- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

SEOUL (AP) — North Korea failed to meet a year-end deadline to declare all of its nuclear programs under an aid-for-disarmament deal, prompting disappointed reactions yesterday from the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The three countries, along with China and Russia, have pushed North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs in a series of negotiations that began in 2003 and finally gained momentum in 2007.

Washington and Seoul said they think the overall disarmament process, despite falling behind schedule, is still on track.

Pyongyang promised in February to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for energy aid and political concessions.

In October, it vowed to disable its nuclear facilities and declare its programs by the end of the year in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil from South Korea, the U.S., China and Russia.

South Korean news media reported that Pyongyang so far has received 150,000 tons of oil, and the North began disabling the reactor last month with U.S. authorities watching.

The U.S. expressed disappointment at the delay in the promised declaration.

“There has been no last-minute change. It is unfortunate, but we’re going to keep on working on this,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said. “We’re still committed to getting a declaration, and we want that declaration to be full and complete.”

“The declaration is critical,” Mr. Casey added, speaking to reporters. “This can’t be a situation where they pretend to give us a full declaration, and we pretend to believe them. This has to be full and complete, and that’s why, I think, this is taking extra time.”

In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry called the lack of a declaration “unfortunate” and called for it to be released “at the earliest possible date.”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said: “Our government urges North Korea to faithfully declare all nuclear programs at an early date and complete disablement steps without delay” and called it “regrettable” that the country has so far failed to provide the promised list.

China and Russia were silent on the issue. North Korean state press made no mention yesterday of the declaration.

The reasons for the delay in declaring the programs appear to be related to the country’s suspected uranium-enrichment program and differences with Washington over how much plutonium it has produced.

South Korean analysts said North Korea appeared to think the U.S. was dragging its feet on a pledge to remove it from a list of terror-sponsoring states.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said North Korea’s recent behavior suggests that there could be a lull in the denuclearization process for a few months.

“Instead of stressing the North’s declaration, the U.S. should show some sincerity over the terrorism list,” Mr. Yang said.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea specialist at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said the delay shows again that North Korea will move forward only when it is given promised aid and other concessions.

He said, however, that the denuclearization process “won’t be undermined” and that the delay “cannot be seen as a collapse of the agreement.”

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