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North Korea Urged To Close Reactor

The plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon.
by Lee Jong-Heon
UPI Correspondent
Seoul (UPI) April 11, 2007
The United States and South Korea Wednesday called for North Korea to keep on track in its nuclear disarmament agreement, pointing out that a dispute over Pyongyang's assets frozen at a Macao bank has finally been resolved.

North Korea was to shut down its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon and invite back U.N. nuclear inspectors within 60 days under the Feb. 13 agreement in return for energy aid and security guarantees. But the country has refused to carry out the deal until it receives $25 million in funds frozen in Banco Delta Asia because of money-laundering allegations.

Washington agreed to resolve the fund issue within 30 days after the deal was reached, but the transfer has been delayed due to "technical problems."

With the weekend deadline just days away, the United States and Macao authorities announced Tuesday that they have "unblocked" the North's assets, saying the money is now free for withdrawal.

Upon arriving in Seoul after his four-day trip to Pyongyang Wednesday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said it is high time for North Korea to start shutting down its nuclear reactor, citing the resolution of the banking row.

"The North Korean government told us that with the (BDA) issue resolved, it would move promptly within a day after receiving the funds," Richardson told a press conference broadcast live. "That was very positive," he said. The U.S. governor added that he had "intensive meetings and discussions" with the north's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan during the visit.

Pyongyang will be informed by the Macao authorities of the decision to release the assets by Thursday morning, he said, noting North Korea can pick up the funds anytime. "The ball is on the North Korean court," Richardson said, calling for the communist country to "move forward" on the Feb. 13 aid-for-arms deal.

Richardson led a U.S. delegation to the North mainly for recovering the remains of U.S. servicemen killed in the 1950-53 Korean War. The mission, which includes top U.S. presidential adviser on North Korea Victor Cha, crossed the border into the South with six sets of remains believed to be those of American servicemen.

Earlier Wednesday, top U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill also urged North Korea to move toward shutting down its nuclear reactor to meet the April 14 deadline. "I think we have come to a very important juncture, which is that we consider this BDA matter to be really resolved," he told reporters after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Chun Yung-woo in Seoul.

"Now the DPRK (North Korea) needs to assess the information and presumably check with their bankers to see their access to the accounts," he said. "So it's our hope that the DPRK will understand the need to move ahead with denuclearization," he added.

In a press conference, South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said the Macao decision "has opened a door for the solution" of the banking issue. "I hope North Korea will take positive steps and let the Feb. 13 agreement be implemented," he said.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who is visiting Seoul, joined to put pressure on the north, calling for it to move toward denuclearization.

"Peace on the Korean peninsula benefits not only Koreans but also Northeast Asia and China," Wen said, pledging to press ahead with diplomatic efforts to make North Korea nuclear free. "China's stance on the issues on the Korean peninsula has been consistent," he said in a meeting with South Korea's National Assembly Speaker Lim Chae-jung.

China, the only remaining communist ally of North Korea, is believed to have significant leverage over the impoverished neighbor, being its key supplier of badly needed food and fuel.

Source: United Press International

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US Ups Pressure On North Korea As Deadline Looms
Seoul (AFP) April 12, 2007
The United States expects North Korea to meet a Saturday deadline to fulfil its side of a landmark deal to rein in its nuclear programme, officials said Wednesday, as news came from the reclusive state that its premier had been sacked. "It is our expectation that the North Koreans will fulfill their commitments under the February 13th agreement," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

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