Israeli minister: Korean pledge for denuclearization will help revamp Iran deal
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Israeli minister: Korean pledge for denuclearization will help revamp Iran deal

Israel Katz says Trump is now better positioned to convince EU to tighten screws on Iran nuclear accord; accuses Pyongyang and Tehran of missile cooperation

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 11, 2018. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Pool/Flash90)
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 11, 2018. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Pool/Flash90)

A senior Israeli minister said the Trump administration is in a better position to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal after the leaders of North and South Korea earlier on Friday pledged to pursue a permanent peace and rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons.

“He [Trump] will have more power against Iran now and maybe to convince the European Union not to be the weak link in the coalition,” Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told the Reuters news agency.

“I think it will be very good if the North Koreans will finish and go out of the nuclear business and capabilities,” he said. “It will also be good to our region, because there is a connection.”

Katz said that Israel had proof that Iran and North Korea were developing ballistic missiles together.

“Yes, I think there is cooperation as it belongs to developing the ballistic missiles. And we have the evidence,” he said.

Despite reports suggesting cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang on missile development, Iran has denied working with North Korea and in September dismissed such an assertion by US President Donald Trump as “nonsense.”

This November 29, 2017, file image provided by the North Korean government on November 30, 2017, shows firing of what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

Katz’s comments Friday came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the North’s official KCNA news agency carrying the text of the leaders’ Panmunjom Declaration in full, which it said the encounter opened the way “for national reconciliation and unity, peace and prosperity.”

In the document, Kim Jong Un and Moon “confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) raise their joined hands during a signing ceremony near the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. (AFP/Korea Summit Press Pool/Korea Summit Press Pool)

But the phrase is a diplomatic euphemism open to interpretation on both sides.

In coming weeks, Kim is due to hold a much-anticipated meeting with Trump — who has demanded Pyongyang give up its weapons — that will be crucial in shaping progress.

Trump hailed the Korea summit as historic, but warned “only time will tell.”

He told reporters he would not be “played” by the North’s leader at their upcoming meeting, with “two countries” now in the running to host the summit.

Also coming up is Trump’s May 12 deadline for overhauling the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, which he has vowed to quit if it is not changed to incorporate his criticism of the accord.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a press conference during a NATO Foreign ministers’ meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/John Thys)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that Trump has not yet decided whether to quit the nuclear deal with Iran, warning that he was unlikely to remain in it if the accord goes unchanged. Pompeo said he and his team were working to see if the president’s concerns could be addressed.

“There has been no decision made,” Pompeo said at a press conference after meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

But, he added, “The president has been clear. Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May.”

Iran has repeatedly ruled out any changes or additions to the accord.

The accord required Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions — but leave most of its nuclear infrastructure intact — in exchange for relief from the crippling sanctions that had been imposed on it.

The deal’s critics argue that the “sunset clauses” in the deal, periods of time after which Iran can begin enriching uranium, mean that the country is not actually prevented from developing a nuclear weapon, but is merely delayed. Others argue that international inspectors are not able to freely investigate locations like military facilities, something which may be exploited by Iran in order to violate the deal without getting caught.

In addition, the nuclear deal is narrowly focused and does not address the country’s ballistic missile programs or its support for terrorist groups and dictators across the Middle East.

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