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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

NKorea may hand over nuclear declaration this week: report

North Korea may hand over a declaration of its atomic activities during US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill's trip to Beijing this week or shortly afterwards, a report said Monday.

But it is not clear whether Hill's Pyongyang counterpart, Kim Kye-Gwan, will show up in the Chinese capital to meet him, a South Korean government source told Yonhap news agency.

Hill will be in Beijing from May 27-29 and Moscow from May 29-31.

US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey has said Hill was open to meeting Kim Kye-Gwan during his trip to China and Russia.

South Korean nuclear envoy Kim Sook may also visit Beijing for talks with his North Korean counterpart, Yonhap said.

Kim Sook is to visit Russia but the schedule for his return has not yet been set, foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-Young told reporters. "Nothing has been decided either on whether he will visit Beijing or not."

The North agreed last year in landmark talks to disable nuclear plants at Yongbyon under a deal reached with the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Kim Sook said last week that North Korea plans to blow up the cooling tower at Yongbyon to symbolise its commitment to disarmament soon after it hands over the declaration.

But disputes over its declaration of nuclear activities due last December 31 have delayed the permanent dismantling of the plants and the handover of all nuclear material.

Hopes are growing that the impasse will soon end since the North this month gave the United States 18,000 pages of operating and production records for its Yongbyon reactor and reprocessing plant.

These produced weapons-grade plutonium, including the material that the North used to stage a nuclear test in October 2006.

In return for total denuclearisation, the North would receive energy aid, a lifting of US sanctions, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Washington and a formal peace treaty with the United States.

Washington is expected to start the process of removing the North from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states following the destruction of the cooling tower.

(Source: AFP)

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