SEOUL (AFP) — Top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill will visit Korea this week for talks in Seoul over the deadlocked disarmament deal on North Korea, an official said Sunday.
Hill was expected in Seoul on Tuesday to meet with his South Korean counterpart Kim Sook to discuss "concerns" about North Korea, a senior foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The US envoy's trip comes after the communist North announced moves to restart its plutonium-producing plants.
The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, said Sunday the US envoy was planning to travel to North Korea as well in a last-ditch effort to salvage the faltering accord to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programmes.
"His further travel plan will be confirmed by the US," the Seoul official said, responding to the Post report.
North Korea, which had agreed to an aid-for-disarmament deal following a first nuclear weapon test in 2006, has threatened to scupper the deal over Washington's reluctance to remove Pyongyang from a US terrorism blacklist.
Following the landmark aid-for-disarmament agreement in February 2007, the North in July 2007 shut down its Yongbyon nuclear complex under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's atomic watchdog.
Four months later, it began disabling the complex, and in June this year it handed over details of its plutonium-based nuclear programme, thought to have produced enough material for about six bombs before the shutdown.
In return, the North was promised one million tonnes of fuel oil or the equivalent energy aid as well as diplomatic concessions, including its removal from the US terrorism blacklist, which blocks some foreign aid.
But Washington refuses to delist the North until it agrees procedures for strict verification of its nuclear disclosures, prompting Pyongyang to restart its plutonium programme.
IAEA inspectors have now been barred from the reprocessing plant, which produces the raw material for nuclear weapons, at Yongbyon.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »