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U.S. takes North Korea off terror list

  • Story Highlights
  • N. Korea agrees to halt nuclear activities that produce plutonium, allow inspections
  • Bush made decision Friday night, Rice signed order Saturday morning
  • North Korea recently had taken steps to restart nuclear reactor
  • Republican in Congress says she's disappointed by decision
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States on Saturday removed North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"Based upon the cooperation agreement North Korea has recently provided ... the secretary of state this morning rescinded the designation of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] as a state sponsor of terrorism, and that was effective as of her signature," McCormack said.

McCormack said the United States and North Korea had reached agreement "on an number of important verification measures" of North Korea's nuclear program.

These include participation by all members of the Six Party Talks, the role of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, access to all of North Korea's nuclear facilities and what procedures would be used in the verification process.

"Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package," McCormack said at a news conference.

A senior State Department official said earlier that President Bush made the decision Friday night to remove North Korea from the terrorism list. Video Watch how North Korea escaped the terror list »

The official said verification of North Korea's statements about its nuclear program will start right away, and the North Koreans will immediately reverse actions they have taken in recent weeks to restart their reactor and reprocessing facilities that produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The North Koreans are expected to make a separate announcement Saturday, McCormack said.

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McCormack said Japan had agreed to formalizing the agreement at the Six-Party level, although the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s has not yet been addressed. See why North Korea was on the terror list »

President Bush spoke Saturday morning with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, telling him that the United States "will never forget the abduction of Japanese citizens by the North Koreans," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

"We will continue to strongly support Japan's position on the abduction issue and will urge North Korea to take immediate steps to implement the commitments it made this summer as part the agreement reached with Japan," he said.

North Korea was added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1988, the fourth country to be added. Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran remain on the list. View details about the countries on the list »

Countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are subject to limitations on foreign aid, a ban on defense exports and sales, restrictions on exports of "dual use" items -- those that could be used for defense or non-defense purposes -- and a variety of financial and other restrictions.

In recent weeks, North Korea objected to the way the United States and its allies were proposing to verify that North Korea was revealing all its nuclear secrets.

The question of removing North Korea from the terror list had been under intense deliberations in the Bush administration over the past several days, since the U.S. point man in the negotiations, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, had returned from talks in North Korea.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had talked by phone to her counterparts in China, Japan and South Korea, and according to a spokesman on Friday, she expected to talk to Russia's foreign minister in coming days.

Speculation had been rising in Washington that the Bush administration would decide to "de-list" North Korea, despite fierce opposition from some of Bush's fellow Republicans.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a strongly critical statement after Saturday's announcement.

"While I am not surprised by today's decision, I am profoundly disappointed," she said.

"Given the regime's decision to restart its plutonium reactor at Yongbyon and actions barring access to the site by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is clear that North Korea has no intention of meeting its commitment to end its nuclear program."

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain put out a statement Friday opposing taking North Korea off the terrorism list.

"I have previously said that I would not support the easing of sanctions [against] North Korea unless the United States is able to fully verify the nuclear declaration Pyongyang submitted on June 26," McCain said. "It is not clear that the latest verification arrangement will enable us to do so."

McCain's Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, had a more positive view, calling North Korea's agreement to the verification measures "a modest step forward." But, he said, any failure on Pyongyang's part to follow through with its side of the agreement must be met with swift action.

"President Bush's decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is an appropriate response, as long as there is a clear understanding that if North Korea fails to follow through there will be immediate consequences," Obama said.

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"If North Korea refuses to permit robust verification, we should lead all members of the Six-Party Talks in suspending energy assistance, re-imposing sanctions that have recently been waived, and considering new restrictions."

Participants in the Six-Party Talks, besides the United States and North Korea, are South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

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