BEIJING -- North Korea missed yesterday's deadline for shutting down its main nuclear reactor, and a key US negotiator said the country must keep the disarmament program from foundering.
The United States and other governments involved in six- nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programs said the slipping of the 60-day deadline was significant, but not yet fatal to a two- month-old agreement that laid out a timetable for disarmament.
"It's time for the North Koreans to get moving on their issues," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator, told reporters after meeting in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart.
The only immediate effect of the missed deadline is that North Korea will not receive the heavy fuel oil it was promised, part of a total 1 million tons promised under the agreement.
The other parties in the talks -- the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea -- are not expected to raise too much of a fuss, because Washington failed to resolve the dispute over frozen funds within 30 days as it had promised.
Yesterday's missed deadline marked the latest setback for an agreement that offered the prospect of disarming the world's newest declared nuclear power.
North Korea tested a nuclear bomb in October. South Korea, which supports rapprochement with the North, played down the failure to meet the 60-day deadline, calling it a technicality.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday that said it would carry out its side of the agreement "when the lifting of the sanction is proved to be a reality."