Washington, D.C. — The Bush administration is nearing a decision to remove North Korea from a terrorism blacklist and may do so as early as Friday in a bid to salvage faltering nuclear disarmament talks, The Associated Press has learned.
U.S. officials said Thursday that no final decision had been made but diplomats briefed on the matter told the AP that they believe an announcement that North Korea will be tentatively taken off the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism is imminent.
The delisting depends on North Korea agreeing to a plan to verify an account of its nuclear activity that it submitted over the summer, the diplomats said. North Korea would be put back on the list if it doesn't comply with the plan and abandon nuclear arms, they said.
The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an expected announcement, which would follow meetings last week in Pyongyang between North Korean officials and U.S. envoy Christopher Hill as well as days of intense debate in Washington.
The move would be a last-ditch attempt to save a disarmament agreement that has frayed badly in recent months as North Korea moves to restart its main nuclear plant and takes other provocative steps such as expelling U.N. inspectors and launching short-range missiles.