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US Envoy Says North Korea Has 'Nothing To Fear'

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is in South Korea on the third stop of a tour to confer with diplomatic partners aiming to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. He is calling on the international community to be "attentive" to whether Pyongyang fulfills its nuclear promises, and stands firm on U.S. accusations that the North has pursued a uranium-based nuclear program. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told reporters in Seoul Tuesday the world will soon have a "test" of whether North Korea plans to keep promises it made last month in Beijing.

Pyongyang promised China, Russia, Japan, the United States and South Korea it would disable its main plutonium-producing nuclear reactor by mid-April, as a first step toward completely eliminating its nuclear weapons programs.

Negroponte urged North Korea to meet the deadline, and to disclose all of its nuclear activities as part of a second phase of last month's Beijing agreement.

"North Korea both has an interest and nothing to fear from being entirely forthcoming in this regard," he said.

Last month's Beijing agreement, a breakthrough after four years of negotiations, trades incremental amounts of fuel aid for steps toward disabling the North's nuclear programs.

The agreement has sparked a series of diplomatic missions to coordinate implementation - including the current trip by chief North Korean nuclear talks negotiator Kim Kye Gwan to New York.

Negroponte says he expects intense diplomatic activity in the months ahead.

"So, would it be surprising if a working group or a member of a working group were at some point or another to visit Pyongyang? I don't think in the context of this negotiating framework that has been created that that would be surprising at all," he said.

Negroponte stood firm Tuesday on the issue of U.S. accusations of a secret, uranium-based nuclear program.

"I have no doubt that North Korea has had a highly enriched uranium program," he said.

For weeks, international media reports have pointed to new intelligence reports about the program. North Korea has never publicly admitted to having a uranium program. U.S. officials say North Korean officials admitted the program's existence to them privately in 2002.

U.S. chief nuclear negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said recently North Korea must justify equipment purchases it made which are consistent with pursuing a uranium weapons program.