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US to send N team to N Korea shortly

world Updated: Oct 04, 2007 16:13 IST

AFP
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The United States will send a team of experts to North Korea as early as next week to begin implementing a denuclearization pact, US envoy Christopher Hill said.

The six-nation agreement unveiled by China on Wednesday was hailed by President George W Bush as a commitment "to realise a Korean Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons" and to "help secure the future peace and prosperity of the Northeast Asian region."

The United States will lead and fund the program as Pyongyang makes a full declaration of its nuclear assets by a December 31 deadline set in the agreement, officials said.

Hill said on Thursday a US team would be going to North Korea next week to begin the process, beginning at the key Yongbyon nuclear complex, the source of bomb-grade plutonium for Pyongyang which conducted its first nuclear test a year ago.

"We hope that we can get them in early next week and they can begin the actual task of disablement," he told reporters.

"Our hope is that as we get to the end of this year, we will have (not) only shut down but also disabled (their nuclear program), such that if the North Koreans ever wanted to change their mind, it would be quite difficult to restart the program," he said.

The agreement, reached between China, the United States, the two Koreas, Russia and Japan, is the second phase of a long-running process aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons drive.

North Korea is committed to provide "a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs, nuclear weapons programs, materials, and any proliferation activity," Bush said in a statement.