North Korea Publicly Destroys Nuclear Plant TowerBy Kurt Achin
Seoul
27 June 2008

North Korea has put on a very visual spectacle to persuade the world it is serious about ending its nuclear programs. With international cameras rolling, Pyongyang blew up a cooling tower at its main nuclear facility. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.

S. Koreans watch television broadcasting demolition of N. Korea's cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor complex, 27 Jun 2008
Video images of North Korea's carefully staged demolition were beamed around the world Friday, within hours of the actual event.

North Korea blew up a cooling tower at its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon, as promised. Cameras from a handful of invited broadcasters were rolling.

The event was a move by Pyongyang to demonstrate in very visual terms its compliance with a multinational agreement to eventually end its nuclear weapons capabilities. China, Russia, Japan, the United States, and South Korea have promised the North energy, financial and diplomatic benefits in exchange for steps in that direction.

U.S. envoy Sung Kim attended the demolition.

Sung Kim, director of US State Department's Office of Korean Affairs"The cooling tower is no longer there," he said. "It's a complete demolition of the cooling tower. This is a very significant disablement step."

Pyongyang completed another key step Thursday, when it submitted a six-month overdue declaration of its nuclear programs to China.

Foreign ministers of the G8 grouping of advanced industrial nations, meeting in Kyoto, Japan, are welcoming the North's actions. Japanese Foreign Minister Koumura Masahiko says North Korea will be held to its promises.

He says the G8 Foreign Ministers agreed on the importance of strictly verifying North Korea's declaration.

Cho Seong-ryeol, of the Institute for International Security Studies in Seoul, believes North Korea is sending a message to the international community.

He says blowing up the tower is a signal that isolated North Korea wants to return to the international community.

Daniel Pinkston, an analyst in Seoul with the International Crisis Group, points out the Yongbyon facility was decades obsolete and unsafe. Nevertheless, he views the demolition as progress.

"Many critics will argue that it's something that should be shut down anyway ... but nevertheless the reality is that they [North Korea] do not have the capability to produce weapons-grade plutonium now, and I think that is positive in terms of international security," he said.

Six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear capabilities altogether are expected to reconvene within days or weeks in Beijing. Envoys are expected to take on the next major challenge in the process - finding out how many actual nuclear weapons Pyongyang has, where they are ... and whether North Korea is really ready to give them up.
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