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NKorea likely to submit nuke declaration within few days: Seoul

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) May 14, 2008
North Korea is expected to submit a long-awaited declaration on its nuclear programme within a few days and six-party disarmament talks may resume early next month, South Korea's foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Spokesman Moon Tae-Young also said South Korea's top nuclear envoy would cut short a trip to Beijing to prepare for talks with his US and Japanese counterparts in Washington early next week.

"North Korea is expected to present the nuclear declaration to China within a few days and China in turn will circulate it among other countries concerned," Moon told journalists.

"If we calculate all the time needed for these procedures, we may expect the six-party talks to resume in early June," he said. The talks hosted by China also group the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan.

The North last week handed over to the United States some 18,000 pages of records on its production of weapons-grade plutonium at the Yongbyon complex.

Sung Kim, head of the State Department's Korea office, collected the operating and production records for the reactor and reprocessing plant.

"I do think these documents are an important first step in terms of verifying North Korea's declaration," he told a press conference in Washington Tuesday, standing next to stacks of some of the documents.

The delayed declaration had blocked progress in six-party negotiations. But in a sign that a deal may be close, South Korea's delegate Kim Sook flew to Beijing Tuesday for talks with his Chinese counterpart.

The spokesman Moon said Kim Sook would return on Thursday, a day earlier than scheduled, and would probably leave for Washington at the weekend.

"The chief delegates from South Korea, the United States, and Japan are preparing to hold trilateral talks in Washington early next week," he said.

"There will be broad discussions on pending issues concerning the North's nuclear issue, such as declaration and verification."

The communist North, which staged a nuclear test in October 2006, is disabling its plants under a six-party deal reached last year.

But disputes over the declaration due last December 31 have blocked the start of the final phase of the process -- the permanent dismantling of the plants and the handover of all material.

In return for total denuclearisation, North Korea would receive energy aid, a lifting of US sanctions, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Washington and a formal peace treaty.

In addition to the declared plutonium operation, Washington said the declaration must clear up suspicions about an alleged secret uranium enrichment program and suspected proliferation to Syria.

The North denies both activities. Under a reported deal, it will merely "acknowledge" US concerns about the two issues in a confidential separate document to Washington.

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NKorea slows down nuclear disablement, US says
Washington (AFP) May 13, 2008
North Korea has slowed down some of its nuclear disablement activities, saying it had to coordinate with the receipt of energy aid, US nuclear envoy Sung Kim said Tuesday.

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