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U.N. Confirms North Korea Closed Nuclear Reactor


The U.S. State Department's Christopher Hill will be participating and is on the line once again. Welcome back to the program.

CHRISTOPHER HILL: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: What's the next thing that's supposed to happen?

HILL: Well, this is a first step to get them to shut down this nuclear facility at Yongbyon. So we have a long way to go after this. So the second thing we're going to do is we'll sit down with the six parties and start working out how we are going to get a full list, a full declaration for the North Koreans of all their nuclear programs, and then how we are actually going to disable some of these facilities. For example, with respect to the reactor, we have it shut down now, which is a good first step. But now we have to disable it, and you can do that by drilling a hole in it or cutting some drive shafts or doing a bunch of different things. So we've got to work out the details of that.

INSKEEP: What about the North Koreans actually handing over their bombs?

HILL: So we would hope that we could get to disabling of the nuclear facilities and a full declaration, try to get through that in this calendar year. And then in calendar year '08, get going with getting them to give up the fissile material that they have already produced.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, I wonder if this is a sign of how far there is still to go here. It's been pointed out that by getting the North Koreans to shut down their nuclear reactor, you've gotten back to the point that you were at back in 2002, five years ago or more, when the Bush administration named North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil. You've just gotten back to that point except North Korea has more nuclear weapons now, probably, than it did then.

HILL: Well, I understand why you make that point. But frankly we have them shutting down a reactor on the basis of a six-party agreement, that is five countries that are guarantors of this agreement. We also have an agreement where they shut it down for 50,000 tons of fuel oil. The agreement in the 1990s was we had to keep providing them fuel oil every month or they'd turn it back on. So we don't have that kind of situation.

INSKEEP: You're referring to the deal during the Clinton administration, okay.

HILL: Yeah, but again I don't want to be critical of what people did before. It was a different era, a different agreement. But I think my point is to tell you that we have - indeed, we have a long way to go. And if we don't follow this up with additional steps, yeah, I think there's a lot of room for criticism here.

INSKEEP: So the North Koreans have agreed to keep this nuclear reactor shut down period, even if they don't get more shipments of fuel oil or some other kind of payment or concession?

HILL: That's correct. Now, the additional shipments of fuel oil that we envisioned, are to do more than just keep the thing shut down. It's to actually disable the thing. And what we're looking for after disablement is to actually dismantle it and cart it away. So I think we're on the road here. But, believe me as someone who has been working on this awful problem for so many months, we're not going to be there till we get to the end of the road. And the end of the road is complete denuclearization.

INSKEEP: Christopher Hill is the chief American envoy in negotiations with North Korea. He's in Seoul. Ambassador, good to talk with you again.

HILL: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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