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North Korea Says Reactor Could Be Restarted

The country stopped dismantling the complex because
the United States has not kept its end of a disarmament-for-aid deal, North
Korean diplomat Hyun Hak Bong told reporters, according to the Associated

“We are making thorough preparations to
restart” the facility, which can produce weapons-grade plutonium, he said.
He did not say when it would be running again.

North Korea has said that Washington agreed to
remove it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism once it started
disabling the reactor and submitted a declaration of its nuclear activities, as
it did last June. But the United States says the North must permit a
comprehensive inspection to ensure it did not omit crucial data.

However, the North Korean Foreign Ministry signaled
Friday that it is hardening its stance against Washington amid reports that
leader Kim Jong Il, 66, suffered a stroke and could be seriously ill. He has
not been seen in public for more than a month.

“We neither wish, nor expect, to be delisted as
a ‘state sponsor of terrorism,'” the North’s state-run news agency quoted
a ministry spokesman as saying, the New York Times reported. “We can go
our own way.”

The landmark 2007 disarmament pact — made with the
United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan — called on Pyongyang to
give up and disable its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid.

North Korea began disabling the complex last year,
and the process was 90 percent complete, Hyun said.

South Korean officials say the North completed eight
of 11 key disablement measures at Yongbyon, but have received only half the
promised international energy aid.

On Friday, Hyun warned Washington not to press the
verification issue, saying that was never part of the deal.

“The U.S. is insisting that we accept
unilateral demands that had not been agreed upon. They want to go anywhere at
any time to collect samples and carry out examinations with measuring
equipment,” he said. “That means they intend to force an

The United States responded Friday, saying North
Korea must make a choice about whether it wants to have a better relationship
with the world or “keep themselves isolated.”

Asked why the North should deal with the Bush
administration in its final months in office, State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack said that Pyongyang is unlikely to get a different disarmament deal
from the next administration in January.

McCormack said that North Korea has been
“getting closer and closer” to the point where it will restart the
reactor but has not gotten there yet. He urged the country “not to get to
that point.”

“They can go down the pathway of having a
different kind of relationship with the rest of the world, receiving the
benefits of that relationship or they can keep themselves isolated and move the
process backwards,” he said, according to Reuters.

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