Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

North Korea Takes Steps to Restart Nuke Plant

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

North Korea Takes Steps to Restart Nuke Plant

Article excerpt

A long-serving North Korean Army officer reacts disdainfully to all the dialogue he's seen here at this historic truce village straddling the line between the two Koreas.

"Soldiers don't like talks," says the officer, who reluctantly identifies himself only as Lieutenant Lee. "Have you heard of action for action," he asks. "It is not necessary to talk about six-party talks. Soldiers don't like negotiations without any results. We want action."

The "action" he refers to is the US promise to remove North Korea from the State Department's list of countries sponsoring terrorism. North Koreans say President Bush has violated the pledge, and they cite that failure as the reason for restarting their nuclear program.

The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency announced Wednesday that, as requested by North Korea, it had removed the seals and surveillance cameras that have stopped nuclear development at the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang. North Korea then barred UN nuclear inspectors from the facility and said it plans to reactivate the plant within a week, according to the IAEA.

Still, some analysts wonder how serious North Korea is about restarting its nuclear program, as it vowed last Friday, reversing steps taken to disable it as part of the six-party agreement signed in February 2007.

"North Korea needs some leverage," says Choi Jin Wook, director of North Korean studies at the Korean Institute of National Unification, affiliated with the South's unification ministry. "They need to prepare for next year," when the US has a new president who may be willing to drop North Korea from the list of terrorist countries.

Why is removal from the list so important? "It's symbolic," says Mr. Choi. "Then they can say the US is not our enemy any more. That's an important condition for South Korea and Japan to provide investment. …

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