US Envoy Calls for North Korea to Begin Disarming

(VOA) A top U.S. nuclear envoy is urging North Korea to start shutting down its nuclear program, saying that a financial dispute that delayed the disarmament process has now been resolved.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill was speaking in Seoul Wednesday after the U.S. State Department announced that authorities in Macau had unblocked frozen North Korean bank accounts.

Hill said the six-parties involved in the nuclear talks are now at an "important juncture" and that it is time for North Korea to begin shutting down its main nuclear complex under terms of a disarmament deal reached in February.

The agreement requires that North Korea shut down the Yongbyon reactor complex by Saturday.

North Korea had refused to shut down the facility until it received $25 million in funds frozen at the Macau bank.

Macau authorities froze the North Korean funds in 2005 after the United States accused the bank of laundering money for North Korea.

Hill had previously said he thought it would be difficult for Pyongyang to meet the deadline because of delays in resolving the financial dispute.

A six-nation deal reached in February to shut down the nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel and diplomatic incentives has been held up over the frozen bank accounts.