WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday welcomed a long-delayed North Korean account of its shadowy nuclear activities and said it would act to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
President George W. Bush planned to make a public statement at the White House at 7:40 EDT (12:40 p.m. British time) on Thursday.
North Korea handed over to China on Thursday a declaration of its nuclear activities as it had agreed in six-party talks. It also agreed to destroy a cooling tower at its Yongbyon reactor on Friday.
“North Korea has pledged to disable all its nuclear facilities and tomorrow will destroy the cooling tower of the Yongbyon reactor,” a White House statement said.
The White House said the United States would respond by lifting sanctions on North Korea under the “Trading with the Enemy Act” and would also begin steps to remove Pyongyang from the U.S. blacklist of countries it considers sponsors of terrorism.
“The United States welcomes the North Korean declaration of its nuclear programs. Today’s development is an important step in the multi-step process laid out in the six-party talks between North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States,” the White House said.
“The six-party talks are based on a principle of ‘action for action’,” it added.
The White House said the information provided by Pyongyang would be “be essential to verifying that North Korea is ending all of its nuclear programs and activities.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in the Japanese city of Kyoto earlier there was still work to do in verifying that North Korea, which tested a nuclear device two years ago, had given up the pursuit of atomic weapons.
China, the closest Pyongyang has to an ally, has hosted six-country talks that last year secured a deal offering North Korea energy, aid and diplomatic concessions in return for disabling its main nuclear facility and unveiling its past nuclear activities.
That phase of the nuclear disarmament deal was due for completion by the end of 2007, but wrangling over money, aid and the contents of the reclusive communist state’s “declaration” had held up progress.
“The United States will respond to North Korea’s actions by lifting the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act as well as announcing our intent to rescind North Korea’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terror in 45 days,” the White House said.
“During this period, the United States will carefully assess North Korea’s actions particularly with regard to verification,” it added.
“There is still more work to be done in order for North Korea to end its isolation. It must dismantle all of its nuclear facilities, give up its separated plutonium, and resolve outstanding questions on its highly enriched uranium and proliferation activities. It must end these activities in a fully verifiable way,” the White House said.
Editing by Alan Elsner