The State Department is reiterating that retrieving samples from North Korean nuclear sites is part of the agreement it reached with Pyongyang last month on verifying that country's nuclear program. U.S. officials say they expect the verification deal, including sampling, to be approved by all six parties to the Chinese-sponsored nuclear negotiations next month. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Though North Korea continues to insist it will not allow inspectors to remove samples from its nuclear sites, State Department officials say it is part of the agreement senior U.S. and North Korean diplomats made last month, and that sampling should be in the anticipated six-party protocol on verification.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Sunday at the APEC summit of Pacific countries in Lima, Peru that China will convene a long-awaited meeting of all six parties to the North Korea nuclear talks December 8th in Beijing.
The heads-of-delegation meeting is intended to ratify the October 11 U.S.-North Korean agreement on verifying the declaration of its nuclear program Pyongyang made last June.
U.S. officials have maintained since then the accord includes standard terms of recent international disarmament accords, including sampling.
But recent news accounts have indicated that sampling was a verbal agreement between U.S. and North Korean negotiators, and recorded only in notes by U.S. chief delegate Christopher Hill.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said whatever form the sampling commitment may be, it is a part of the U.S.-North Korean agreement and should be in the six-party verification plan as well.
"What we are going to work is to formalize this agreement. Regardless of which form it may be in, it is an agreement. That does no change it," said McCormack. "So what we hope is going to happen at this next six-party heads of delegation meeting is that this is agreed upon and put in a form that all the members of the six parties can validate."
A senior State Department official told reporters the United States has good records of all the conversations and understandings between Assistant Secretary of State Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye Gwan.
He said he expects all those terms to be adopted in written form by the six parties when they meet in Beijing. In addition to the United States, North Korea and host China, the talks also include South Korea, Russia and Japan.
On a related matter, State Department Spokesman McCormack noted with concern the decision by North Korea to sharply cut back links to the South in a growing rift between the two Koreas.
McCormack said the United States has always encouraged direct discussion and direct interaction between the two, and North Korea can only benefit from greater contact with the rest of the world, including South Korea.