The United States does not oppose releasing some of the 50,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil due to North Korea under a nuclear disarmament deal before its Yongbyon reactor shuts down, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Our understanding is that the North Koreans have asked for some small portion of that overall 50,000 metric tons earlier on in the process, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. From our view, this is ... something that we don't oppose.

Under a February 13 agreement, North Korea Pyongyang agreed to shut down its Soviet-era Yongbyon plant. Under the same deal, hammered out among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, other parties to the agreement committed to provide North Korea with 50,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil.

After that announcement, a senior U.S. official who briefed reporters said there would be no shipment of the heavy fuel oil until we're satisfied that the shutdown, the sealing, is occurring.

But McCormack suggested the timing of the fuel delivery was less important to the United States than that North Korea ultimately shut down Yongbyon under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If we end up in the next several weeks with the shutdown and sealing of Yongbyon and the IAEA back in verifying that shutdown and at the end of that time the North Koreans had their 50,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil then everybody's obligations will have been met, he told reporters.

I don't think that they, the North Koreans, have asked for anything that is beyond the terms of the agreement, he said.