North Korea has taken a key step forward in multinational negotiations
to get rid of its nuclear weapons, and is being rewarded by the United
States. Pyongyang has submitted an inventory of nuclear programs and
materials to China, the host of the long-running talks. VOA's Kurt
Achin reports from Seoul.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan confirmed the long-awaited nuclear declaration was in China's hands.
He says North Korea submitted the declaration in Beijing, and that South Korea welcomes the development.
U.S. President George Bush responded quickly to the North's move, clearing the way for some U.S. sanctions on Pyongyang to be lifted.
"I am issuing a proclamation that lifts the provisions of the Trading With the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea," he said. "And secondly, I am notifying Congress of my intent to rescind North Korea's designation as a state sponsor of terror in 45 days."
Those U.S. steps put Pyongyang on the road to eligibility for international trade and assistance opportunities.
North Korea's declaration is part of a multi-stage process that exchanges financial and diplomatic incentives for gradual steps by North Korea toward disarmament. North Korea promised to submit it by the end of last year, but delayed producing it for six months over a disagreement with the United States.
Washington at first demanded the declaration account for an alleged secret uranium program the North has never publicly admitted having, and explain Pyongyang's possible role in helping Syria develop a nuclear facility.
Following high level U.S.-North Korea meetings, Pyongyang is expected to "acknowledge U.S. concerns" about those items, but not to include them in the formal declaration. The document is expected to list North Korea's stockpiles of nuclear material as well as its facilities for producing that material.
How many actual nuclear weapons North Korea has, and where they are, is to be declared later, after multinational talks on the North's weapons are reconvened in Beijing, which is expected in the coming weeks. They will also focus on how best to verify the North's declaration is accurate.
President Bush said the North still has much to do.
"It must dismantle all of its nuclear facilities, give up its separated plutonium, resolve outstanding questions on its highly enriched uranium and proliferation activities and end these activities in a way that we can fully verify," he said.
A Seoul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, says, years of work lie ahead for negotiators. But he says the United States is getting a "good bargain" so far.
"The actions that the U.S. is taking - lifting the sanctions, de-listing them [North Korea] from the State Department's terrorism list - these are easily reversible ... yes, there is some food assistance, there is some energy assistance, but it is really peanuts when you look at the security benefits here," he said.
Conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has held back on food aid for the impoverished North until it makes progress on the nuclear issue. Thursday's declaration could be a cue for the Lee administration to resume food and other assistance badly needed in North Korea.