N. Korea to Suspend Its Disarmament Deal

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Tuesday that it would stop disabling its nuclear facilities and consider restoring the Yongbyon reactor that can make material for atomic bombs, accusing the United States of violating a disarmament deal.

"We have decided to immediately suspend disabling our nuclear facilities," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

"This measure has been effective on Aug. 14 and related parties have been notified of it," the official said.

Analysts said that given North Korea's deep reluctance to give up its nuclear weapons program -- the one negotiating card it has with the outside world -- its latest move was no big surprise.

"North Korea is trying to muddle through and delay as much as possible," said Lee Dong-bok, a senior associate at the CSIS think tank in Seoul. "At the same time, this is a last-ditch effort trying to somehow influence U.S. presidential politics."

The KCNA announcement coincided with the start of the U.S. Democratic Party's convention.

It also came just after Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose government is the nearest the reclusive North has to an ally, flew out of Seoul after two days of talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Lee came to office earlier this year with a promise to get tough on the North if it did not move toward giving up its nuclear weapons ambitions.

"I think the timing of the Hu Jintao visit to South Korea was very depressing to the North Koreans," CSIS's Lee said.

Regional powers have been pressing North Korea to accept stringent measures to verify the declaration of its nuclear program.

The United States has made clear it will not take the North off its list of state sponsors of terrorism until that happens.

"I see it as another card at the negotiation table to urge the U.S. to remove it from the terrorism blacklist as soon as possible," said Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Seoul's Dongguk University.

Shen Dingli, a nuclear security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai, said he did not believe that North Korea ever intended to abandon its nuclear weapons capability.

"The United States and China can think that they are drawing North Korea into true nuclear disarmament, but North Korea has continued to nuclearize throughout the six-party process," Shen said. "Their strategic goal remains developing and keeping nuclear weapons."

The six-party talks on disarmament comprise the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

China did not say whether it knew in advance of Pyongyang's move but called the talks over nuclear disarmament very complex.

"We know it won't always be smooth sailing. The more difficult the circumstances, the more we must remember ... the important commitments made by each party, and abide by a spirit of mutual respect in encouraging mutual confidence," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.