Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talk with reporters during a news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday. / AP-Yonhap
By Yoon Won-sup
Top diplomats from Seoul and Washington shared the view Wednesday that North Korea's disablement process of its nuclear facilities has been right on track so far.
``So far, so good, I would say,'' U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters after talks in Washington with Song Min-soon, South Korea's minister for foreign affairs and trade.
She said North Korean officials were cooperating with the disablement, and expected the nuclear complex in Yongbyon to be disabled by next month in exchange for 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or its equivalent.
Song also said that South Korea and the United States agree that disablement of the North Korean nuclear program is going in the right direction and at the right pace.
However, the two said there still remain lots of measures to be taken toward the final goal of dismantling the nuclear facilities.
The two also agreed to begin negotiation a peace system for the Korean Peninsula ``at the right time,'' in keeping with the progress of the denuclearization.
``We fully shared the view that in accordance with the progress in disablement and dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program, peace regime negotiations will start at an appropriate time,'' Song said.
He added that the parties concerned _ the two Koreas, the United States and possibly China _ will decide when to start the negotiations.
Song said a summit meeting by the relevant heads of state may be needed to expedite North Korea's denuclearization.
``At a certain time, if it's needed and if it's agreed... then we will continue to review if a political thrust at the top level is needed,'' he noted.
Rice said the United States supports the establishment of a peace system on the peninsula as it is contained in the joint statement the six-parties produced on Sept. 19, 2005. The talks, aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambition involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
The main part of the peace system would be an agreement officially ending the 1950-53 Korean War. The peninsula is technically still at war because the war ended with an armistice.
Meanwhile, she stressed that Washington wants to see evidence of real denuclearization.
The two diplomats said that once the North completes disablement, it should immediately move on to the next and last step of denuclearization, the dismantling of other nuclear programs, which will likely begin next year.
The dismantling requires disassembling of the nuclear facilities and weapons and taking them out of North Korea.