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In a February 2007 deal, North Korea agreed to begin disabling its main nuclear processing plant at Yongbyon in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of fuel oil and other concessions from the U.S., South Korea, Russia, China and Japan.

But disablement came to a halt as North Korea wrangled with Washington over how to verify its past atomic activities. The latest round of talks, in December, failed to make any progress.

North Korea has said it will test a long-range missile and is suspected of preparing for a third nuclear test, the AP reported.

In yet another challenge to the United States, the North last week sentenced two U.S. journalists to 12 years of hard labor for “grave crimes,” saying they illegally entered the country. Laura Ling and Euna Lee, of former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV, were detained by North Korean border guards during a visit to China on March 17.