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'N Korea ready to disable nuke programmes'

world Updated: Jun 23, 2007 09:26 IST

IANS
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US envoy Christopher Hill has said that North Korea is ready to disable its main nuclear facilities and reveal all of its nuclear programmes.

"The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) indicated they are prepared to disable the Yongbyon facility" as they had agreed to in February, nuclear negotiator Hill said on Friday at a joint press conference in Seoul with his South Korean counterpart, Chun Yung-woo.

A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday, IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei said on Friday evening in Vienna.

Complete denuclearisation by North Korea can be achieved, said Hill after returning from Pyongyang where he held talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, and Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun.

Hill's two-day visit was the first by a high-ranking US official to North Korea in five years.

The process, however, was a huge undertaking and "we are going to have to spend a great deal of time, a great deal of effort, a lot of work in achieving these," he said.

Chun said North Korea had welcomed the idea of resuming negotiations at the beginning of July.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted Hill as saying that he had discussed "all aspects" of the six-nations process with the two North Korean ministers.

"I think we're talking about trying to have a six-party meeting as soon as possible," Hill said, adding that he had no specific date planned for resuming the nuclear disarmament talks among the six nations involved - the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US "wouldn't rule out" a meeting even before North Korea shuts down its Yongbyon reactor.

"You can imagine a situation where that process is well under way to its completion and you have an envoys-level meeting, in order to really kick-start discussions on that next phase," he said.

Asked about North Korea's commitment to shut down its nuclear facilities and the planned normalization of diplomatic ties with the US, Hill said US officials were seeking a "comprehensive solution" to both issues.

"So away from this two-day set of meetings, I sense that we are going to be able to achieve our full objectives, that is complete denuclearisation" of North Korea, he said.

Hill said he hoped to "make up for some time we lost this spring" through his talks this week, referring to the stalling of the six-party process over the transfer of North Korean funds.

The US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs is on a tour of countries involved in the nuclear talks.

His trip to Pyongyang came four days after North Korea invited the UN nuclear inspectors back into the country to begin the process of shutting down the Yongbyon reactor as required by a February 13 six-party agreement.

The closing of Yongbyon has been delayed for more than two months because of a dispute over funds in a North Korean bank account.