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(LEAD) U.S. informed of N. Korea's decision to restart reactor

All Headlines 16:21 September 04, 2008

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with foreign minister's comments, other details)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan expressed deep regret Thursday over North Korea's move to restart its nuclear reactor and urged Pyongyang to engage in talks on ways to verify its recent nuclear declaration.

Yu confirmed that the North notified the U.S. earlier this week of its decision to reactivate the plutonium-producing facility in Yongbyon.

"As North Korea is translating words into actual action, we express concern over it and close consultations with related nations are under way," Yu said in his first press briefing in nearly four months.

North Korea told U.S. monitors working at Yongbyon Tuesday that it would recover the Soviet-era reactor which was being disabled under a multilateral disarmament deal signed last year, according to the minister.

On the basis of intelligence shared by the U.S., South Korea stated a day later that the North began the process of putting equipment removed from the reactor back into operation, a move apparently aimed at protesting Washington's delay in removing the communist nation from its list of state sponsors of terrorism

The South Korean Foreign Ministry defined Pyongyang's step as the start of the full-scale recovery of the nuclear facility, but the U.S. was cautious.

"Our understanding is that the North Koreans are moving some equipment around that they had previously put into storage," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington. "I don't have a whole lot of details beyond that."

The minister emphasized that there is no difference between the South Korean and U.S. governments over the perception of the situation. He declined to specify, saying it is an intelligence matter.

He said South Korea has no plan to suspend shipments of energy aid to the North agreed under the six-way disarmament deal, adding it is not appropriate to overreact. The other nations involved in the six-way talks are the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

Earlier in the day, a South Korean nuclear negotiator accused the North of breaking the six-way deal, in which the North agreed to disable the facility and make a full declaration of its atomic weapons program in return for economic aid and political incentives.

"What is most important at this stage is to persuade North Korea not to take further measures to worsen the situation," the negotiator said on the condition of anonymity. North Korea announced on Aug. 26 that it halted the disablement of the nuclear facility and would consider restoring it if the U.S. continues to drag its feet on the promise related with the terror list.

The North submitted a list detailing its nuclear activity in June and in return the U.S. announced its plan to rescind the designation of the communist nation as a terrorism sponsor.

Washington has indefinitely postponed delisting Pyongyang as it refuses to agree on a verification regime for its nuclear declaration.

The U.S. handed over a draft verification protocol in the latest round of six-way talks in July but the North has not responded yet.

Meanwhile, South Korea's top nuclear envoy Kim Sook will fly to Beijing on Friday to discuss how to deal with the North's move. Kim plans to meet his American and Chinese counterparts during his three-day stay there, Kim's aides said.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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