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SKorea expects NKorea nuke talks soon

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) May 2, 2008
North Korea is expected to deliver its promised nuclear declaration within two weeks and six-party disarmament negotiations could resume soon afterwards, a senior South Korean official said Friday.

The upbeat assessment follows a US newspaper report that the communist state has tentatively agreed to give Washington substantial records from its nuclear complex to back up the declaration.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the six-party talks will resume before the end of this month," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"North Korea is expected to submit a declaration on its nuclear weapons programmes to talks host China within one week or two. China will circulate it among the other members before the six-party talks resume."

The United States will then remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and stop applying the Trading with the Enemy Act, the official said.

The Washington Times, quoting US officials, reported Thursday that Pyongyang had "tentatively agreed to give the United States thousands of records from its key Yongbyon nuclear reactor dating back to 1990."

The documents would "complement an expected declaration of its nuclear programmes," the report said.

The North, which staged a nuclear test in October 2006, is disabling its plutonium-producing reactor and other plants under a deal reached last year with the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

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

In return for total denuclearisation, the impoverished state 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 bomb-making operation, the US said the declaration must clear up suspicions about an alleged secret uranium enrichment programme and about suspected involvement in building a nuclear plant in 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.

US nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker, who visited Yongbyon in February, has said he believes the North's leaders have decided to permanently shut down plutonium production if the other negotiating parties honour their commitments.

Hecker said in a report that officials told him they have a plutonium stockpile of 30 kilogrammes (66 pounds), enough for four or five bombs.

He said that when he told the officials this was less than his own estimate of 40-50 kilos, they expressed willingness to allow verification of their figure.

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NKorea agrees to give key nuclear complex records: report
Washington (AFP) May 1, 2008
North Korea has tentatively agreed to give the United States voluminous records from its key nuclear complex to back an expected declaration of its atomic program, a US newspaper reported Thursday.

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