Sat, Sep 20, 2008 - Page 1 News List

N Korea retreats from nuclear deal

AGENCIES , SEOUL AND PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA

North Korea said yesterday it did not wish to be taken off a US terrorism blacklist, a reward it would be given if it abided by a disarmament deal, indicating it was stepping away from the pact.

The North also said it had begun work to restore its Yongbyon plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium, which was being taken apart under a disarmament-for-aid deal it reached with five regional powers.

“The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] neither wishes to be delisted as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ nor expects such a thing to happen,” the North’s KCNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

Analysts have said the North might be trying to pressure the Bush administration as it looks for diplomatic successes to bolster its legacy, or it might also be thinking it can wait for a new US president to try to get a better deal.

Last month, North Korea said it planned to restart Yongbyon because it was angry at Washington for not taking it off a terrorism blacklist. Earlier this month, it made minor but initial moves to restart the plant, US officials said.

Washington has said it would remove Pyongyang from the list once the North allows inspectors to verify claims it made about its nuclear arms production.

The disablement steps — mostly completed — were aimed at putting Yongbyon out of the plutonium production business for at least a year.

North Korea, which exploded a nuclear device about two years ago, began to disable Yongbyon last November.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said earlier this month that the North had informed regional powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had started work to restore its ageing nuclear plant.

In other news, a finger-wagging North Korean nuclear negotiator dismissed as malicious gossip reports that the North’s leader Kim Jong-il may have suffered a stroke.

“It is sophism by bad people who wish ill for our country,” North Korean Foreign Ministry official Hyon Hak-bong said ahead of talks with South Koreans at the Panmunjom truce village, according to a pool report.

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