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Hill On North Korean Nukes

In the Initial Actions agreement reached earlier this year, North Korea agreed to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility. It also agreed to invite back International Atomic Energy Agency personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verifications. The Yongbyon reactor produces plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Under the same agreement, the other members of the Six-Party Talks agreed to provide North Korea with emergency energy assistance in the initial phase. The other parties to the talks are the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China.

As part of ongoing consultations with Six-Party partners and at the invitation of Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill traveled to North Korea June 21st and 22nd for discussions with North Korean officials. He commented after his trip:

"If all goes well, we would hope that by the end of the calendar year '07 [2007] we will have the [Yongbyon] facility shut down and disabled. We would have a peace process ... underway in the Korean peninsula."

Once the Yongbyon facility is shut down, said Ambassador Hill, an initial fifty-thousand tons of heavy fuel oil will be shipped to North Korea, as outlined in the Initial Actions agreement. In the next phase, North Korea is expected to declare all its nuclear programs. This includes clarification on the highly-enriched uranium issue. The United States, said Ambassador Hill, will not accept having this issue "pushed under the rug":

"We're not reaching any deal unless this is resolved. We've got to get clarity on this. Unlike many things in life where you can take care of them in one conversation, I don't think this is one of them. I think you have to kind of keep coming back, and keep explaining why this is important. And I think eventually we will get some clarity, because we can't walk away from this."

In addition to a North Korean declaration, the next phase calls for disabling all North Korean nuclear facilities. The United States, said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, will not fully normalize relations with North Korea until there is "full de-nuclearization" on the Korean peninsula.