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US Sending Team to North Korea for More Talks on Nuclear Declaration


A U.S. inter-agency team headed by the State Department's top Korea expert leaves for Pyongyang Sunday for more talks on North Korea's promised declaration of its nuclear activities. The declaration, a key element of the six-party Korea nuclear accord, is more than three months overdue. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Though North Korea said last week it had reached an agreement with the United States on a declaration in return for what was termed political compensation, officials here say the matter is not yet finally resolved.

The State Department is sending its director of Korean affairs Sung Kim to Pyongyang along with nuclear experts from several other government agencies for another round of talks on the issue next Tuesday and Wednesday.

North Korea is to fully disclose its nuclear holdings and activities as part of the landmark Chinese-sponsored six party accord of February 2007, under which Pyongyang is to get aid and diplomatic benefits in return for giving up its nuclear program including weapons.

The declaration was due at the end of last year, but has reportedly been stalled by differences over how Pyongyang will disclose any proliferation activity it has engaged in.

Conservative critics have accused the Bush administration of scaling back disclosure demands on North Korea in the interest of keeping the process going. But echoing comments by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday any declaration will be subject to thorough verification, and that deception by North Korea could torpedo the entire process:

"It's going to be subject to robust verification," he said. "And if at any point we or anybody else in the six-party process detects that the North Koreas have attempted to deceive us, or attempted to provide us with information which was misleading or in any way false, then there are going to be consequences for that."

McCormack, who said nothing in the process is inevitable, described it as performance-based and said if North Korea doesn't fulfill its obligations it will not receive benefits due from the other parties.

Former Bush administration arms-control chief and U.N. ambassador John Bolton has emerged as the most visible critic of the State Department on the issue, writing earlier this week that its handling of the declaration amounts to a surrender to Pyongyang.

Spokesman McCormack said Bolton's criticism was not surprising in that he always opposed the six-party process. But he said Secretary Rice disagrees with Bolton, and would never recommend that President Bush accept an agreement with which she is not comfortable.

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