SEOUL (AFP) — North Korea said Tuesday it has stopped disabling its nuclear plants and will consider restoring them because the United States has failed to remove it from a terrorism blacklist.
The communist state accused the US of an "outright violation" of a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal and said work to make the plutonium-producing plants at Yongbyon unusable had halted on August 14.
"Secondly, the DPRK (North Korea) will consider soon a step to restore the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon to their original state as strongly requested by its relevant institutions," said a foreign ministry spokesman.
The US says the North must accept strict procedures to verify the declaration it made in June of its nuclear activities before it can be taken off the blacklist, which blocks US economic aid.
The North's statement appeared to reject that demand outright.
"The US is gravely mistaken if it thinks it can make a house search in the DPRK as it pleases just as it did in Iraq," said the spokesman's statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The latest dispute means that the six-party process "will inevitably stay off track for the time being," said Yang Moo-Jin, professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.
"North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il seems to have made a strategic decision that he will no longer continue negotiations with the Bush administration," Yang told AFP.
The statement questioned the value of the talks which group the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, saying they have become a forum "for a big country to trifle with a small country."
The North tested an atomic weapon in October 2006 but then returned to the talks. Under deals reached last year, it began disabling the reactor and other plants at Yongbyon last November under US supervision.
It says 80 percent of the work has been completed.
The day after handing over its declaration, the North blew up the cooling tower at Yongbyon in a televised show of its commitment to denuclearisation.
The statement said the US failure to act is a clear breach of the agreement since verification is not a precondition for delisting.
"As far as the verification is concerned, it is a commitment to be fulfilled by the six parties at the final phase of the denuclearisation of the whole Korean peninsula," it said, adding that the procedure should also verify the absence of US nuclear weapons in South Korea.
US and North Korean officials held talks in New York last week but failed to break the impasse. The US reportedly wants to conduct sampling of materials, make unannounced visits and inspect unreported facilities.
South Korea's foreign ministry expressed regret and said it would consult other parties to try to restart disablement.
Japan's foreign ministry expressed concern and said it would continue pressing for disablement through close cooperation with other negotiators.
Professor Kim Young-Hyun of Dongguk University called the statement "a very strong message to the US" that Pyongyang wants removal from the list before the 60th anniversary of its founding on September 9.
"The North will escalate tensions in accordance with how the US reacts," Kim said.
The North said the US pressed it "to accept inspections in which they may visit wherever they want, collect samples and take measurements as they please."
It termed the demands "brigandish" and a violation of its sovereignty.
"The DPRK does not care whether it continues remaining on the list of 'those countries which are disobedient to the US'," it added.
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