The United States and Japan are expressing regret that North Korea is breaking a key promise aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs. 2007 is coming to an end with no declaration from North Korea listing its nuclear activities. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
The U.S. State Department says it is "unfortunate that North Korea has not yet met its commitments" in six-nation diplomacy aimed at getting rid of its nuclear weapons. Japan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Monday using similar language.
Pyongyang had promised the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea it would provide a full and accurate declaration of all its nuclear programs, stockpiles and weapons by the end of the year. However, the North remained silent as the final hours of 2007 ticked away.
Experts say the delaying is linked to North Korea's uranium enrichment activities. Senior U.S. officials say there is considerable evidence, including a private admission by Pyongyang, that North Korea broke previous commitments by secretly enriching uranium. North Korea has never publicly admitted doing so.
South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said this week more consultations are needed on the uranium issue. He says the timing of the declaration is not as important as the sincerity of its contents.
In an appeal for patience, Song says the Korean peninsula is on a path it has never been on before. What is important, he says, is to move ahead in a stable way.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Washington's senior envoy in the nuclear diplomacy, says it would be unhelpful for the declaration to be on time if it was incomplete.
"We cannot put ourselves in the position of trying to ignore things," Hill said. "We have to have clarity on all these programs."
North Korea has made progress on pledges to disable facilities capable of producing plutonium, including its main production facility at Yongbyon. Supervised by U.S. experts, North Korea has taken steps to make it costly and time-consuming to restart the facilities, and has promised to begin dismantling them altogether next year. As compensation, the United States and South Korea are giving the North the energy equivalent of about one million tons of fuel oil.
However, this week a senior North Korean official warned the pace of the disabling process would slow down, because Pyongyang believes the energy compensation is not being delivered in a timely manner. Experts say technical issues are probably the real reason for the delay.
U.S. State Department Spokesman Tom Casey says Washington urges North Korea to deliver a complete and correct declaration. There has been no indication of when North Korea might provide the required documents.