North Korea Destroys Nuclear Reactor Tower

North Korea has blown up the cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor site, according to news reports. The demolition comes a day after President Bush said the country would be taken off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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MARTIN: In an explosion meant to be heard around the world, North Korea has blown up the cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor site.

PESCA: It happened around four a.m. eastern time in front of international television cameras. The destruction of the tower was more symbol than substance. It's not the most important piece of equipment at the nuclear site in Yongbyon, but it makes the biggest boom and looks the coolest going down.

MARTIN: Charles Pritchard, who worked on North Korean issues in the Bush and Clinton administrations, tells NPR that North Korean nuclear facilities were already disabled as a result of earlier talks. He describes the public demolition like this.

(Soundbite of NPR's All Things Considered, June 26, 2008)

Ambassador CHARLES L. PRITCHARD (Special Envoy to North Korea, George W. Bush Administration): A visible sign from North Koreans designed primarily for an American audience that says, we are committed to this process, look favorably upon us.

PESCA: The demolition comes a day after North Korea delivered a declaration of the extent of its nuclear programs to China, a leading member of the international group that was negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program.

MARTIN: Now, those nations, including the U.S., will try to verify the information, which reportedly includes how much plutonium the Yongbyon facility produced. But doesn't say how many weapons North Korea may have or whether they sent them to anyone else, like, say, Syria. Experts believe North Korea has enough radioactive material to build six to 10 bombs.

PESCA: So, we know what North Korea gives up, but what does it get? How about getting its name off the Axis of Evil list? President Bush yesterday said he'd ordered the State Department to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism within 45 days.

MARTIN: And the president also promised to lift trade sanctions against North Korea, but he warned the changes will only last if North Korea keeps its end of the bargain.

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President GEORGE W BUSH: The next 45 days will be an important period for North Korea, to show its seriousness of its cooperation. We will work through the six-party talks to develop a comprehensive and rigorous verification protocol, and during this period, the United States will carefully observe North Korea's actions and act accordingly.

PESCA: You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's returning champion, Mark Garrison.

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