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U.S. experts end N. Korea trip without visiting nuclear complex

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- A group of U.S. nuclear and Korean affairs experts completed a five-day visit to North Korea on Saturday, but one member said the group did not visit the country's main nuclear complex in Yongbyon.

"We did not visit. That's all I can say," Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists, told reporters at Beijing airport when asked whether the group had visited Yongbyon where North Korea is building a light-water nuclear reactor to be fueled by low-enriched uranium.

Ferguson and another member, Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official in charge of North Korean affairs who currently is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, declined to comment on the trip, including who they met in Pyongyang and what kind of talks they had.

During their trip, North Korea reported brisk progress in building a light-water reactor and producing enriched uranium.

"The construction of experimental LWR and the low enriched uranium for the provision of raw materials are progressing apace," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The announcement could cloud international efforts to resume the six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs as South Korea, the United States and Japan demand that Pyongyang take concrete action toward denuclearization, including an immediate halt of its nuclear enrichment program, if the talks are to be restarted.

North Korea, however, has called for a quick resumption of the multilateral denuclearization talks "without preconditions."

Since July, South Korea and the United States have held bilateral meetings with North Korea on ways to revive the six-party talks, but no significant progress has been reported.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States were last held in Beijing in late 2008.

(Mainichi Japan) December 4, 2011

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