NKorea vows to disable nuclear plants after deal with US
SEOUL, Oct 12 (AFP) Oct 12, 2008
North Korea said Sunday it would resume work to disable its plutonium-producing nuclear plants and readmit UN inspectors after the United States removed Pyongyang from a terrorism blacklist.
South Korea said Washington's move had put the nuclear disarmament process back on track, after a six-party deal appeared close to collapse, but a Japanese minister strongly criticised the US decision.
"As the US fulfilled its commitment to make political compensation and a fair verification procedure...the DPRK (North Korea) decided to resume the disablement of nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and allow the inspectors of the US and the IAEA to perform their duties," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The North had stopped work to make the Yongbyon plants unusable and had begun work to reactivate them becase of the dispute over nuclear "verification" inspections and its inclusion on Washington's terrorism list.
Last week it barred inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, from the plants, which produced the fuel for a nuclear test in October 2006 and possibly for up to half a dozen atomic weapons.
The spokesman, quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency, welcomed the US move announced Saturday and said Pyongyang would cooperate in verification.
But the spokesman cautioned that the US must ensure the delisting "actually takes effect."
Signatories to the six-party deal must also complete delivery of energy aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars which was promised in return for the disbaling of Yongbyon.
The US refused to drop the North from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation which blocks bilateral economic aid and some multilateral assistance, until an inspections deal was reached.
This was achieved after a visit by US chief negotiator Christopher Hill to Pyongyang early this month.
The US State Department said the North had agreed to verification of all of its nuclear programmes, including an alleged covert highly enriched uranium programme and suspected proliferation.
"Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Saturday.
The deal allows for outside experts to visit both declared and undeclared sites in North Korea, take and remove samples and equipment for analysis, view documents and interview staff, US officials said.
However, visits to sites not included in the North's nuclear declaration delivered in June will require "mutual consent."
The June declaration dealt directly only with the admitted plutonium operation based at Yongbyon.
The North's spokesman said the agreement relates to "the verification of objects of the disablement of nuclear facilities," a reference to Yongbyon.
Seoul's top nuclear envoy Kim Sook said he now expects six-party talks to resume "as early as possible" to finalise verification procedures.
The talks group the two Koreas with the United States, Russia, China and Japan.
"The government appreciates that the measure will contribute to putting six-party talks back on track, a move that will eventually lead to North Korea's nuclear abandonment," Kim told reporters.
"A key is if North Korea will cooperate in the verification process with sincerity."
Japan had urged Washington not to delist North Korea, pressing first for more information on the fate of Japanese kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies.
"It's extremely regrettable, and I believe abductions amount to terrorist acts," Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa told reporters in Washington at a Group of Seven meeting of finance ministers.
"I don't think the United States made the decision after a close consultation with its ally Japan."
Critics suspect the administration of US President George W. Bush rushed for a deal before he leaves the White House in January.
"It's an agreement for an agreement's sake," said Kim Taewoo, of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.
"There exists a risk of North Korea and others interpreting it arbitrarily. They claim that they have agreed on what had actually not been agreed on," he told AFP.
He said he suspected the United States and North Korea both had "political reasons" to reach this kind of agreement to pacify critics at home.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.