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US Welcomes North Korean Terrorism Statement

The United States Tuesday welcomed a North Korean statement stressing that country's opposition to terrorism. The statement came as a senior U.S. envoy was beginning a visit to Pyongyang for talks on implementation of the six-party accord, under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

State Department officials say the North Korean statement is not in itself a sufficient step to remove that country from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

But they are nonetheless welcoming the declaration, which they say the United States encouraged Pyongyang to make, and call it part of the process of fulfilling the six-party accord.

North Korea agreed last year to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for aid and diplomatic benefits from the other parties to the accord - the United States, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and China.

It has already shut down, and is in the process of disabling, its reactor complex at Yongbyon in exchange for heavy oil shipments from the other parties.

As part of the next phase of the deal, the United States would drop North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and lift related sanctions.

In its statement Tuesday, the North Korean foreign ministry said, among other things, that Pyongyang would firmly maintain what was termed its "consistent stand" of opposing all forms of terrorism.

Welcoming the statement at a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said while the statement itself does not end North Korea's terrorist designation, it is part of the process leading to that:

"There is a process that is on the books for considering whether or not a country makes it onto the list of state sponsors or whether or not their actions have merited their coming off that list," he said. "We have not made any final steps with respect to North Korea. They are currently on the state sponsor of terrorism list. And at the moment North Korea still has several obligations under this phase of the six-party talks that it needs to complete before other members of the six-party talks can contemplate completing their obligations."

While North Korea remains on the U.S. terrorism list, it has not been accused by the United States of involvement in any terrorist act since the bombing of a South Korean airliner in 1987.

The United States removed Libya from the terrorism list in 2006, three years after that North African country renounced terrorism and gave up its weapons of mass destruction program.

The director of the State Department's office of Korean affairs, Sung Kim, Tuesday began a brief visit to Pyongyang that U.S. officials would focus on the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

That was to have been completed at the end of last year, and U.S. officials credit North Korea with action in eight of 11 categories in the disablement process.

They said one issue Kim would discuss in Pyongyang would be the destruction of the massive cooling tower of the Yongbyon reactor, which would be a highly visible sign of North Korean good faith in the disarmament process.

Also overdue since the end of last year is a promised North Korean declaration of its nuclear possessions and activities, including any involvement in proliferation.

U.S. diplomat Kim is due to leave North Korea Wednesday and return to Washington immediately after transiting by land into South Korea.