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US Says North Korea Reverses Steps to Restart Reactor


The United States confirmed Friday North Korea has reversed the steps it took in recent weeks to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. The action by Pyongyang is in line with an agreement reached late last week to salvage the six-party accord under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The State Department is confirming that North Korea has completely reversed the series of steps it took toward restarting the reactor that produced the plutonium for its small arsenal of nuclear weapons.

North Korea in August said it was moving to revive the Yongbyon reactor to back demands that it be removed from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Pyongyong maintained it should have been removed from the list in late June when it issued a declaration of its nuclear holdings under the 2007 agreement by North Korea to end its nuclear program in return for aid and diplomatic benefits.

The United States however said de-listing was dependent on North Korea providing a plan to verify the declaration. The deadlock was broken late last week when the two countries agreed on a verification regime and Pyongyang was dropped from the terrorism blacklist.

Following the agreement, U.S. and international inspectors were allowed back into the Yongbyon complex. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday the monitors have confirmed that disablement of the reactor is again back on track.

"The North Koreans have in their efforts, have reversed all their reversals in the reactor," he said. "All the seals are back on. The surveillance equipment is back, reinstalled, and the equipment that had been removed is back where is had been. In addition to that, they have removed more rods from the reactor. So on the reactor, they have actually gone beyond where they were prior to their reversing the disablement steps."

McCormack said that the situation at the fuel reprocessing and fabrication facilities at Yongbyon had not yet returned to the status quo before the dispute, but that progress is being made there as well.

The spokesman said heads of delegation of all six parties to the talks will convene soon to approve the U.S.-North Korean verification deal. He said announcement of a specific date will be made by China, chair of the negotiations.

The other parties to the talks are South Korea, Russia and Japan.

North Korea shut down the Yongbyon complex and is to permanently disable it in return for energy aid from the other parties in the first phase of the accord.

The verification plan is to open the way to the next phase. Under it North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program, including weapons, altogether and get - among other things - the lifting of sanctions and normalized relations with the United States and Japan.

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