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. NKorea revives nuclear disablement: US
WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (AFP) Oct 17, 2008
The United States said Friday that North Korea has broadly resumed disabling its weapons-grade nuclear program, all within days of a deal that revived the troubled negotiations.

North Korea has removed more fuel rods from the nuclear reactor, put all seals back on equipment at the Yongbyon complex and restored the monitoring system there, according to US experts cited by the State Department.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the United States was satisfied "thus far" with North Korea's actions toward fulfilling its pledges.

A weeks-long deadlock was broken on October 11 when Washington struck North Korea from a terror blacklist after saying Pyongyang agreed to steps to verify its nuclear disarmament and pledged to resume disabling its atomic plants.

Just months before US President George W. Bush leaves office on January 20, the deal saved the disarmament negotiations -- involving the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia -- from potential collapse.

"All the seals are back on, the surveillance equipment is back reinstalled, and the equipment that had been removed is back where it had been," McCormack told reporters during the daily press briefing.

"In addition to that, they have removed more rods from the reactor. So on the reactor they have actually gone beyond where they were prior to their reversing their disablement steps," he said.

He added that "60 percent of the reactor rods have been removed," but said he did not know when the process should be completed.

"Now on the reprocessing and fuel fabrication facilities, they have not yet gotten to that baseline where they were before. There is still work to be done, but (there is) progress on it," he added.

McCormack said the next step will be for a meeting of Christopher Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, and his counterparts from the other countries to discuss the verification steps.

The measures have still to be formally agreed as part of a protocol.

"The Chinese, as chair of the six-party process, have not yet announced the date for that (meeting), so I am not going to get out ahead of them," McCormack said.

"There are actually dates that are being discussed, not yet fully agreed upon and, therefore, not yet announced," he said, adding he expected an announcement soon.

Last week's agreement 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 nuclear program staff, US officials said.

However, visits to undeclared sites will require "mutual consent," they said.

They said the measures -- which will form part of a verification protocol to be adopted in the "near future" -- also apply to the plutonium programs as well as to the suspected uranium enrichment and proliferation programs.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week struck North Korea from a list of countries sponsoring terrorism after Pyongyang agreed to the disarmament verification steps, US officials said.

Pyongyang had expected to be struck from the list weeks after it submitted a declaration in June of its nuclear activities, but Washington had insisted it agree to a verification regime first.

Angered at the US refusal to remove it from the blacklist, North Korea had moved toward restarting its nuclear reactor and other operations at Yongbyon.

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