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Envoys Cite Progress in Talks on North Korea's Nuclear Programs


Negotiators seeking to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue are making progress on how to verify Pyongyang's own account of its nuclear activities. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

After two days of negotiations in Beijing, the envoys from six countries have reached what the Chinese side calls a "principled consensus" on verifying North Korea's declaration of its nuclear activities.

The declaration was presented to China at the end of June, one day before Pyongyang destroyed the cooling tower at its main Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Washington has called for the document to include a complete and accurate accounting of all of North Korea's activities.

There are many outstanding verification issues, according to Robert Gallucci, who was a top U.S. North Korea negotiator during the Clinton administration.

Gallucci, who is now dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, says one priority is to find out whether North Korea has as much plutonium as it says it does.

"The world would be interested in being able to confirm or verify that the plutonium amounts are correct and begin to look at what circumstances or arrangements there might be for disposition of separated plutonium," he said.

He says another major verification question is the question of highly-enriched uranium, a program Pyongyang is accused of pursuing in secret.

And, yet another issue involves questions regarding North Korea's nuclear assistance to Syria. All this, he says, touches on how the international community will monitor Pyongyang's nuclear activity in the future.

"In other words, how can we assure ourselves that there won't be more exports of nuclear material or equipment, there will not be a secret uranium enrichment facility somewhere, or a secret reactor?" he asked. "What sort of access will be granted, and to whom? Is the IAEA to be the executive agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or is there to be some sort of ad hoc regime?"

In return for declaring and disabling its nuclear facilities, North Korea is to receive aid and diplomatic incentives. Among those incentives are U.S. moves to drop Pyongyang from the Trading with the Enemy Act and to remove it from the state sponsors of terror list.

The nations involved in the talks are the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. The current meeting came after a nine-month stalemate.

Chinese spokesman Qin Gang says the six parties are hoping to issue some sort of joint document at the end of this round of talks, which is expected Saturday.

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