The United States on Friday disputed North Korean claims that Pyongyang had handed over a list of its nuclear programs ahead of a year-end disarmament deadline. Despite the North's charges of U.S. obstruction, the State Department expressed confidence that the process was moving ahead.
Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that North Korea has yet to provide a complete nuclear declaration, a key part of a February aid-for-disarmament deal worked out in six-nation talks.
"They're engaging the international media, in their own way," McCormack said of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's statements. "It is an important point that in none of this have any of the parties been backing away at all from their commitment to the process."
Not doing its part?
North Korea said Friday it gave the U.S. a list of its nuclear programs in November and accused the U.S. of not doing its part to move the process forward.
The North's Foreign Ministry did not elaborate on the contents of what it gave Washington but stressed it had follow-up consultations with U.S. officials and tried its best to clear their suspicions that Pyongyang had a secret uranium-based nuclear weapons program.
The North's claims came as the chief U.S. envoy at disarmament talks, Christopher Hill, headed to Asia to discuss the disarmament accord.
U.S. officials have voiced skepticism about the North's commitment to the deal after saying that Pyongyang failed to deliver the declaration by the end of the year. The six nations involved in the talks are the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.
The North's producing what the U.S. calls a "complete and accurate" declaration is seen as key to the process moving forward. Washington is especially keen for the declaration to address the suspected uranium enrichment program -- an important sticking point that touched off a nuclear standoff in late 2002.
North Korean and U.S. officials have had ongoing talks on the declaration, McCormack said. But, he said, the U.S. is still waiting for a final declaration. He would not elaborate on the discussions.
McCormack also would not discuss the North's claim that it had offered an explanation to U.S. officials about its alleged uranium program.
Hill told reporters in December, after visiting North Korea, that he had not seen a draft of the declaration but that U.S. and North Korean negotiators had had extensive talks about what the U.S. expects to see in the list of nuclear programs.
When asked at the time if the North was prepared to present a draft of the declaration, he said his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, told him, "We don't want to rush this and cause problems. Haste makes waste, I think is what he said."
North Korea has promised to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for energy aid and political concessions. In October, it pledged to disable its nuclear facilities and declare its programs by the end of the year in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil.
The North shut down its sole functioning atomic reactor in July and began to disable it and other facilities under watch of U.S. experts in November; that process, though slowed by technical difficulties, continues.