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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

North Korea prepares to restart atomic facility


VIENNA North Korea moved closer Thursday to relaunching its nuclear arms program, announcing that it wants to reactivate the plant that produced its atomic bomb and banning U.N. inspectors from the site.

The U.S. said the moves did not mean the death of international efforts to persuade the North to recommit to an agreement that offers it diplomatic and economic concessions in exchange for nuclear disarmament.

Despite the gloomy implications of North Korea s moves, they could be a negotiating ploy: The year needed to start its reprocessing plant could be used to wrest more concessions from the regime s interlocutors.

John Bolton, who has served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. undersecretary of state in charge of the North Korean nuclear dossier, suggested the North s tactics were working.

Mr. Bolton, a critic of what he considers U.S. leniency with North Korea who remains well-connected with senior Bush administration officials, told the Associated Press that Washington was planning to meet the communist country s key demand within a week by removing it from a State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

That would be a significant move because the disarmament deal is bogged down over U.S. refusal to do just that until the North accepts a plan for verifying a list of nuclear assets that it submitted to its negotiating partners.

It was unclear whether the U.S. would settle for less than the full accounting it had asked for before the North walked away from the talks.

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