US experts begin disabling N Korean nuclear plant

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WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) A team of US technicians began the process of disabling North Korea's nuclear complex at Yongbyon under a multinational disarmament deal, the State Department said.

''They are on-scene and the work is underway,'' State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters yesterday.

He said he could not provide details on ''which nut and bolt and chain and screw and piece of equipment has been moved where.'' US officials estimate the North has about 50 kg (110 lb) of plutonium. Proliferation experts say that is enough for six to eight bombs.

In exchange for disabling its plutonium production facilities, the impoverished North will receive one million tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid. The United States will also move toward taking North Korea off a US terrorism blacklist.

The American team arrived in North Korea on Saturday and went to Yongbyon over the weekend, Casey said.

''We expect them to continue at the site until there's completion of the disablement of the three core facilities there, which is the reactor, the reprocessing plant, as well as the fuel fabrication plant,'' he said.

The moves follow a breakthrough deal reached in February under which North Korea, which tested a nuclear device last year in defiance of international warnings, is to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear plant and admit UN nuclear monitors.

''Under the terms of the agreement that we reached, that process, we expect to be completed by the end of the year,'' Casey said.

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

Experts say that though the disablement steps are reversible, it would prevent North Korea from going back to producing any more plutonium for about a year.


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