The announcement of a State Department deal to remove North Korea from the U.S. government's list of state sponsors of terrorism may be delayed as officials in the Bush Administration rethink the agreement, sources told FOX News.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack is expected to speak on the reported deal, which would de-list North Korea in exchange for a verification regime monitoring the shutdown of its nuclear program, at a press conference Friday at 12:15 p.m.
According to a U.S. official, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and lead negotiator Christopher Hill presented the deal to the president Wednesday, who rejected it outright.
State Department sources told FOX News late Thursday that Rice was planning to announce the deal during the signing of a civilian nuclear accord with India at about 4 p.m. Friday. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the secretary had not been authorized to do so.
Sources tell FOX News the deal is the outcome of a recent visit by Hill to North Korea. A meeting was held Friday at the National Security Council to hear about the deal arranged by Hill.
Removing North Korea from the terror list would be a major step in mending relations between the reclusive communist nation and the United States, though it also would come amid concerns about North Korea's weapons program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has said in recent days North Korea appeared to have been powering up its nuclear program and testing missiles. American satellite images confirmed reports of short-range missile testing recently, but the U.S. said those moves would not mean the death of international efforts to persuade North Korea to recommit to an agreement that offers it diplomatic and economic concessions in exchange for nuclear disarmament.
Japanese media say, according to their Japanese government sources, a de-listing will not occur today. Japan is a piece of the six-party talks with North Korea, and wants issues of their kidnapped nationals dealt with before North Korea is de-listed.
Some officials in Washington have criticized the idea of de-listing North Korea, even labeling the agreement a "get out of jail free card," as key issues, including reported assistance by North Korea to Syria in establishing a nuclear weapons program, are left unaddressed.
"I do not believe the President would agree to gut verification to continue this process," said Paula DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation.
DeSutter told FOX News that she was disappointed that the Verification bureau has not been included in any meetings on what Ambassador Hill brought from Pyongyang and not included in any meetings at the NSC.
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel and Nina Donaghy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.