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Page last updated at 20:33 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 21:33 UK

N Korea 'restoring nuclear plant'

Destroyed cooling tower at Yongbyon - 27/06/2008
North Korea took steps to disable its nuclear plant at Yongbyon

North Korea has continued to restore its disabled nuclear reactor, the US has said, despite the attempt of a top US envoy to persuade it not to do so.

North Korea is moving equipment it had put into storage back to the Yongbyon reactor, the US State Department said.

The US envoy, Christopher Hill, ended a visit to North Korea saying talks had been substantive, but gave few details.

North Korea has recently gone back on an aid-for-disarmament deal, saying the US has failed to meet its obligations.

Plutonium processing

Earlier this year, the communist state handed over documents setting out details of its nuclear programme and, in return, expected the US to remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The US, however, wants North Korea to agree to a comprehensive process for verifying that the information in the documents is correct.

In response, North Korea says it is taking initial steps to restart its plutonium reprocessing activities at the Yongbyon plant, which it had closed.

A State Department spokesman said those steps had continued during Christopher Hill's three-day visit to Pyongyang.

Christopher Hill talks to journalists in the South Korean capital on 3 October 2008
US envoy Christopher Hill spent three days holding talks in Pyongyang

"North Koreans continue to take some steps to reverse disablement in some of the Yongbyon facilities," said the spokesman, Robert Wood.

He said the US had very recent information that North Korea was making moves to resume plutonium processing at Yongbyon.

"In essence, the only details I can give you on that is some of the equipment that was moved to storage, we are now seeing put back in place," he said.

After leaving Pyongyang, Christopher Hill said he had "very substantive and very lengthy discussions about the issue of the verification protocol" with North Korean officials.

He had not offered substantive changes to the proposed verification process, US officials said on Thursday.

Instead he had suggested ways to adjust the sequencing of steps North Korea would take - possibly including a role for China as a holder of documents.

Mr Hill flies to Beijing on Saturday to meet his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei.

North Korea agreed in February 2007 to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for economic aid and diplomatic concessions. But the deal has faced numerous delays.

This stand-off comes amid concern over the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

South Korean intelligence officials say the 66-year-old leader - who has not yet named a successor - is recovering after having a stroke in August.



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