Following an agreement on nuclear verification measures, Washington removed North Korea from its list of countries sponsoring terrorism. The move follows frantic negotiations between US officials and fellow members of the six-party group.
The United States removed North Korea from a terrorism blacklist, US officials said Saturday, as Washington said it got everything it wanted in a nuclear disarmament deal.
"The secretary of state has rescinded the designation of North Korea as a state terror sponsor," said spokesman Sean McCormack, announcing the decision to remove Pyongyang from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism now that there is agreement on steps to verify its nuclear disarmament.
US officials said the verification includes both the plutonium program as well as any uranium enrichment and proliferations activities.
"Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package.
"It's an important point. Every single thing that we sought going in is part of this package," McCormack told reporters.
Angry at Washington's refusal to delist it, Pyongyang in the last few weeks vowed to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor that it shut down under a landmark deal in 2007 and has taken tangible steps toward doing so.
But the way now appeared clear for North Korea to revive the disarmament process.
"We've agreed to a series of verification measures, and flowing from that we can now remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism," a US administration official told AFP on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
The agreement comes after "a last round" of telephone consultations on Friday between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her partners in the six-party negotiations, another official said.
According to reports Friday, both sides had virtually reached an agreement that the North would resume disabling its Yongbyon atomic complex in return for being taken off the list.
Yongbyon was shut down in July 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament deal agreed by the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan after the North staged its first nuclear weapons test in October 2006.
Washington has insisted on an agreement on procedures to verify the disarmament process before it can drop the North from the terror list, which blocks some bilateral and multilateral aid.
But Pyongyang, angered at the delay, has been preparing to restart Yongbyon, which made plutonium for nuclear bombs.
North Korea was added to the list on January 20, 1988, following the bombing by its agents of a KAL plane on November 29, 1987 which killed all 115 on board.
The State Department says the North is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since that bombing.
The plane was en route from Baghdad to Seoul via Bangkok when it blew up over the Andaman Sea. Two North Korean agents had boarded in Baghdad and got off during a stopover in Abu Dhabi, having left a time bomb in an overhead compartment. They were arrested when they tried to leave Bahrain using fake Japanese passports.
Both immediately swallowed cyanide capsules. The man, later identified as 70-year-old Kim Sung Il, died almost instantly, but the female suspect, 26-year-old Kim Hyon-Hui, survived.
She was brought to Seoul, where she confessed and alleged that Kim Jong-Il had personally commanded her mission. She was sentenced to death but later reprieved and published a book entitled "Tears of My Soul" describing her training at a North Korean spy school.
She donated the proceeds to families of victims of the bombing and still lives in South Korea at an undisclosed address.
The apparent aim of the bombing was to deter spectators from attending the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Date created : 2008-10-11