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N. Korea to resume dismantling

Move to denuclearize comes in response to the U.S. decision to take the nation off a list of terror sponsors.

October 13, 2008|Barbara Demick | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — North Korea said Sunday that it was resuming the dismantlement of its nuclear program in response to President Bush's decision to remove it from a list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

The decision means that U.N. nuclear inspectors, who were barred last month from entering the nuclear facilities but not kicked out of the country, can resume their jobs immediately at Yongbyon, North Korea's main nuclear compound.

Surveillance cameras installed by the inspectors are expected to be turned on again starting today. The North Koreans will also resume the removal of fuel from a nuclear reactor.

Bush had promised in June to remove North Korea from the list as a reward for its denuclearization efforts. But the process stalled because North Korea would not agree to inspection and verification procedures.

North Korea in turn moved to kick out the inspectors and hinted that it might launch a round of missile launches, and possibly conduct another nuclear test, before the end of the president's term.

Anxious to salvage the deal, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill went to Pyongyang for three days this month to hammer out an agreement on verification.

In a statement distributed Sunday on its official news service, North Korea said that because the U.S. had acted, it had "decided to resume the disablement of nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and allow the inspectors . . . to perform their duties on the principle of 'action for action.' "

North Korea has not been implicated in a terrorist act since the 1980s. But the delisting has drawn harsh criticism from those who believe Pyongyang has not yet accounted for earlier misdeeds.

An association representing families of Japanese people who were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s gave a news conference Sunday in Osaka calling the U.S. action the "betrayal of an ally."

Many South Koreans also believe North Korea should issue a formal apology for the 1987 bombing of a Korean Airlines flight on which 115 people were killed.

The verification deal reached in Pyongyang, the capital, does not permit nuclear inspectors unimpeded access to other sites where it is feared the North Koreans could be developing an alternative nuclear program using highly enriched uranium. A fact sheet released by the State Department on Saturday said that inspectors could visit undeclared nuclear sites only by "mutual consent."

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton has denounced the U.S. compromise as a "95% victory for North Korea."

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barbara.demick@latimes.com

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