North Korea halts nuclear reactor disablement
Thursday, 28 August 2008

REUTERS

Moves to denuclearise the Korean peninsular hit a brick wall today as North Korea halted the disablement of its nuclear facilities and accused the United States of reneging on a disarmament agreement.

The foreign ministry in Pyongyang said it would consider rebuilding its reactor and cooling tower in Yongbyon because the US had not lived up to a promise to remove it from a list of nations that sponsor terrorism.
 
In a statement carried by the Korea Central News Agency, the ministry said the US was insisting on extra inspections that would infringe upon its sovereignty.
 
"The US is gravely mistaken if it thinks it can make a house search in DPRK as it pleases just as it did in Iraq," said the statement, using the acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "We have decided to immediately suspend disabling our nuclear facilities."
 
The statement is a blow to hopes for an easing of tension on the peninsular after a landmark agreement last year that committed North Korea to dismantle its facilities in return for energy supplies and a lifting of sanctions and its pariah status.
 
Optimism was high in June when the US began the 45-day process to remove Pyongyang from a list of nations that sponsor terrorism after North Korea blew up the cooling tower in Yongbyon and handed over a declaration of its nuclear programme.
 
But the inventory is short of US estimates, does not include nuclear weapons and makes no mention of a uranium enrichment program - which Washington has repeatedly accused Pyongyang of developing.
 
Earlier this month, the United States said it would not take North Korea off the terrorism blacklist until it was satisfied that a verification protocol is in place. Other nations involved in six party talks to resolve the issue called on the two sides to break the impasse.
 
South Korean officials lamented the North's move. "It's regrettable that this announcement came at a time when each side has been trying" to move the process forward, said Kim Sook, Seoul's chief nuclear envoy. "I hope North Korea will resume disablement measures at an early date."
 
But today's statement may indicate that Pyongyang has given up on the Bush administration and is now waiting to see whether the next president will pursue a different policy.

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