North Korea Dropped From Terror List

After North Korea agreed to nuclear inspection demands, the U.S. took it off a terrorism blacklist.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

North Korea is off the terrorism black list. This is the country President Bush once called part of the axis of evil. Now, North Korea has agreed to allow inspections of its nuclear plants. And today, in return, the Bush administration removed it from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. NPR's Mike Shuster has been covering these off again, on again negotiations, and he joins us now. Mike, what exactly did the U.S. agreed to today?

MIKE SHUSTER: What the United States agreed to is to take North Korea off of an official list the United States has kept for several decades, the state sponsors of terrorism. The United States put North Korea on that list in 1988 after it bombed a Korean Airliner's jetliner. But there had been a number of activities that North Koreans have been involved in, terrorist activities in South Korea and other parts of the world.

In return for cooperating on the denuclearization agreement, they've wanted to be off of that list because that can begin to lead to North Korean access to international financial institutions, the possible lifting of some sanctions, and eventually, a normalization of relations with the United States. So, the United States took that step today.

SEABROOK: So what did North Korea agree to do in return for getting that?

SHUSTER: Well, mainly, it agreed to return to the denuclearization process, which has been underway for a couple of years and had made some progress in disabling some of their facilities at a place called Yongbyon, which is north of the capital, Pyongyang. But then, for several months, the United States balked at taking them off the terrorism list, and so the North Koreans, in the last couple of weeks, started to rebuild their facilities at Yongbyon. This essentially stops that and puts it back on track.

SEABROOK: So did the United States get everything it was negotiating for? I know the Bush administration had been pushing for a comprehensive inspection and verification program. Did it get that?

SHUSTER: This is not clear. Those who spoke today from the administration, particularly the State Department, said that they got everything they wanted going into these discussions with the North Koreans. However, the United States had wanted access to pretty much everywhere in North Korea.

There was an informal paper that the United States put on the table with North Korea earlier which essentially said, in those places that are undeclared nuclear sites, that is where there is disagreement between the United States and North Korea over whether this site is connected to the nuclear program, the United States would have access anyway. And the North Koreans viewed that as giving the United States the right to kick down the doors almost anywhere in North Korea. At this point, it looks like the agreement is at undeclared nuclear sites. For the United States to visit, there would have to be mutual consent, and that sounds to me very much like the basis for lots of disagreement and conflict in the future.

SEABROOK: So, is that a glimmer of what's to come, or is there a next step in this process?

SHUSTER: It is certainly likely that there will be argument once the United States puts more inspectors into North Korea, and they say, well, we want to go to this place that we haven't visited before. It's likely that they'll get an argument from North Korea.

SEABROOK: NPR's Mike Shuster. Thanks very much, Mike.

SHUSTER: You're welcome.

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