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Report: The United States promises to remove North Korea from terrorism list by year's end

SEOUL, South Korea -- The United States has promised to remove North Korea from a list of states sponsoring terrorism by year's end in exchange for Pyongyang disabling its nuclear facilities on time, a news report said Saturday.

Removal from the list is one of the economic and political rewards promised to North Korea in return for disabling its nuclear facilities by Dec. 31. A recent accord only calls for Washington to delist the communist nation "in parallel with" Pyongyang fulfilling its disablement promise.

"(These measures) are supposed to be done by the end of the year," a high-level South Korean official said in Washington, referring to the U.S. offer to remove the North from the terrorism list and end restrictions against Pyongyang under the Trading with the Enemy Act, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

The mass-circulation South Korean daily, which did not further identify the official, said the remark indicates that Washington and Pyongyang have a secret agreement on the timeline.

Seoul's Foreign Ministry could not confirm the report.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, who is visiting Washington, warned Friday that a failure by the United States to take North Korea off the list would give Pyongyang a reason to walk away from ongoing six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

"We should not give each other any justification of reneging from this agreement," he said in English at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

U.S. officials have said the North should first meet the criteria for removal from the terrorism list, and it was also important for Pyongyang to move forward on denuclearization.

State Department spokesman Rob McInturff said Friday night removal from the list was not contingent on the disablement process. "I don't think we're holding that out as a quid pro quo, certainly not at this point," he said.

A team of U.S. nuclear experts have begun disabling the North's sole operational Yongbyon reactor and two other facilities. If completed, it would be the biggest step the North has taken to scale back its nuclear programs.

The U.S. put North Korea on its terrorism list after North Korean agents planted a bomb on a South Korean commercial jetliner in 1987. But the country has since not been tied directly to terrorism.

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