The United States has reached an agreement with North Korea to resume
implementation of the six-party accord to end that country's nuclear
weapons program. The Bush administration said Saturday it is removing
North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in return for
new assurances from Pyongyang on verifying its nuclear activities.
VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The agreement, the product of weeks of high-level diplomacy, ends a dispute over verification that threatened to scuttle the deal under which Pyongyang is to scrap its nuclear program for aid and diplomatic benefits.
Bush administration officials say that as a result of the talks, including a Pyongyang visit by chief U.S. delegate Christopher Hill a week ago, North Korea has agreed to a series of measures that represent "significant cooperation" in verifying the declaration of its nuclear program made in June.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the deal means Pyongyang is being removed from the U.S. terrorism blacklist, and North Korea in turn will reverse steps it has taken recently toward restarting its disabled Yongbyon reactor complex.
"The secretary of state this morning rescinded the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism, and that was effective with her signature. North Korea has stated it will resume disablement of its nuclear facilities. This demonstrates that the six-party principle of action-for-action is working," he said.
North Korea had accused the United States of reneging on a promise to remove it from the terrorism list when it made its declaration June 26. The United States said delisting was always dependent on Pyongyang providing an acceptable verification plan.
Administration officials who briefed reporters said the agreed verification plan - to be adopted by all six parties to the negotiations at a Beijing meeting in a few weeks - includes all terms, among them visits to undeclared North Korean nuclear sites, that the United States sought from the beginning.
Critics of the Bush administration, among them former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, have accused the State Department of softening verification demands to try to keep the nuclear deal afloat and claim a foreign policy triumph.
There were similar comments Friday from Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.
McCormack said the deal achieved "every single element" of the administration verification agenda, which he said was driven not by domestic political considerations but U.S. national interests.
"The secretary and the president wouldn't take these kinds of decisions if they didn't think that these decisions would help us - the United States - ultimately get to the goal of de-nuclearizing the Korean peninsula. Again, without compromising on principle," he said.
Candidate McCain and others have also suggested that removing North Korea from the terrorism list undercuts Japan, which has been pressing Pyongyang to account for a number of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.
McCormack said the United States "wholeheartedly" supports Japan's position on the abduction issue and will never forget the suffering of the Japanese victims and their families.
He noted that even after terrorism-related sanctions against North Korea are lifted, it remains subject to numerous sanctions related to its 2006 nuclear weapons test, proliferation activity, and human rights record.
The White House said President Bush made the same points in a telephone call to Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso Saturday morning.
Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama, in a written statement, called the agreement a modest step forward. He said the decision to remove North Korea from the terrorism list is an appropriate response, as long as there is a clear understanding that if Pyongyang fails to follow through on its obligations there will be "immediate consequences."