Reports from Japanese media indicate that progress may be made when negotiations with North Korea are resumed later this month.

Kyodo News reports that the US and others have urged North Korea to abandon is nuclear program by 2008 in return for economic aid as well as security guarantees. All the while, the US and its allies are warning of additional sanctions if North Korea refuses to cooperate with the plan. This reasoning is much more in line with what IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei called for two days ago and is a step in the right direction after a lack of progress in pre-negotiation talks this week. ElBaradei, the chief nuclear expert at the UN said that North Korea needed incentives to abandon its nuclear program, not just sanctions.

At the same time, a report in Tokyo Shimbun suggests that Pyongyang will offer uranium exports to Russia which can then be enriched and resold as nuclear energy fuel to China. According to the report, talks about giving Russia exclusive rights to North Korean uranium have been going on since 2002, and North Korea expects Russia’s open support at the nuclear negotiations in return for the deal.

Exclusive rights to North Korea’s uranium will be financially lucrative for Russia. It will also give some assurance that North Korea will not be enriching uranium for future nuclear blasts. However, there is no guarantee that Pyongyang will not continue to secretly enrich uranium not exported to Russia. It is a deal which will be difficult to turn down for the Russians and it will certainly make the negotiations interesting, as Russia has been looking for influence in Asia for quite some time.

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