Top US negotiator Christopher Hill said yesterday that North Korea must do more to dismantle its nuclear weapons program before it can be removed from Washington's list of states that sponsor terrorism.
On Monday, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency quoted a North Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the United States had agreed during bilateral talks in Geneva to take Pyongyang off the list.
"They are not off this list," Hill told reporters in Sydney, which is hosting the annual meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He flew in from Geneva, where he had met North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan over the weekend.
"Whether they get off will depend on further denuclearization," added Hill, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
Japan's top government spokesman also said Tokyo had not heard of any US decision to take Pyongyang off the list, which currently also includes Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
"The United States has told us that there would be no delisting until (North Korea) disables its nuclear facilities," Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano told reporters.
North Korea was put on Washington's blacklist in January 1988 after a North Korean agent confessed to the 1987 bombing of a passenger jet of South Korea over the Indian Ocean that killed all 115 people on board.
Pyongyang said it had agreed with the United States in Geneva to take "practical measures to neutralize the existing nuclear facilities in North Korea within this year", KCNA quoted the Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Monday.
"In return for this, the US decided to take such political and economic measures for compensation as delisting North Korea as a terrorism sponsor and lifting all sanctions that have been applied according to the Trading with the Enemy Act," the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying.
Hill said in Geneva that North Korea had agreed to fully account for and disable its nuclear program by the end of the year. He confirmed the delegations had discussed the terms under which Washington would drop Pyongyang from its terrorism list.
The blacklist imposes a ban on arms-related sales, keeps the country from receiving US economic aid and requires the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions.
Tokyo has been pressing Washington not to take North Korea off the list until the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea agents in the past is resolved.
(China Daily via agencies September 5, 2007)