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North Korea tells Russia it may be ready to halt nuke testing. Is it?

Analysts view Kim Jong-il's mention of a moratorium on nuclear testing, if six party talks resume, more as a gesture to Russian hosts than as a serious promise.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (r.) welcomes North Korean leader Kim Jong-il outside Ulan-Ude in Byryatia, on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Dmitry Astakhov/Presidential Press Service/RIA Novosti/AP

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North Korea leader Kim Jong-il’s reported promise to Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev to put a “moratorium” on nuclear testing should six-party talks resume struck a hollow note Thursday among officials and analysts assessing the summit in Siberia.

As Mr. Kim returns home by train from his meeting with Mr. Medvedev in the Russian far east, officials in Washington and Seoul are saying the pledge adds little, if anything, to efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

A spokesman in South Korea’s foreign ministry told the South Korean media the pledge was “ambiguous,” while US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called it “insufficient.”

One problem, say analysts in Seoul, is that so far there is no confirmation of what was said beyond a statement by a Russian spokeswoman that Mr. Kim told Mr. Medvedev that “his country will be ready to solve the problem of imposing a moratorium on the tests and production of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean media reported that that Kim met Medvedev after visiting a hydroelectric power plant and attended a cultural performance but has yet to mention a moratorium. Nor has there been any other comment from officials or Russian reporters covering the visit.

In any case, analysts view Kim’s mention of a moratorium more as a gesture to his Russian hosts than as a serious sign of willingness to scale back or give up the North’s nuclear program.


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