SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Friday it gave a list of its nuclear programs to the United States in November, claiming it tried to meet commitments under an international disarmament agreement and accusing the U.S. of not doing its part to deliver aid.
North Korea also said that because of the delays by the U.S. and other parties to the six-nation talks, it was slowing the pace of disabling its nuclear facilities.
The United States disputed North Korea's claims it handed over the information but still expressed confidence the process was moving ahead.
The North's Foreign Ministry did not list the contents of what it gave Washington, but stressed it had follow-up consultations with U.S. officials and tried its best to defuse allegations that Pyongyang had a uranium-based nuclear weapons program.
U.S. officials have voiced skepticism about the North's commitment to a February aid-for-disaramement deal worked out in the talks after Pyongyang failed to meet a year-end deadline on the nuclear declaration. The six nations are the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.
"As far as the nuclear declaration on which wrong opinion is being built up by some quarters is concerned, (North Korea) has done what it should do," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.
The North accused the U.S. and other parties in the six-nation talks of delays in carrying out their commitments, such as shipping energy aid and removing the North from U.S. terrorism and trade blacklists. That forced Pyongyang to "adjust the tempo of the disablement of some nuclear facilities on the principle of action for action," it said.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that North Korea has yet to provide a complete nuclear declaration, a key part of a February aid-for-disaramement deal worked out in six-nation talks.
"They're engaging the international media, in their own way," McCormack said. "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."
McCormack would not discuss the North's claim that it had offered an explanation to U.S. officials about its alleged uranium program.
The North's statement came as the chief U.S. envoy at disarmament talks, Christopher Hill, headed to Asia to discuss the disarmament accord.
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 last year promised to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil and political concessions. In October, it pledged to disable its nuclear facilities and issue a declaration on its atomic programs by the end of 2007.
The North began disabling the facilities under the watch of U.S. experts in November. On Friday, the North said the last process in the disablement work — removing spent fuel rods from its sole operational reactor — was continuing, and that work was expected to be completed in 100 days.
But the real hurdle was the nuclear declaration, as Pyongyang and Washington remain far apart over North Korea's suspected uranium enrichment program — an allegation that touched off the latest nuclear standoff in late 2002, and that the North has long denied.
U.S. officials have charged that the North's purchase of suspicious material and equipment — including aluminum tubes that could be used in the process of converting hot uranium gas into fuel for nuclear weapons — showed it pursued a uranium enrichment program.
On Friday, the North's Foreign Ministry said it offered an explanation to the U.S. about the uranium program, showing American officials military facilities where the aluminum tubes were used, and providing samples to clarify "the controversial aluminum tubes had nothing to do with the uranium enrichment."
Regarding suspicions about its nuclear connection with Syria, the North's ministry repeated its earlier stance that it had already pledged in the Oct. 3 agreement that it would never transfer any nuclear material, technology or know-how out of the country.
The North said the aid-for-disarmement deal could still be implemented smoothly "should all the participating nations make concerted sincere efforts on the principle of simultaneous action."