U.S. urges NKorea to close its main reactor complex

Washington's chief nuclear negotiator urged North Korea to shut down its main reactor complex as a sign of good faith after the communist nation's historic agreement Monday to abandon its nuclear weapons and programs.

Just what those programs are, how to dismantle them and reopen Pyongyang's facilities to international inspections remains for future contentious discussions.

Countries at the six-nation talks don't expect inspectors to scour North Korea for nuclear activities, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said, noting that Pyongyang voluntarily entered into the agreement, the first breakthrough since the negotiations began in August 2003, the AP informs.

"We do not plan to go out onto the landscape of (North Korea) and start hunting for nuclear facilities. We expect those to be shown to us and we expect to move quickly," Hill was quoted as saying by the AP.

The chief U.N. nuclear inspector called for a quick return to the North, which expelled his agency in early 2003.

"The earlier we go back the better," said Mohamed Elbaradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

A joint statement issued at the Beijing talks' conclusion said the North "committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date" to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards.

"The six parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the six-party talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner," it said.

Responding to Pyongyang's claims that it needs atomic weapons for defense, North Korea and the United States also pledged to respect each other's sovereignty and take steps to normalize relations.

But Hill also expressed "serious concerns" about human rights and other issues he said must be addressed for the two countries to move beyond decades of enmity. Last month, the United States appointed a special envoy on North Korea's human rights.

"The U.S. acceptance of the joint statement should in no way be interpreted as meaning we accept all aspects of (North Korea's) system, human rights situation or treatment of its people," Hill said in a closing statement at the talks. "We intend to sit down and make sure that our concerns in these areas are addressed."

The latest nuclear crisis erupted when U.S. officials claimed the North, in late 2002, admitted to a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of a 1994 agreement between the countries. The North has since denied it has such a program, and it was not mentioned in Monday's agreement.

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