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North Korea set to miss deadline to declare all its nuclear programs

North Korea set to miss deadline to declare all its nuclear programs

North Korea appeared set Monday to miss a year-end deadline to disable a key nuclear reactor and declare all its nuclear programs, key components of its disarmament as agreed in an international accord.
The communist country promised to disable its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, and give a full accounting of its nuclear programs by Dec. 31 in return for energy aid and political concessions.
The U.S., Japan and South Korea expressed disappointment, but they and other countries that negotiated the accord with the North have not indicated what, if any, sanctions Pyongyang would face over the delay.
The North shut down the plutonium-producing facility in July and disablement work is under way in cooperation with U.S. experts.
But diplomats, including South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, have said the North is likely to miss the year-end deadline for disablement because a key step _ removing fuel rods from the reactor _ could take several months.
The nuclear standoff began in late 2002 after the U.S. accused the North of seeking to secretly enrich uranium in violation of a 1994 disarmament deal.
In late 2003, the North began negotiations over its nuclear program with the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea in the so-called six-party talks, which eventually led to its disarmament commitments this year.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, an underground blast, in October 2006, adding urgency to the talks.
Expectations that the North would fail to deliver the promised statement on time have risen in recent weeks.
The country raised eyebrows last week when a North Korean official indicated it would slow its disablement work because it was dissatisfied over the delivery of aid to the North so far.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the North's failure to meet the deadline and pressed the country to quickly deliver on its promise.
"Our government urges North Korea to faithfully declare all nuclear programs at an early date and complete disablement steps without delay," the ministry said in a statement.
In Washington, U.S. officials say they are disappointed about North Korea's delay.
"It is unfortunate that North Korea has not yet met its commitments by providing a complete and correct declaration of its nuclear programs and slowing down the process of disablement," the State Department said in a statement Sunday.
"We urge North Korea to deliver a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear weapons programs and nuclear weapons and proliferation activities and complete the agreed disablement," the statement said.
In Tokyo, Japan said it was "unfortunate" that the North had not yet declared its nuclear programs, and urged the regime to do so immediately.
"North Korea must provide a complete and accurate declaration of all its nuclear programs at the earliest possible date, and make swift and solid progress in disabling its three nuclear facilities at Yongbyon," Japan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.
The reasons for the delay in declaring the nuclear programs appear related to the country's suspected uranium enrichment program and differences with Washington over how much plutonium it has produced.
Song, South Korea's top diplomat, said Thursday more consultation was required on the alleged uranium enrichment program, while a Japanese newspaper reported Pyongyang and Washington disagree on the plutonium issue.
The Tokyo Shimbun quoted unnamed U.S. and North Korean officials Thursday as saying the North has told the U.S. it has produced about 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of the nuclear material, considerably less than U.S. estimates of more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
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Associated Press Writer Hiroko Tabuchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.