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U.S. nuclear team returns to Seoul from North Korea

September 16, 2007|From the Associated Press

SEOUL — A U.S. team of nuclear experts wrapped up a rare trip to North Korea on Saturday, after surveying the communist country's main nuclear complex and holding talks with officials to determine how to disable the facilities.

The delegation returned to Seoul after crossing the tense land border between the two Koreas, an official at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul said.

During the five-day visit, the U.S. experts teamed up with Chinese and Russian specialists to survey the North's main nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, the capital.

They also held talks with North Korean officials in Pyongyang. The discussions produced a "detailed plan" for disabling the Yongbyon facilities, Chu Xuming, the Chinese member of the three-nation team, was quoted as saying by China's official New China News Agency.

South Korea's No. 2 nuclear negotiator, Lim Sung-nam, said the talks between the delegation and North Korea were "businesslike" and "positive," raising hopes for a firm deal on how to disable the North's nuclear facilities.

Lim's comments strongly suggest that the upcoming six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in Beijing are expected to produce a concrete agreement with North Korea on how to disable its nuclear facilities by year's end so they cannot produce material for bombs.

The nuclear negotiations bring together China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States. South Korean and U.S. officials have said the talks will resume this week.

North Korea is to disable Yongbyon in exchange for economic aid and political concessions under a February deal reached through the six-party talks. In July, North Korea closed its sole functioning reactor at the plant.

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