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US Envoy: Nuclear Disablement in North Korea to Begin this Week


The U.S. envoy to talks on North Korea's nuclear program says a team of experts will travel to Pyongyang this week to begin disabling the North's nuclear program. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters Tuesday the experts will leave for North Korea on Thursday to begin the permanent disabling of Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.

The shutdown is part of a six-nation agreement for North Korea to give up its nuclear programs in return for millions of dollars in energy and aid.

North Korea has agreed to declare and disable all its nuclear materials and programs by the end of the year.

Hill said the declaration process is also expected to begin in the coming weeks.

"It's very important that we do it soon rather than wait until the end of the year, because probably it will be going back and forth," he noted. "There'll be a lot of discussion about it."

The U.S. has accused North Korea of having a secret uranium enrichment program in addition to its publicly acknowledged facilities. But Hill said he did not think this will block progress.

"There was a commitment made by the DPRK that this issue would be resolved to mutual satisfaction, that is we would be able to resolve the concerns we have on this issue," he added. "I'm confident that as we get to the end of the year we will be able to achieve this result."

Hill made the comments after arriving in Beijing Tuesday for two days of consultations with other parties to the talks, including North Korea's envoy Kim Kye Kwan.

Progress toward ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions has already been made. North Korea shut down its main nuclear facilities in July in return for 50,000 tons of fuel from South Korea.

North Korea agreed Tuesday to receive about half of a promised one million tons of fuel oil aid, in the form of badly needed energy-related equipment.

The U.S. is now in the process of delivering another 50,000tons of fuel. Other parties to the six-nation talks - South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan - are also expected to provide further aid.