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North Korea Pledges to Restart Nuclear Reactor

  • Kurt Achin

A senior North Korean official says his country is beginning to restore a disabled nuclear facility capable of producing weapons material. Pyongyang says the United States has not fulfilled obligations under a multinational agreement to get rid of the North's nuclear weapons. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

North Korean diplomat Hyun Hak Bong announced his country's intentions Friday following a meeting with a South Korean counterpart in North-South border village of Panmunjeom.

Hyun says the process of disabling North Korea's main nuclear facility has been stopped, and the process of restoring it is now ongoing.

North Korea agreed last year to fully disable its nuclear facility at Yongbyon as part of a broader multinational deal aimed at ending its nuclear programs altogether. In a separate phase of the deal, North Korea provided a nuclear declaration to its negotiating partners - South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the United States.

The six-nation process hit a wall in August, when the United States decided not to remove North Korea from a State Department list it accuses of sponsoring terrorism. Washington says its promise to do that was contingent on North Korea committing to steps for proving that its nuclear declaration is accurate.

Hyun, the North's envoy, disagrees.

Hyun says the verification issue is a separate issue from Pyongyang's removal from the terrorism list. He accuses the United States of imposing a one-sided condition that is not part of the agreement.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, speaking Friday to journalists in Seoul, agreed with U.S. officials that verifying North Korea's declaration was always part of the deal.

Yu says all parties in the six nation talks understood that the North Korean declaration and its verification were intertwined. He says removing Pyongyang from terrorism list does not necessarily require the verification process to be completed - just that North Korea agree on the principles for carrying it out. North Korea, says Yu, fully understands that.

Yu suggested the North may be threatening the restoration of its Yongbyon facility as a means of gaining diplomatic leverage.

North Korea demolished the facility's cooling tower earlier this year in a carefully choreographed public demonstration it was disabling Yongbyon. Analysts say it would take months - possibly years - to fully resume the reactor's operations.

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