North Korea has invited foreign television stations to broadcast its planned destruction of a key facility at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator said Sunday.
Five broadcasters — each from the five countries in nuclear talks with North Korea — have been asked to cover the planned blowing up of the cooling tower at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, Seoul's nuclear envoy Kim Sook told reporters.
Kim said CNN was chosen as U.S. broadcaster, but did not name the other four stations invited from South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Pyongyang also has notified the five stations of a date for the tower's destruction, Kim said, without elaborating.
The North's move indicates a breakthrough is imminent in the impasse that has held up the six-party nuclear negotiations for months, since the tower's destruction is supposed to come only after Pyongyang submits its long-delayed list of nuclear programs.
North Korea agreed last year to disable its nuclear facilities and fully account for its nuclear programs in exchange for economic and political concessions.
The denuclearization process reached an impasse as Pyongyang failed to meet an end-of-2007 deadline for declaring its nuclear activities, although the North has made progress in disabling its nuclear facilities so they cannot be easily restarted.
Kim said the North is expected to present the nuclear declaration "soon" but declined to specify a date.
The cooling tower's destruction — a symbolic act designed to show Pyongyang's intent to abandon its nuclear ambitions — is part of a series of carefully sequenced reciprocal moves that
Pyongyang and Washington agreed to take to move the nuclear talks forward.
Once the North submits a nuclear declaration, the U.S. government is supposed to begin the process of taking Pyongyang off Washington's terrorism and sanctions blacklists. Next would come the North's destruction of the cooling tower, which is supposed be followed by a resumption of six-nation nuclear talks.
U.S. officials said all of these developments could happen within the next 10 days while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in or en route to Japan, South Korea and China next week.
Kim said he would travel to Beijing later Sunday for talks with his U.S. and Chinese counterparts. U.S. chief nuclear envoy Christopher Hill has been in the Chinese capital since Friday for talks with China's envoy Wu Dawei.
The six-party nuclear talks were last held between late September and early October.