A team of U.S. experts is heading to North Korea to help ready steps to disable a key nuclear complex, senior U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said in Beijing, where he was due to meet his Pyongyang counterpart.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Hill said on Wednesday that the team was due to reach North Korea on Thursday to push forward plans to disable a reactor and other parts of the Yongbyon complex, which can make plutonium for nuclear bombs.
Hill told reporters he would meet North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-gwan to discuss the "disablement" steps agreed early this month.
"I think we're in pretty good shape on it. I think we want to just discuss the fact that we have a team going in," he told reporters, referring to disablement, a term meaning crippling the facilities short of outright destruction.
"There are a couple of issues that have to be worked through, but I think we have an agreement on what we're doing generally."
This will be the second visit to North Korea by U.S. nuclear experts this month, as Washington pushes Pyongyang to see through a deal that aims for major disarmament steps in the next 60 days.
Hill said he would also meet Chinese and Russian officials.
North Korea agreed to disable the main parts of its Yongbyon complex by the end of 2007, following six-party talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China.
Pyongyang also agreed to fully disclose all its atomic activities by the end of the year.
In exchange for these steps, the impoverished North will receive one million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid. The United States will also move towards taking North Korea off a U.S. terrorism blacklist.
At talks at the truce village between the two Koreas on Tuesday, parties agreed to supply the equivalent of half the fuel oil in materials to rebuild power plants and other facilities.
A North Korean delegate said at the start of the talks on Monday that his country plans to start disabling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, located about 100 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, later this week.
The moves follow a breakthrough February deal under which North Korea, which tested a nuclear device last year in defiance of international warnings, will shut down its Yongbyon nuclear plant and admit U.N. nuclear monitors.