U.S. Experts Arrive in North Korea to Disable Nuclear Reactor

A team of U.S. experts arrived in North Korea's capital Thursday to start disabling the country's main nuclear complex, reports said.

The team is expected to begin work later this week to disable a reactor that produces plutonium for bombs, along with other facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

The nuclear experts arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday afternoon, broadcaster APTN said in a report from the North Korean capital.

"It will be a combined effort, with North Korean help and our experts supervising and coordinating," team leader Sung Kim, director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Korea Affairs, told reporters before leaving Beijing.

"Our main focus is to get there and start the process," he said.

The nuclear team includes experts from the Department of Energy and State Department, Kim said.

Its arrival in North Korea comes after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill held two days of talks in Beijing with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, on technical details of the disablement work.

"We are very satisfied that we have an overall plan that will be effective and will provide the disablement that we need, with the understanding that disablement is not the last stage and I can't emphasize that enough," Hill told reporters Thursday.

Under a February agreement, North Korea said it will abandon its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil and political concessions.

The North said it would disable the Yongbyon reactor, reprocessing plant and fuel fabrication plant, and declare all of its atomic programs by the end of this year.

Hill said his talks focused on the scope of the disabling and on preparations for the visit by Kim's team.

"They're all very highly motivated and ready to get on with the first stages of actual disablement," he said about the U.S. nuclear experts. They will be "taking things apart, (and) in other cases actually severing connections."

The team will carry out about 10 measures to disable the Yongbyon facilities, South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon told reporters in Seoul.

Hill said the six countries involved in the nuclear negotiations — the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, Russia and host China — would meet later this year to discuss the next steps.

He said North Korea had reiterated that it would not engage in any transfer of nuclear technology and material to other countries.

North Korea provides missile technology to Syria, but has strongly denied accusations that it spreads its nuclear expertise beyond its borders. Syria has denied receiving any North Korean nuclear help or embarking on any nuclear program.

Western media have quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying that a Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike hit a Syrian nuclear facility linked to North Korea. Syria has said an unused military building was hit.