N. Korea promises to disable reactor

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Sunday it will resume disabling its key nuclear complex after the United States dropped the country from a terrorism blacklist — a breakthrough expected to help energize stalled talks aimed at ending the country's atomic ambitions.

The spat was the latest of many between Pyongyang and Washington that threatened to scuttle progress since international talks aimed at dismantling the communist country's nuclear program began five years ago.

This weekend's developments raised hopes that stalled international nuclear talks could quickly resume and help improve ties between Washington and Pyongyang — Cold War adversaries, still technically at war.

Experts still predict a long, bumpy road ahead before North Korea's nuclear program is ever dismantled.

The next stage "will be more complicated," said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute, a private security think tank near Seoul.

Cheong said Pyongyang could ask for increasingly difficult concessions, such as the normalization of diplomatic ties with the United States and the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea, before it completely dismantled its plutonium-processing facility at Yongbyon.

U.S. officials had insisted that they would not take the North off the list of terror-sponsoring countries unless it accepted a thorough inspection of its nuclear program under an international agreement signed by North Korea, the U.S. and four other countries.

Washington's stance prompted the North to start reassembling the facilities at Yongbyon and bar international monitors from the site.

On Saturday, however, Washington announced it was taking the North off the list — which still includes Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — saying Pyongyang had accepted all of its nuclear inspection demands.

Hours later, North Korea's Foreign Ministry announced it would restart disabling work and again allow U.S. and U.N. inspections at Yongbyon.

U.S. officials warned North Korea could again be placed on the blacklist if it ends up not allowing the inspections.

North Korea said prospects for disarmament depend on whether the U.S. delisting actually takes effect and Pyongyang receives the remaining international aid promised under a 2007 deal reached with the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

N. Korea promises to disable reactor 10/12/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:37pm]

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