October 11, 2008

US ‘Still Undecided’ on Delisting North Korea As Terror-Sponsor State – Yonhap

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (Yonhap) - The United States has not yet made a decision on whether or when to delist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, the State Department said Friday.

Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that he had "nothing new" on the issue, explaining that discussions are still under way between the partners in the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions. They are the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia.

Reports have spread that Washington will soon take Pyongyang off the terrorism blacklist as Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill proposed in Pyongyang last week that North Korea's plutonium- producing facilities be verified first and its suspected uranium- based programme and alleged nuclear proliferation be done later.

White House spokesperson Dana Perino dismissed reports that President Bush has rejected Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's proposal to take Pyongyang off the terrorism blacklist under the compromise plan.

"There has been no decision. We are continuing to work on a verification protocol so that we can take the next steps so that North Korea would then start the third phase of the agreement, which would be disarmament," she said, adding, "I don't expect anything else today on that."

Pyongyang has been adamant that it will not agree to Washington's demand for unlimited access to its nuclear facilities, which it said would be a violation of its sovereignty, although it is ready to accept verification of its plutonium facilities.

US officials have said for the past weeks that North Korea must agree to a verification protocol before getting removed from the blacklist.

"This has been about getting the details right on a verification regime that we hope will move this process forward, so that we can get to the ultimate goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula," McCormack told a daily news briefing.

He added that consultations are still ongoing "not only within the US government, putting our best minds to work on this issue; there's also been a lot of consultation with our partners in the six- party process, the six-party mechanism."

Rice on Friday talked to her South Korean, Chinese and Japanese counterparts, and will speak with her Russian counterpart "in the coming days about this," McCormack said. Rice said Thursday she will be able to make an announcement on the issue in several days.

South Korean ambassador Lee Tae-sik [Yi T'ae-sik], meanwhile, said that he expects the United States will soon remove North Korea from its terrorism blacklist.

"I expect such a result (for delisting) will come out as close consultations are under way," Lee told a group of South Korean lawmakers who are here for an annual parliamentary inspection of the South Korean mission in Washington. "I cannot talk about the outcome prematurely, but I understand that things are going in that direction."

The ambassador said the talks hinge on "how sincerely North Korea will agree to the verification regime."

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 1747 10 Oct 08.

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