All Nuclear Efforts Disclosed, N. Korea Says

U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill has cited a need to know how much plutonium North Korea has.
U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill has cited a need to know how much plutonium North Korea has. (By Lauren Victoria Burke -- Associated Press)
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By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 5, 2008

TOKYO, Jan. 5 -- After several months of relatively smooth progress, negotiations to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons have begun to stumble, with the communist state declaring Friday that it has disclosed all its nuclear programs but the Bush administration insisting that it has not.

Under a deal struck in October, North Korea was to declare all its nuclear programs by the end of last year. This week, the Bush administration said the North had not met that deadline. In their generally muted response, U.S. officials said that they were disappointed but that negotiations would continue.

In a statement Friday, the North said it had "done what it should do," citing a list of its nuclear programs that it provided in November.

It accused the United States and other countries participating in six-party nuclear disarmament talks of holding back on promises made under the October deal, including the shipment of 1 million tons of fuel and the removal of North Korea from the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism.

About 150,000 tons of fuel have been delivered. The Bush administration has said since October that removal of the North from the terrorist list would be based on moves by the Pyongyang government to disclose, disable and ultimately dismantle its nuclear facilities.

The delays have forced North Korea to "adjust the tempo of the disablement of some facilities on the principle of action for action," according to the Foreign Ministry statement, which was released by the official Korean Central News Agency.

In Washington on Friday, the White House and the State Department reiterated that North Korea had not yet provided a "complete" declaration of its nuclear activity.

Christopher R. Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs and the principal U.S. negotiator in the six-nation talks, has said that Washington officials want to find out, among other things, how much plutonium the North has. Plutonium is a key bombmaking ingredient.

"We're not going to sacrifice fullness and completeness in the interests of time," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday. "The North Koreans need to get about the business of completing this declaration."

North Korea did not say Friday what nuclear facilities it has disclosed to the United States.

The primary issue in the dispute over the North's declaration of its nuclear capacities appears to be whether the country has a uranium enrichment program.

The United States says it has found evidence that the North did have such a program, including its purchase of aluminum tubes that could be used to convert uranium gas into nuclear fuel. U.S. scientists have discovered traces of enriched uranium on smelted aluminum tubing provided by North Korea, according to U.S. and diplomatic sources.

The statement by the North said it has provided an explanation of the uranium program. "The controversial aluminum tubes had nothing to do with the uranium enrichment," the statement said.

Although the Bush administration has criticized the North for failing to meet the negotiated deadline on declaring its nuclear programs, it has been careful to praise Pyongyang for moving ahead on disabling its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

U.S. nuclear experts have been in North Korea for nearly two months and "disablement continues," as McCormack put it Friday.

This week, a White House spokesman said part of the fault for the slow pace of disabling the Yongbyon plant lies with the United States, which has insisted on some delays for safety and security reasons.

The Bush administration substantially changed its approach to North Korea after the secretive Stalinist state detonated a nuclear device in October 2006. Since then, it has refrained from categorical condemnations and doggedly pursued negotiations.

In Washington on Friday, the White House said that Hill was on his way to North Asia and that he would be holding discussions with governments in the region.

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