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Washington keeps up pressure on North Korea

Latest update : 2008-08-11

The United States will maintain North Korea on its "rogue state" blacklist, judging the communist state's declaration on its nuclear program insufficient. Washington urged Pyongyang to accept a comprehensive verification mechanism.

North Korea will remain on a US terrorism blacklist until it accepts a comprehensive mechanism to verify its nuclear program, the US State Department said Monday.

Under US law, Washington can from Monday begin considering removing Pyongyang from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, 45 days after the hardline communist state submitted a long awaited declaration of its nuclear program.

"What we need from the North Koreans is a strong verification regime, that's our policy and it still stands," department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"We have had conversations with them at various levels," he said. "The important point is they haven't produced for us that verification regime that we need to go forward on that issue," he told reporters when asked about the  prospects of North Korea being removed from the terror blacklist.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura had said in Tokyo that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told him by telephone that no date had been set to take North Korea off the list.

"I asked her, 'as details on the verification have yet to be decided, can I take it that the delisting won't happen today?' And she said, 'Yes, you can take it that way,'" Komura told reporters Monday.

After Pyongyang submitted its nuclear declaration on June 26, US President George W. Bush announced he had notified the US Congress of his intent to de-list North Korea from the terror blacklist in 45 days.

Officials have insisted that the 45-day notification period is the "minimum period" for Washington to take action and not a deadline as such.

Washington has reportedly provided North Korea with a four-page draft verification protocol at the latest round of six-way talks in Beijing last month.

While Pyongyang agreed to general principles for verifying the nuclear declaration, including visits to facilities, review of documents, and interviews with technical personnel, there is no agreement yet on the extent to which access can be provided to international inspectors, Asian diplomats said.

The United States wants a rigorous mechanism for verifying the reclusive North Korea's nuclear program and activities.

The Bush administration says it should cover not only Pyongyang's plutonium program -- from which it manufactured bombs, one of which was test fired in 2006 -- but also its sensitive uranium enrichment program and proliferation activities.

North Korea did not answer in its declaration in June about US allegations of its nuclear proliferation to Syria, or claims of a past secret enriched uranium weapons program.

It merely acknowledged in a separate document US concerns about the uranium and proliferation issues and assured it was not engaged in such activities and would not be involved in them in the future.

North Korea has already shut down its main nuclear reactor and is disabling it as part of a six-nation accord under which the impoverished state will receive diplomatic and security guarantees and energy aid in return for denuclearization.

Date created : 2008-08-11