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DPRK official: Destruction of key nuke facility pushes forward denuclearization
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A combination photo shows a cooling tower (R) and the site after it was demolished (L) at a DPRK nuclear plant June 27, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The demolition of the cooling tower at Yongbyon, the nuclear center of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), will push forward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a DPRK official said Friday.

The cooling tower, a key element of the five Megawatt electric reactor at Yongbyon, was blown up at 5:05 p.m. local time (0805 GMT), Friday.

The 30-meter-high concrete building was reduced to a pile of rubble within seconds, with a cloud of heavy smoke rising into the sky.

The explosion of the cooling tower was "very successful," said Li Yong Ho, director of the DPRK General Department of Atomic Energy.

It will push forward the denuclearization and contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula, he added.

Sung Kim, a senior official on Korean issues at the U.S. State Department and representing other five parties of the six-party talks to witness the destruction, also described it as "a significant disablement move."

The cooling tower's destruction symbolizes an end of the disablement phase for implementing the six-party talks September 2005 agreement, as the action makes it impossible for the DPRK to restart its nuclear program in a short time.

Centered at Yongbyon, about 100 km north of Pyongyang, the DPRK's nuclear program consists of a five-megawatt reactor, a fuel fabrication facility and a plutonium reprocessing plant, where weapons-grade material would be extracted from spent fuel rods.

On July 15, 2007, the DPRK shut down and sealed its key nuclear facility at Yongbyon and allowed IAEA inspectors back to monitor the shut-down. DPRK workers began to disable the plant under U.S. technical supervision a few months later.

Disagreement over the DPRK's declaration, which was due by the end of last year, had held up the disablement process.

With the DPRK submitting its nuclear declaration to China, host of the six-party talks, and the U.S. starting to remove Pyongyang from its terrorism blacklists and easing some sanctions against it, the six-party talks, aimed at the disarmament of the DPRK's nuclear weapons, gathered momentum toward the next phase.

(Xinhua News Agency June 28,2008)

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