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US upbeat over NKorean nuclear declaration

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 22, 2008
The United States expressed optimism Thursday that North Korea would soon submit a long awaited declaration of its nuclear program and swing into dismantling its atomic weapons arsenal.

"Things are moving ahead," top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said when asked about the timing of Pyongyang's declaration, which was to have been made way back on December 31.

North Korea has already provided to the United States 18,000 documents of operating and production records for its key atomic reactor in Yongbyon, which the hardline communist state is disabling now as part of a six-party deal aimed at ending its nuclear weapons drive.

Hill said he would travel soon to China and Russia for more consultations following those he held in Washington this week with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan.

He indicated that instead of awaiting full verification of the declaration, North Korea would begin dismantling its nuclear facilities and surrendering its weapons immediately after submitting the document to China, chair of the six-party talks.

"I think the logic of it is they submit it to the Chinese, the Chinese make sure rest of us get a copy of it and then we all look at it and we don't need any six party meeting (to discuss the declaration)," Hill said.

"I think we all have a fairly good idea of what is going to be in it but nevertheless we all need to study it," he said.

North Korea has already shut down the Yongbyon facility and is close to disabling it under the first two stages of its denuclearization exercise, which Washington wants to see fully completed before President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009.

The final stage of the six-party aid-for-denuclearization deal will require North Korea, which fired a nuclear bomb in 2006, to dismantle its nuclear facilities and surrendering all atomic material.

The United States is expected to remove North Korea from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist and other sanctions and establish diplomatic ties with its arch rival if Pyongyang sticks to plans.

Hill said Washington would push for a plenary meeting of the six parties to be held "very, very quickly" after Pyongyang submitted the nuclear declaration, instead of waiting for a complex verification of the nuclear program.

"Verification is a process that can take months, so you don't want to wait for all the verification before you then move to a six-party meeting, for example," Hill said.

"So, what you want to do is look and see whether based on what they have given you, you are going to be able to verify that, you have all the elements necessary to verify. So, we would be looking at that from that perspective," he said.

In addition to plutonium producing activities, Washington said the declaration must also clear up suspicions about North Korea's alleged secret uranium enrichment program and suspected involvement in building a nuclear reactor in Syria on a site that Israel bombed last September.

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 to blow up nuke plant tower in symbolic gesture: official
Seoul (AFP) May 21, 2008
North Korea plans to blow up the cooling tower at its Yongbyon atomic complex to symbolise its commitment to nuclear disarmament, a senior South Korean official said Wednesday.

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