A senior U.S. diplomat says North Korea has agreed to cooperate fully in verifying the promised declaration of its nuclear program and activities. State Department Korean Affairs director Sung Kim, just back from a mission to Pyongyang, Tuesday displayed part of a trove of nuclear documents provided by the North Koreans. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
State Department officials say the nearly 19,000 documents appear to represent the complete production records of North Korea's now-closed five-megawatt nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant at Yongbyon.
Korean affairs director Kim says the reams of papers handed over to him last week in Pyongyang will provide "an important first step" in verifying the now-overdue North Korean nuclear declaration.
Kim, a Korean-American and a key figure in U.S. contacts with North Korea, appeared at a news conference here with a box of documents representing a fraction of what Pyongyang has handed over to the United States for analysis.
Kim said it will take several weeks for U.S. experts to translate and assess the papers, which include operating logs for the facilities believed to have produced the plutonium for North Korea's small arsenal of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. diplomat also said he had detailed discussions with North Korean officials on other aspects of the promised declaration, and that the papers now in U.S. hands will help in verifying whatever Pyongyang declares.
"I do think these documents are an important first step in terms of verifying North Korea's declaration," Kim said. "Obviously the documents themselves, alone, are not enough. We will need to conduct a very full verification, including access to their facilities, sampling, interviews with personnel involved in nuclear programs. But these documents are an important first step."
North Korea agreed to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for aid and diplomatic benefits from the other parties in the six-nation deal finalized last year.
It has shut down the Yongbyon site and is in the process of disabling the facilities in return for energy aid in the first phase of the deal. It was to have made the declaration of its nuclear program, including weapons and any proliferation activity, by the end of 2007 to open the next phase of the accord.
The Bush administration has come under political attack from U.S. conservatives for allegedly being prepared to accept only vague assurances from Pyongyang that it has ceased covert nuclear efforts including proliferation.
Tuesday's display of the documents appeared at least in part an effort to underline the success of the process thus far, and the administration's determination to verify North Korean statements.
Kim indicated that North Korea's submission of the final declaration to China, chair of the six-party talks, is not imminent.
He said the chief U.S. envoy to the talks, Christopher Hill, is likely to take part in a senior level meeting of the six parties - North and South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States and China - as early as next week.