Tags: North | Korea | Nuke | Secrets

N. Korea to Come Clean on Secret Nuclear Program

Thursday, 29 Nov 2007 11:36 AM

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Work on shutting down North Korea's declared nuclear plants is going well and the communist state is also expected to come clean soon about a suspected secret program, the chief US nuclear envoy said Thursday.

Christopher Hill is holding consultations in South Korea before starting a three-day visit to the North next Monday to inspect progress in disabling its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Hill described the US-supervised work so far as "very successful".

He said the North is expected to submit a list of its nuclear programs within days so that international negotiators can discuss it at a fresh round of talks next week.

"When I go to the DPRK (North Korea) on Monday, I look forward to having a discussion about it with an understanding that the declaration will be delivered to the chair of the six-party talks, that is to the Chinese," he told journalists.

The declaration will be a main topic when the six negotiators get together in Beijing, probably on December 6, said the US Assistant Secretary of State. The talks group the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

Hill stressed the list should include all nuclear programs, facilities and materials including a suspected one based on highly enriched uranium (HEU).

US accusations that the North was operating a secret HEU program led to the breakdown of a previous nuclear disarmament accord in 2002.

"We need a complete understanding of their uranium enrichment program, or if it's not an active programme we need a complete understanding of its past program," Hill said in a speech to US business chiefs.

"We cannot put ourselves in a position of trying to ignore things. We have to have clarity on all of these programs and the DPRK understands that."

While the North has never admitted any HEU program, Hill noted that it has offered to address the issue to "mutual satisfaction".

"We will continue discussing the matter of uranium enrichment. Based on progress in these discussions, I believe by the end of this year we can come to mutual satisfaction," Hill said.

"While we do not yet have the solution ... I'm confident that based on the direction of those conversations, we can have a verifiable solution by the end of the year."

The North staged a nuclear test in October 2006. But this month it began disabling three plutonium-producing plants at Yongbyon under US supervision as part of a six-party pact reached in February.

In return for energy aid it has agreed by December 31 to complete the disablement -- making the plants unusable for at least a year -- and to submit a list of all nuclear programs and material.

Under the final phase of the pact the North should next year dismantle the plants and surrender its plutonium stockpile as well as any bombs.

If it does, the agreement envisages normalized relations with the United States and Japan, an end to economic sanctions and a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

The US is committed to removing the communist state from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in return for denuclearization.

"We are working very hard on that and I think we are making progress on that issue," Hill said, adding he would talk to his counterpart Kim Kye-Gwan about the issue next week.

The US envoy said he wants Kim's ideas about the next phase.

"I'd like to see the disabling actions, which have been, I think up until now, very successful, I'd like to see them move into dismantling actions," he added.

© 2007 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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