Bush Takes Step to Rebuild North Korea Relations

The Bush administration is taking steps toward rebuilding relations with a country it once said was part of an "axis of evil." President Bush announced Thursday that the United States is lifting some trade sanctions against North Korea and removing it from a list of countries that the U.S. considers state sponsors of terrorism.

The moves are a major shift in U.S. policy toward North Korea, and they came after North Korean officials handed over an accounting of their country's nuclear activities to Chinese officials in Beijing.

Bush Eases Sanctions After N. Korea Nuclear Report

President George W. Bush on Thursday welcomed North Korea's decision to hand over a long-delayed accounting of its nuclear activities to China, a key step in the denuclearization process.

In return for the declaration, Bush said he will lift trade restrictions under the Trading with the Enemy Act — a federal law enacted in 1917 to allow the president to restrict trade with countries that are hostile to the United States. He also said he would order the State Department to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism within 45 days.

North Korea's ambassador to China delivered the declaration of North Korea's nuclear activities after the close of business Thursday, Chinese state media reported. The report did not mention the declaration's contents, but it is said to include detailed information about the country's plutonium production.

The U.S. still has questions about a suspected uranium enrichment program and proliferation activities, with U.S. and North Korea's neighbors saying the information in the declaration will have to be verified.

Bush said the declaration showed the effectiveness of diplomacy.

"Multilateral diplomacy is the best way to peacefully resolve the nuclear issue. North Korea should seize this moment of opportunity to restore its relationship with the international community," Bush said at a news conference.

The development is a result of the six-party talks between North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The agreement calls for North Korea to disable all its nuclear facilities and destroy the cooling tower of the Yongbyon reactor, which is scheduled for Friday. The Yongbyon reactor previously had been shuttered.

North Korean officials also agreed to hand over information that is essential to verifying that the government is ending all of its nuclear programs and activities.

Bush warned that North Korea would face consequences if it did not fully disclose its nuclear activities.

"We will hold them to account for their promises, and when they fulfill their promises, more restrictions will be eased," he said. "If they don't fulfill their promises, more restrictions will be placed on them."

Although North Korea has begun disabling its nuclear facilities, it still has a stockpile of radioactive material that experts believe is enough to build six to 10 bombs. Questions remain about how many bombs North Korea has stockpiled and about the country's suspected program of developing weapons fueled by enriched uranium.

Compiled from NPR and wire reports.

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