January 29, 2008 / 10:25 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. envoy wants North Korea to release nuclear list

SEOUL (Reuters) - A U.S. diplomat who heads to Pyongyang this week trying to push forward a stalled nuclear deal said on Tuesday that North Korea must give a complete account of its atomic arms program.

North Korea failed to meet an end-of-2007 deadline it reached in a deal with five regional powers to release a list of its fissile material and nuclear weaponry as well as answer U.S. suspicions of enriching uranium for weapons.

“The requirement is for a complete and correct declaration of all of its nuclear programs,” said Sung Kim at Seoul’s international airport.

Kim has been in North Korea before to help monitor the disablement of the secretive state’s facility that produces weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea began taking apart its Yongbyon nuclear plant in November as called for in the international disarmament deal.

If North Korea makes the nuclear declaration, the United States is expected to take steps to ease trade restrictions on the impoverished state, which desperately needs foreign currency. It would also move to take North Korea off its blacklist of states that sponsor terrorism.

Kim dismissed a report in a major South Korean daily that said Washington was willing to accept a partial disclosure by the North to begin taking it off the terrorism list.

Kim, due to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday and Pyongyang on Thursday, said North Korea should make the declaration as soon as possible.

Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to the nuclear talks, has urged patience on the declaration, saying Washington wants a complete inventory.

The United States suspects North Korea has produced about 50 kg (110 lbs) of plutonium, which proliferation experts said is conservatively enough for six to eight bombs.

Separately, Chinese state media said a six-member delegation of its ruling Communist party, led by Wang Jiarui of the party’s International Department, left for Pyongyang on Tuesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the trip was “a normal exchange”, adding patience should be shown towards North Korea, China’s neighbor and traditional Communist ally.

“At present, the results achieved during the six-party talks should be treasured,” Jiang told a news conference

“We hope all parties can maintain patience and bring their wisdom into play to make joint efforts to put the second stage actions into practice,” she said, referring to the agreement.

The State Department’s Kim was expected to meet Chinese Foreign Ministry officials in Beijing on Wednesday before he heads off to Pyongyang, Jiang added.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Jack Kim in Seoul, and Lindsay Beck in Beijing; Editing by Katie Nguyen

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