'UN sanctions stay until NKorea disarms'

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Seoul, Nov 2: The United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear test last year will be lifted only after Pyongyang scraps its nuclear arms programme, US envoy Christopher Hill said today.

A team of experts led by a US State Department official will arrive in the North's Yongbyon nuclear complex today or tomorrow to start disabling the communist state's nuclear facilities under a multinational disarmament deal, Hill said.

''The sanctions are there until the DPRK (North Korea) gets out of the nuclear business,'' Hill told reporters after meeting with South Korea's chief nuclear envoy. ''That is when they ought to be revisited,'' he said, referring to the UN sanctions.

The UN Security Council last year imposed a ban on international trade that aids the North's weapons programmes after Pyongyang defied international warnings and conducted its first nuclear test in October of last year.

US officials say the North likely has about 50 kg of arms-grade plutonium. Proliferation experts said conservatively this could be enough for six to eight bombs depending on the quality of the North's fisisle material and weapons design.

North and South Korea remain technically at war with hundreds of thousands of troops confronting each other along their heavily militarised frontier because the 1950-53 Korea War ended in an armed truce instead of a peace agreement. The United States, one of the combatants in that war, has more than 30,000 troops on the peninsula.

The North has since agreed to implement a deal with South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China to disable its nuclear facilities and eventually dismantle them in return for massive aid and better diplomatic ties with Washington and Tokyo.

The United States, with its veto power on the Security Council, has a say on lifting its sanctions.


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