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North Korea blows up tower at nuclear site – but questions remain about its program

The North's actions set the stage for another round in six-party talks, scheduled to take place next week in Beijing.

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The flash and bang of the explosion of the cooling tower at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex provided a theatrical coda to a week in which the isolated nation partially declared its nuclear efforts and the United States, in response, took initial steps to remove the North from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The squat 60-foot tower, the most visible symbol of the complex where North Korea has been producing weapons-grade plutonium, was toppled in an event documented by networks from each of the countries participating in six-nation talks with the North. CNN, Japan's NHK network, South Korea's Munhwa Broadcasting Corp., and Chinese and Russian national networks were to have broadcast the explosion live – but videotaped shots of the tower tumbling in a cloud of smoke were shown several hours later.

South Korea's ruling Grand National Party and the opposition United Democratic Party agreed on the significance of the declaration. A spokesman for the conservative GNP called the declaration and demolition together "a historic day," while a spokesman for the liberal opposition called these events "a step on the road to peace.


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