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S. Korea Says North Will Start Dismantling Nuclear Programs Next Month


Senior South Korean officials say North Korea is ready to start dismantling key nuclear facilities within weeks. The moves are part of a multinational agreement aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons programs. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said Wednesday that North Korea is ready to get right to work on disabling facilities capable of generating material for nuclear weapons.

"We expect the actual disablement process to start in early November," he said. "The North has also committed itself to providing a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs within this year."

North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test a year ago, in defiance of warnings from most of the international community, including China, South Korea, and the United States. Since then, however, six-nation talks aimed at eliminating the North's nuclear capabilities have made progress.

Pyongyang already has fulfilled a pledge to halt operations at its main plutonium producing facility in Yongbyon in exchange for fuel oil shipments. In last month's round of six-nation talks, North Korea repeated a promise to South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States it would substantially declare and disable all of its nuclear programs by the end of the year.

Other South Korean officials have said that an international team will arrive in Pyongyang next week to discuss the details of implementing North Korea's promises. They say it appears Pyongyang is committed to end its nuclear programs and will take significant steps to do that by the middle of next month.

North Korea has much to gain by fully abandoning nuclear weapons, including the possibility of normal relations with the United States and Japan, and greater economic aid.

However, nuclear experts say it will be a serious challenge to verify North Korea has given up all of its nuclear materials and programs.

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