by Seoul.
In his comments, delivered at a press conference following a meeting with Australian officials on human rights issues, Cui neither directly criticised the South nor warned Beijing's ally Pyongyang against retaliation.
The Chinese official said dialogue was the only way forward to resolve the crisis sparked by the North's November 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong island, which left four people dead including two civilians.
"In recent weeks and months, we have had quite intensive diplomacy with the relevant parties related to the Korean peninsula," Cui said.
"Whatever the differences and disputes relevant parties may have, they can only be addressed through dialogue and negotiation rather than by conflict or war."
In a subsequent statement, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu called on all parties concerned to exercise "maximum restraint" and take a "responsible attitude" in order to keep the situation from escalating further.
US troubleshooter Bill Richardson, who was wrapping up a to Pyongyang as the drill was carried out, has described the situation on the peninsula as a "tinderbox" and urged North Korea to show "maximum restraint" over the drill.
In New York, China made a "strong appeal" at the United Nations for restraint by the two Koreas and vowed to make new efforts to ease the military tensions.
"We strongly appeal relevant parties to exercise maximum restraint, act in a responsible manner and avoid increase of tensions," China's deputy ambassador Wang Min said in a rare public statement at the UN.
"China has spared no efforts to engage both sides of the peninsula," Wang added, highlighting recent ministerial contacts with North and South Korea.
"China strongly urges both sides of the peninsula to keep calm and restraint, solve issues through peaceful dialogue and engagement. China will continue to make our efforts toward this end," he said.
China blocked efforts at the UN Security Council to agree a statement on the Korea crisis and Russia warned that the international community was now left without "a game plan" to counter escalating tensions.