U.S. officials say envoys from the six parties to Chinese-sponsored talks on North Korea's nuclear program will convene in Beijing early next week. They'll discuss the way forward after North Korea's nuclear declaration, and demolition Friday of a key part of its Yongbyon reactor complex. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Officials here welcome the demolition of the Yongbyon reactor cooling tower as a visible sign of North Korean good faith, but say it must be backed up by effective verification of all aspects of the six-party accord.
They say delegation chiefs from all six parties will convene in Beijing as early as Monday to discuss ways of verifying Pyongyang's nuclear declaration and planning the next phase of disarmament process.
North Korea brought down the cooling tower with explosives in a televised event Friday, a day after submitting the long-awaited declaration of its nuclear holdings and activities to the Chinese sponsors of the talks.
The Bush administration responded to the declaration by dropping some economic sanctions against Pyongyang and moving to take North Korea off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The White House action drew criticism from some U.S. conservatives who contend that the reclusive communist government in North Korea, which tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, is not really serious about disarming.
At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Pyongyang has already agreed in principle on an intrusive verification regime under which it is answer, to the United States' satisfaction, every question about its nuclear program:
"That would mean if there is any place we want to visit, we should be allowed to visit it," he said. "If there's any person we want to talk to, we should be allowed to talk to them. If there's any technical element to that - sampling, looking at waste pools, those kinds of things - we should be allowed to do it. Now, will we be? Again as we move forward in this process, we have to test North Korea's willingness to move forward and their real willingness to fully dismantle their nuclear program."
An official here said the envoy-level six-party meeting, the first of its kind in several months, will last two or three days.
He also said if there are no setbacks, the first ministerial-level meeting of the six-parties will be held soon, perhaps in Beijing in late July after a meeting of foreign ministers of the ASEAN countries and major world powers in Singapore.
Such a meeting would be U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's first encounter with her North Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun.
The two countries do not have diplomatic relations. But the six-party accord, under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and diplomatic benefits, is ultimately supposed to lead to normalized relations between Washington and Pyongyang.