WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will hold North Korea to its pledge to account for its nuclear programs, the State Department said on Wednesday as Pyongyang remained silent after failing to meet a year-end deadline to give a full accounting of its nuclear arms program.
The December 31 deadline was set under a disarmament-for-aid deal with major regional powers and the United States in which North Korea agreed to provide a full declaration of its atomic facilities and materials to answer U.S. suspicions that it has a clandestine operation to enrich uranium for weapons.
“In terms of the declaration, we’re going to keep hammering away on it, and we’re not lowering the bar,” U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “North Korea has to come out with a full and complete declaration.”
To press U.S. aims, Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, would make a “Northeast Asia tour” at the end of this week, with the itinerary yet to be worked out, McCormack said.
Hill frequently visits U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, as well as China, host of the six-party negotiation process that also includes Russia and North Korea. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is also due to visit China in January.
Under the six-country deal, the reclusive North would receive one million tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid and an end to its status as an international pariah in exchange for starting to take apart its plutonium-producing nuclear plant and providing a list of its atomic activities.
“We are still committed to fulfilling our obligations under the agreement, under the idea of action for action,” McCormack said, adding that the dismantling of the North’s reactor was still proceeding despite a delay for technical reasons.
North Korea has offered no explanation for allowing the declaration deadline to lapse, but the United States and its allies have been muted in their reaction.
“Sometimes it moves in what some might consider tectonic or glacial fashion,” McCormack said. “But it does — it does move forward.”
Reporting by Paul Eckert, editing by Chris Wilson