North Korea said Tuesday it had halted work on disabling the plutonium-producing plants at Yongbyon, while accusing the United States of not keeping its previous agreement to remove the country from its terrorism blacklist.
Pyongyang tested an atomic weapon in October 2006, but in 2007 six-nation disarmament talks made historic progress, bringing North Korea to the bargaining table by offering to normalize its relations with the US – and unblock US aid - if the communist country shut down the Yongbyon facility.
Washington said it would remove North Korea from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism” if Pyongyang agreed to a comprehensive verification protocol documenting its nuclear dismantlement. North Korea began disabling the reactor and other plants at Yongbyon last November under US supervision.
Pyongyang claims that it has completed 80 percent of the disabling work at the site, but earlier this month the Unites States announced it would not be removing North Korea from its blacklist, because the country had not provided enough information.
On Tuesday, the North Korean foreign ministry’s spokesman said the US’s failure to remove North Korea from the terrorism list was an “outright violation” of the agreement. He said North Korea had halted dismantlement work on Aug. 18 and would “consider restoring the Yongbyon facilities to their original state."
At issue is the timing: who would go first, the US removing North Korea from the list, or Pyongyang demonstrating its commitment to dismantlement. North Korea wants the US to act first, as part of what it calls an "action-for-action" plan.
“The understanding from the White House all along was that North Korea would have to be open to verification of its nuclear activities before if got taken off the terrorist blacklist,” said FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Armen Georgian. “North Korea seems to have take the other view.”
US and North Korean officials held talks in New York last week but failed to break the impasse. The US reportedly wants to conduct sampling of materials, unannounced visits and inspection of unreported facilities.
"It would be a big mistake if the US believes that it can carry out a search of our home as it pleases, just as it did in Iraq," said North Korea’s spokesman. He expressed doubt about the future of the six-party talks – involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. "When the six-party talks have degenerated into a circus where the strong bullies the weak as it pleases, what's the use of the six-party structure?," he said.