North Korean nuclear plant disabling to begin Monday

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Tokyo, Nov 3: US technicians are expected to begin on Nov 5 the process to dismantle North Korea's nuclear complex, which makes weapons-grade plutonium, a senior US envoy said today.

''They will begin the process of disabling the DPRK (North Korea) plutonium production facilities in Yongbyon,'' Christopher Hill told a news conference.

''They will be going to Yongbyon tomorrow, and by Monday they'll begin their work,'' he said.

Hill, the top US envoy to six-way talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme, had said in Beijing on Thursday that the work was likely to begin by the end of this week.

In Seoul yesterday, Hill said UN sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear test last year would only be lifted after Pyongyang scraps its atomic weapons programme.

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 last year.

US officials estimate the North has about 50 kg of plutonium.

Proliferation experts say that is enough for six to eight bombs.

The North is required to provide a complete accounting of its fissile material and nuclear arms programme by the end of this year under a deal it reached with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Separately, Japan's Kyodo news agency said today that Hill's North Korean counterpart indicated that Pyongyang would include a suspected uranium enrichment programme in the declaration of its nuclear programs that must be submitted at the year-end.

Kyodo said Kim Kye-gwan, who met Hill on Wednesday, was speaking to reporters in Beijing.


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