Washington's main envoy in talks aimed at getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons is in South Korea. He plans to visit Pyongyang to discuss the North's recent steps toward resuming activity at its main nuclear facility. Meanwhile, Japan has renewed sanctions against the North, for failure to fulfill its disarmament promises. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.
Soon after landing at South Korea's Incheon Airport, Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill confirmed he will be heading to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, Wednesday. He says his main agenda is getting an agreement to ensure the nuclear declaration North Korea made earlier this year is accurate.
"We need to make sure that we are going to be able to verify their declaration," said Hill. "So let's see if we can come up with measures that will allow us to verify their declaration."
North Korea issued a declaration its nuclear activities as part of a broader six-nation deal reached last year, that gradually rewards the North for steps toward getting rid of its nuclear weapons. Senior American and South Korean officials say, at the time, North Korea made a clear verbal agreement to agree on a mechanism for confirming the accuracy of its declaration. For example, verification steps might include random access by inspectors to suspected nuclear sites.
Washington cited North Korea's delay on arranging verification for its decision to delay the North's removal from a State Department list of nations suspected of sponsoring terrorism. In response, North Korea ejected international inspectors and their surveillance equipment from its main nuclear reprocessing facility at Yongbyon. Pyongyang vowed to resume activity there by the end of this week.
Hill says he knows North Korea has concerns about verification and says he wants to discuss them calmly.
"I know they are reluctant," he said. "Let's see what they say. Let's sit down and have a conversation and see if we can resolve this matter."
In Tokyo Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said Japan has no choice but to extend its sanctions against North Korea.
He says North Korea has stopped dismantling its nuclear facilities and is, instead, restarting them. He says Pyongyang has also failed to investigate the past abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents, as it had promised to do.
Japan imposed sanctions against North Korea after it tested a nuclear weapon in 2006. They prohibit trade with North Korea and the docking of North Korean ships in Japan. The sanctions would have expired next month, but, instead, will continue for another six months.