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North Korean nuclear aid to Damascus is alleged in U.S.

Sept 17,2007
A senior North Korean diplomat on Saturday denied allegations of his country’s nuclear cooperation with Syria.
“They often say things that are groundless,” Kim Myong-gil, deputy chief of the North Korean mission to the United Nations, told Yonhap over the phone, the first comment by a Pyongyang official on fresh allegations made late last week. When asked to elaborate, he answered that he had nothing more to say.
As six nations get ready to start critical talks on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, suspicions were raised that Pyongyang may be working with Damascus on nuclear programs, following an unexplained Israeli air raid on Syria on Sept. 6.
Press reports said the raid may have targeted a nuclear facility. The Washington Post, citing a U.S. expert who talked to Israeli officials, said Saturday that the attack appears to be linked to the arrival of a ship carrying material from North Korea labeled as cement.
Washington has yet to confirm or deny the reports. Christopher Hill, the top U.S. nuclear envoy, evaded all questions about the new suspicions and said the six-nation negotiations should provide the answers.
Under a deal struck in February Pyongyang is required to disable its nuclear facilities and declare all of its nuclear programs.
In a briefing Friday, Hill said the involved countries “need to know what all of their [North Korean] programs are, and obviously any proliferation.”
In a related development, Sung Kim, a U.S. State Department official who led nuclear experts to Pyongyang, returned on Saturday through Panmunjom. A source who said earlier that the U.S. government officials will fly back on a North Korean Koryo Air carrier said yesterday, “The report on North Korea’s nuclear cooperation with Syria derailed the plan.”


By Yeh Young-june JoongAng Ilbo / Yonhap [enational@joongang.co.kr]


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