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US Experts Fly to North Korea to Oversee Disablement of Nuclear Facilities


A team of American nuclear experts has arrived in North Korea to begin disabling the country's main nuclear facility. North Korea appears on track to keep its promise to divulge and disable all its nuclear facilities by the end of the year. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Korean Affairs, Sung Kim, is the leader of the U.S. team of nine nuclear experts.

Before leaving Beijing Thursday, Kim told journalists his group would likely arrive at North Korea's main Yongbyon nuclear facility within the next couple of days. He says he hopes to start the disablement process early next week.

"I think it will be a combined effort, with some North Korean help and, of course, our experts supervising and coordinating," he said.

Kim's group is one of two teams that will do two to three week rotations in North Korea. He says his team will begin disabling the three nuclear installations at Yongbyon, and the second team will arrive about two weeks from now to continue the work.

"There are various steps that we will be taking. Some involve removing of equipment, some involve cutting certain types of equipment," added Kim. "Our main focus is to get there and start the operation as soon as possible."

North Korea agreed with five other nations to declare and disable all its nuclear facilities and materials by the end of the year. In return, Pyongyang is to receive half a million tons of fuel oil, and other energy-related equipment equal to another half million tons.

The North has already received tens of thousands of tons of fuel since July, and is expected to receive about 50,000 tons a month until the promised aid is all delivered. The other parties to the agreement are the U.S., China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, although Japan is resisting giving any aid until a bilateral dispute between it and North Korea is settled.

The chief U.S. envoy to the talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, held consultations in Beijing this week with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Kwan.

Hill said Thursday he was satisfied with the agreed plan, but emphasized that this was only one phase of North Korea's envisioned nuclear disarmament. He says North Korea still has to irreversibly dismantle all its nuclear facilities, and give up all its weaponized plutonium.

If North Korea keeps its pledge, it is also due to receive a variety of diplomatic concessions.

Hill says he expects to receive North Korea's full list of its nuclear materials and facilities within about two weeks.

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