North Korea nuclear reversal off to good start-U.S.

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SEOUL, Nov 6 (Reuters) North Korea's first ever steps to roll back a nuclear programme launched about 40 years ago are going well, a US official said today after visiting the North's plutonium-producing atomic complex.

Destitute North Korea struck a deal with regional powers last month to disable its Soviet-era nuclear complex in exchange for aid and an end to its international ostracism.

''I think we are off to a good start,'' US State Department official Sung Kim said at Incheon airport near Seoul, according to a pool report. Kim was with a team of US nuclear specialists who arrived in North Korea last week.

He said there have been steps to reverse the operations at all three of the key facilities -- the North's ageing reactor, a plant that produces nuclear fuel and another that turns spent fuel in arms-grade plutonium.

The deal calls for North Korea to disable these three plants by the end of the year, provide a complete list of its nuclear arms activity as well as account for all its fissile material.

In exchange, the impoverished North will receive 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid. The United States will also move toward taking North Korea off a US terrorism blacklist.

REUTERS ARB DS1401

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