North Korea Withdraws from Arms Talks after UN Censure

Following criticism from the United Nations, the United States and Japan over a disputed rocket launch, North Korea quit negotiations on nuclear disarmament and announced plans to restart nuclear facilities after expelling UN and US nuclear inspectors from the country.

The French news agency, Agence France-Presse, has quoted North Korea’s foreign ministry as stating, “There is no need for the six-party [nuclear disarmament] talks any more…We will never again take part in such talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks.”

Tension has been escalating between North Korea and the US and Japan regarding North Korea’s rocket launching, which was first announced in February and occurred on April 5. North Korea claims to have launched “commercial satellites,” though the US and Japan contends the launch was a test of a long-range nuclear missile.

North Korea withdrew from the six-nation disarmament talks with the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia following the censure of North Korea’s April 5 rocket launching by the United Nations Security Council on April 13. The UN council unanimously agreed that the launch violated a 2006 resolution banning all missile tests by North Korea and announced plans to expand sanctions against the country.

According to the Associated Press, President Obama has praised the UN’s statement as a “clear and united message” against the “unlawful” actions of North Korea. Ambassadors from Japan and South Korea have also expressed positive responses to the UN’s statement.

However, North Korea has called the UN’s stance a “double standard” and has plans to “bolster a nuclear deterrent for self-defense, [and] guarantee for the protection of the country’s sovereignty,” according to the communist country’s ruling-party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun.

North Korea also warned South Korea against joining the Proliferation Security Initiative, a US-led plan to decrease the trade of weapons of mass destruction. Officials in the North Korean military announced that South Korea’s joining of the PSI would be viewed as a declaration of war. The military’s spokesman also made statements reminding the South Korean government of the close proximity of Seoul, the South Korean capital, to the North Korean border, suggesting the city’s vulnerability to a North Korean attack.

The United Nations has expressed optimism that the situation will be resolved through negotiation. The head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has stated that he believes the six-nation disarmament talks will be resumed.

“Maybe we will have to go through a period of confrontation, if you like, but I hope that that will be short and that the six party talks will be again resumed, and hopefully the IAEA will be able to go back and do, not just partial inspection, but full inspection in [North Korea],” ElBaradei said in a statement to the Associated Press.

As of press time, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two American journalists working for former Vice President Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV, are still being held by North Korea. The pair were arrested after allegedly crossing into North Korea territory from China while reporting on North Korean refugees.

International media right groups have been calling for the release of the journalists, and the State Department has stated that diplomatic efforts are underway. Swedish officials, who remain neutral in the current conflict between the US and North Korea, have been allowed to visit the journalists on behalf of the US.

Since March 30, North Korea has also been holding a South Korean citizen and worker at an inter-Korean industrial complex, on the charge of denouncing the political system of North Korea.