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North Korea Pledges to Disable Nuclear Plant by October

  • Stephanie Ho

North Korea has pledged to finish disabling its biggest nuclear facility within months. In return, other countries negotiating with Pyongyang will provide it with
fuel oil and other economic aid. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

The agreement was announced in a joint statement issued in Beijing Saturday, following three days of talks.

It says North Korea will complete steps to disable its Yongbyon Nuclear Plant by the end of October. In return, and on the same date, impoverished Pyongyang will receive one million tons of heavy fuel oil.

The six nations signed on to the disarmament deal include the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

China's main negotiator, Wu Dawei, announced an extensive list of measures involved in the verification process.

He says the measures include visits to the facilities by international inspectors, review of the documents, interviews with technical personnel and other measures unanimously agreed upon among the six parties.

U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill earlier told reporters Washington's main concern was confirming North Korea's own account of its nuclear activities.

"We are not asking for anything unusual," he said. "We are asking
for things that are done all over the world. We want basically standard kinds of packages of how you verify this type of nuclear program."

Pyongyang last month delivered to China what it called a complete declaration of its nuclear activities. The documents came six months after they were originally due, at the end of 2007.

One day later, North Korea destroyed the main cooling tower at Yongbyon, which is a plutonium based nuclear facility.

One move seen as helping to pave the way for the current agreement is a recent U.S. announcement that Washington would drop North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terror, and lift some economic sanctions levied against
Pyongyang under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Shi Yinhong, international relations professor at Beijing's People's University, applauds what he describes as compromises that he says led to "major progress."

"And if we consider how difficult in the past to make progress in this nuclear problem of North Korea, we think that this is really almost strongly progress. But on the other hand, there's still a long way and surely difficult way to go, if we want to have to complete the denuclearization, which is assured by members of the international society," he said.

Some of the major outstanding nuclear-related issues he points to include verifying whether Pyongyang indeed has a highly-enriched uranium program, alongside its publicly-acknowledged plutonium program. Also, he said the international community wants to know more details about North Korea's nuclear cooperation with other countries, including Syria.

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