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N Korea's demolishing nuclear facility rekindles hope for breakthrough in six-party talks
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North Korea on Friday blew up the cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, a symbolic gesture of its willingness to abandon its nuclear ambition.

Five broadcasters – one each from the five countries in nuclear talks with North Korea – were invited by North Korea to cover the demolition of the aging cooling tower, a symbol of North Korea's nuclear facilities that has repeatedly appeared in US satellite photos.

With the event being witnessed by the world, North Korea is taking a new step for reaching the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea's move indicated that a breakthrough is imminent in the impasse that has held up the six-party nuclear negotiations for months, as the tower's destruction came after Pyongyang submitted its long-delayed list of nuclear programs.

North Korea handed over its nuclear declaration to China on Thursday.

Washington promises to remove North Korea from terror list

The United States said Thursday it may remove North Korea from its state sponsors of terrorism in August if North Korea meets all its obligations under the six-party talks.

"After a period of 45 calendar days and absent the enactment of a joint resolution blocking the proposed rescission, the secretary of state may rescind North Korea's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism on August 11," the US State Department said in a statement.

North Korea will not be removed from the terror list until a verification system is put in place and verification itself begins, the statement said.

US President George W. Bush also said Thursday that the United States will lift the key sanctions on North Korea under the Trading with the Enemy Act and will notify Congress of his intent to remove North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism.

Under a landmark agreement reached last year at the six-party talks, involving the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, Pyongyang agreed to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs and declare all its nuclear programs and facilities by the end of 2007, in exchange for diplomatic and economic incentives.

However, the denuclearization process reached an impasse as Pyongyang failed to meet the deadline despite reported progress in its nuclear disablement and declaration.

The White House stressed that it was expecting Pyongyang to fully meet its commitments under the 2007 deal.

"We'll have to see. We hope that they will fulfill their obligations and then, as we've said, there is action for action," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said earlier this week.

Hopes for breakthrough in six-party talks

Hopes have been rising recently that the months-long deadlock in negotiations will soon end. In May, North Korea handed over to the United States 18,000 pages of records for its Yongbyon reactor and reprocessing plant.

The United States also announced in the same month that it would send 500,000 tons of food aid to North Korea, a sign of improved bilateral relations after rounds of negotiations and dialogues, which have facilitated mutual understanding and helped build up confidence between the two sides.

Several other factors are believed to have contributed to the breakthrough in the process of North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

The close cooperation among the six parties has given great impetus to the development of denuclearization process. China, as the chair of the six-party talks, has played a critical mediating role. The working groups of the six-party talks also made tremendous efforts to figure out the details of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

Moreover, North Korea has adopted a more open stance as evidenced by its permitting foreign experts to visit the Yongbyon nuclear center and inviting foreign media to cover the demolition of the cooling tower.

However, some major challenges still exist in the denuclearization process, such as the US verification of North Korea's declaration, the normalization of the North Korea-US and North Korea-Japan ties, and the issue of North Korea's past abduction of Japanese citizens.

(Xinhua News Agency June 30, 2008)

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