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US Says Deal With North Korea Allows Nuclear Sampling

The U.S. State Department says a verification deal reached with North Korea last month allows inspectors to collect samples at the country's nuclear sites, and remove them from the country for analysis. North Korea Wednesday said sampling is not allowed. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

In a possible new snag in the accord under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program, Pyongyang and Washington are publicly at odds over terms of the verification deal they reached last month.

The two sides announced October 11 they had agreed on means to verify the declaration of its nuclear program North Korea made in June under the Chinese-led six-party accord.

The October deal ended an impasse that had slowed implantation of the accord for several months.

But signaling possible new problems, North Korea said Wednesday it will not allow inspectors to take samples from its nuclear facilities.

It also said it is again slowing disablement of its Yongbyon reactor because it is not receiving promised energy aid in a timely manner.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Robert Wood indicated North Korea has not yet blocked removal of samples and said that discussions with Pyongyang on the issue will continue.

He said that despite the reported North Korean comments, the verification accord clearly does provide for sampling:

"There have been some press reports about this, and I just wanted to be clear and straight with everybody that this is something you will find when you go back and look at the understandings on verification," said Robert Wood. "It is clearly stated in there that experts would be allow to conduct sampling."

North Korea's official news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying that verification under the October accord is limited to site visits by experts, and that anything more stringent would violate the country's sovereignty.

U.S. officials have maintained that sampling and other provisions of the October agreement are standard terms for recent international disarmament accords.

On the reported North Korean disablement slowdown at Yongbyon, Wood said the United States last week arranged shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil which should arrive in North Korea on ships late this month and in early December. He said Washington is fully upholding its part of the action-for-action agreement.

Under the six-party deal reached last year, North Korea shut down and committed to disable the Yongbyon reactor - the source of plutonium for its nuclear weapons - in return for one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent aid.

Spokesman Wood said as of Wednesday, China, South Korea, Russia and the United States have provided North Korea with 500,000 tons of fuel.

Japan, the other participant in the accord, has refused to ship oil because of the unresolved issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea in the 1980's. The other parties have committed to make up the difference.

China is expected to convene a six-party heads of delegation meeting soon to adopt the U.S.-North Korea verification deal. That would open the way to the final phase of the accord, under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program entirely in return for diplomatic benefits.