North Korea has refused to dispose of unused nuclear fuel and destroy a cooling tower at its main nuclear complex until it receives benefits promised under a disarmament deal, a South Korean news report said yesterday.
North Korea began disabling key facilities at its nuclear complex north of Pyongyang last month under the watch of U.S. experts, pledging to complete the process by year's end in return for international energy aid and other concessions.
Washington recently sent delegations to North Korea demanding that disablement measures be applied to unused nuclear fuel and a cooling tower at the plutonium-producing complex to make it unusable for at least one year, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, a mass circulation South Korean newspaper, reported from Washington.
The U.S. believes if the two steps are not included, it will take North Korea only three months Korea to restart the nuclear reactor, the newspaper said, citing unnamed diplomatic sources in the U.S.
The North rebuffed the U.S. demands, saying it can only take those steps after it has received new benefits under the next phase of the disarmament deal, the paper said.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry would not comment Monday on the report, and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul was closed.
Under a joint statement after the latest round of disarmament talks, the North agreed to disable all existing nuclear facilities, but did not specifically mention disabling the cooling tower or the possibility of disposing of any unused nuclear fuel.
Diplomats have said the North is likely to miss a year-end deadline for the disablement measures, as a key step - removing fuel rods from the reactor - could take several months. The North has also promised to provide a complete list of all its nuclear programs by the end of this year, but has not done so amid alleged disagreement over the North's suspected uranium enrichment.
The U.S. has said it would remove the North from terrorism and sanctions blacklists in return for the North's disablement procedures. But the U.S. will not take such steps unless the North keeps its promise to declare all its nuclear programs and scrap the nuclear fuel and the cooling tower, the South Korean newspaper said.