U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday vowed that North Korean statements of its nuclear activities, promised under the Chinese-sponsored six-party disarmament accord, will be rigorously verified. The Bush administration's handling of the issue has come under political attack from U.S. conservatives. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Though the terms of North Korea's promised nuclear declaration are still be to be revealed, Rice is promising that any admission Pyongyang makes will be rigorously verified, and that there would be consequences later if North Korean cheating is discovered.
North Korea agreed last year to give up its nuclear program, including weapons, in exchange for aid and diplomatic benefits from the other parties to the accord.
The process has stalled over a declaration Pyongyang was to have made by the end of last year of all its nuclear activities including any help it may have gotten from, or provided to, other countries.
But recent press reports have cited a tentative U.S.-North Korean deal under which Pyongyang would list its physical nuclear holdings while only tacitly acknowledging proliferation.
The media reports, though unconfirmed, have drawn expressions of outrage from U.S. conservatives, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton who attacked the arrangement as "surrender" by the Bush administration.
At a news conference, Secretary Rice provided little insight about an emerging deal and suggested that some elements will remain confidential.
But she said there will be appropriate means of verification and that concessions to Pyongyang - such as removing it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism - could be revoked later if necessary.
"Verification takes some time, because these are complex programs. This is a non-transparent society. There is a history here of surprises," she said. "And so it will take some time, even past the second phase, for verification to completely play out. But my point is: just because we believe obligations may have been met in the second phase, if there is evidence as we are into the third phase that something was not true that was said in the second phase, there is always the ability and absolute intention to react to that."
North Korea shut down its reactor complex at Yongbyon in exchange for energy aid under the first phase of the accord.
In the second phase, now behind schedule, it is to permanently disable Yongbyon and declare its nuclear activities to get diplomatic benefits.
In the third phase, it is to dismantle the nuclear site and give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for further aid and benefits including regional security arrangements.
Rice said a team of U.S. experts will go to North Korea soon for further talks on verification and that Congress can expect briefings on what has been agreed on.
In a Wall Street Journal commentary earlier this week, former Ambassador Bolton charged that U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill had reached a deal with Pyongyang based on trust and not verification.
At a White House briefing, National Security Council Asia expert Dennis Wilder said proliferation issues would be handled differently than North Korea's declaration of nuclear holdings but said that no one has "let them off the hook."