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North Korea to Shutter Nuclear Program

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North Korea to Shutter Nuclear Program

Hear Steve Inskeep and Anthony Kuhn discuss the agreement by North Korea to disable its reactor on Morning Edition
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North Korea agreed to provide an accurate declaration of its nuclear programs and will disable its facilities at its main reactor complex by year-end. As part of the agreement, the U.S. will take the lead in seeing that the facilities are disabled and will fund those initial activities.

Steve Inskeep, host:

And let's stay overseas for a moment. Here's the latest we know about the effort to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. North Korea has taken a general promise to move in that direction and made it more specific. The country has been negotiating with its neighbors and with the United States and those nations all say the North has agreed to provide a complete inventory of its nuclear programs and disable its main nuclear facility. This was all suppose to happen by the end of the year.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn is covering this story, and, Anthony, how big a step is this?

ANTHONY KUHN: Well, the U.S. government and the governments here in Asia seem to think it's a pretty concrete and pretty significant. For the first time, we have a concrete road map and a timetable for what's got to happen.

Now, within two weeks, according to the statement that was released today, the U.S. will take a team of experts to their nuclear facility in Yongbyon and they'll start preparing for it's dismantlement by year's end. And then we will get what they call a complete and accurate accounting of all of North Korea's nuclear programs which should include the highly enriched uranium program that the U.S. suspects it has. Also something interesting in the statement is pledge by North Korea not to proliferate any of it's nuclear materials or technology. And the U.S. has been concerned that the North has been giving that technology, possibly, to Syria.

Also in the statement, we have reiterations by the U.S. and Japan that they will move towards normalizing diplomatic ties with North Korea and providing the fuel oil that North Korea is suppose to get in exchange for this, but there are no timetable set for these parts of the deal.

INSKEEP: Let me follow up on that for a moment if I can. When you say normalizing relations that sounds, well, it's diplomatic speak, but is there something significant that the United States is giving up in return?

KUHN: Well, I think it's very notable that it hasn't put timetable on this and we know that North Korea has been pushing very specifically, first of all, to get off the U.S.'s list of states sponsors of terrorism and to be detargeted(ph) as a target of the trading with the enemy act, and the U.S. says that this is all discussable once the denuclearization happens. And in the statement, it did not give a timetable, but it says it will go through with it's pledge to discuss these items.

INSKEEP: Now, there's a possibility of significant concessions overtime but nothing really concrete right now except the fuel oil that you've mentioned.

KUHN: That's right. That was part of the deal that was reached in February in which North Korea said it would dismantle its programs.

INSKEEP: And let me just emphasize if I can what is still - what still remains to be discussed here, Anthony? North Korea still has a number of nuclear weapons, right?

KUHN: That's right. It probably has a eight to a dozen nuclear weapons and it also has, probably, 110 pounds of fissile material that it could use to make bombs and that it's already harvested form that nuclear reactor. And once the facility at Yongbyon is disabled, then they can start looking at getting rid of that fissile material, moving it someplace else.

INSKEEP: Are there years of discussions ahead of us then?

KUHN: Well, that's the thing. There are a lot of things where - that are not specified in the statement in line of the technical details about how they will disable the facilities. And anyone of these details could trip up the negotiations. Everybody is waiting to see how North Korea will follow through and implement it's pledges.

INSKEEP: Anthony, thanks very much.

KUHN: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: We've been listening to NPR's Anthony Kuhn. He's ion Beijing where he's covering some news that North Korea has promised to disable it's main nuclear reactor by the end of this year.

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North Korea to Disable Nuclear Reactor

Hear Steve Inskeep and Anthony Kuhn discuss the agreement by North Korea to disable its reactor on Morning Edition
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South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (left) and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il meet in North Korea. i

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (left) and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il meet in Pyongyang, North Korea. Roh and Kim are holding a three-day summit aimed at ending the half-century of animosity between the two countries. Pool/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Pool/Getty Images
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (left) and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il meet in North Korea.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (left) and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il meet in Pyongyang, North Korea. Roh and Kim are holding a three-day summit aimed at ending the half-century of animosity between the two countries.

Pool/Getty Images

Provisions of the Deal

This is what North Korea says it will do:

  • North Korea agrees to disable all its existing nuclear facilities as a step toward abandoning them altogether.
  • The United States pledges to pay for the initial cost of putting the facilities out of commission. A U.S.-team of experts is to go to North Korea within the next two weeks to supervise the process. North Korea's two main facilities, an experimental nuclear reactor and a plant for making nuclear fuel rods, are to be out of commission by the end of 2007.

  • North Korea promises to give a complete inventory of all its nuclear programs.
  • The North has promised this before, last February. The inventory is due at the end of December.

  • North Korea promises that it will not give nuclear material, technology or know-how to other countries.
  • The North has sold missiles and missile technology to other nations, including Egypt, Iran, Libya and Pakistan but, to date, there's no evidence that it has exported nuclear material. Recent news stories have quoted Bush administration sources as saying that North Korea may have collaborated with Syria on a nuclear program, but nuclear proliferation experts dispute this.

    This is what the United States and its negotiating partners say they will do for North Korea:

  • The United States agrees to work with North Korea to improve relations and to work toward a full diplomatic relationship.
  • The North wants the United States to stop calling it a state sponsor of terrorism, and it wants the United States to lift a ban on trade with the North, imposed under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The United States has committed to begin this process in the past, but held off as the various disputes with North Korea dragged on. The latest agreement calls for a series of cautious baby steps: "you do this, then we'll do that."

  • Japan has also agreed to work toward normalizing relations with North Korea.
  • This hinges on a very sore point: the North's abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. The kidnap victims were used to help train potential North Korean spies in Japanese language and culture. Some abductees have returned to Japan, but the Japanese government wants to resolve the fate of victims who are said to have died in North Korea and see the perpetrators punished.

  • The United States and its partners have promised to give North Korea humanitarian and economic aid, including fuel.
  • The aid is to be equivalent to the value of one million tons of heavy fuel oil, which was promised to make up for the energy that supposedly would have been provided by North Korea's nuclear reactor. The United States and its partners provided North Korea with fuel under previous agreements, but that aid was stopped in 2002 after international inspectors found that North Korea had been conducting a secret program to produce plutonium.

    The latest agreement was announced on October 3, 2007, after three days of talks in Beijing among delegates from the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China. The negotiations, which began in 2003, are known as the Six-Party Talks.

    — Corey Flintoff

    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei announces an agreement with North Korea.

    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei announces a six-nation agreement stating that North Korea will disable its reactor by the end of the year. Pool photo by Kyodo News/AP hide caption

    toggle caption Pool photo by Kyodo News/AP

    North Korea has agreed to disclose the extent of its nuclear program and disable its main reactor complex by the end of the year under an agreement reached during six-nation talks in Beijing on Wednesday.

    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said the agreement calls for the U.S. to take the lead in seeing that the facilities are disabled and will fund those initial activities.

    "The disablement of the five megawatt experimental reactor at Yongbyon, the reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and the nuclear fuel rod fabrication facility at Yongbyon will be completed by 31 December 2007," Wu said.

    Bush Praises Agreement

    The agreement came after negotiations between China, the United States, Japan, Russia, South Korea and North Korea. It was lauded by the United States, with the White House calling it significant progress toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

    "President Bush welcomes today's announcement," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council. "These second-phase actions effectively end the DPRK's (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) production of plutonium — a major step towards the goal of achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

    Multiphase Agreement

    Johndroe's remarks made reference to a February agreement reached between Pyongyang, North Korea's capital city, and the other five countries. In the first phase of that agreement, Pyongyang was required to shut down and seal its Yongbyon reactor facility, which it did in July. The second phase required it to disable its sole functioning reactor at Yongbyon and provide a full description of all its nuclear programs.

    Wednesday's agreement calls for that to happen by the end of the year.

    In return, the United States will remove North Korea from a list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a key demand of Pyongyang. No timetable was set for this action and is dependent upon the North Korean government following through on its commitment.

    The multiparty talks on North Korea have dragged on for four years. But if the initiative ultimately is successful, it would roll back a nuclear program that a year ago allowed North Korea to detonate a nuclear device and that experts say may have produced more than a dozen nuclear bombs.

    North, South Korean Leaders Meet

    Meanwhile, the two Koreas decided Wednesday to stick to their original schedule and not extend their first summit in seven years after the North Korean leader said there had been enough dialogue between the sides.

    "As we had enough dialogue, we don't need to extend" the summit, Kim said after the end of a second session of talks Wednesday with South Korea's Roh, according to South Korean pool reports. The leaders shook hands at the end of their meetings, both appearing cheerful in video relayed from Pyongyang.

    Earlier, Kim had proposed the meeting be extended so that Roh could enjoy a casual lunch Thursday with the North Korean leader. However, Roh did not immediately agree and said he would consult with advisers.

    It was not clear whether Roh rejected the offer first or if Kim took it back of his own accord.

    The two countries are to issue a joint statement Thursday morning, according to pool reports.

    Leaders Find Common Ground

    Roh said he had sought common ground with Kim as they opened formal talks in Pyongyang for only the second-ever summit between the countries.

    "We didn't reach consensus on everything. There were parts on which our perceptions coincided, and there were other parts" on which the perceptions did not coincide, Roh said at a luncheon with the South Korean delegation during a pause in his talks with Kim.

    "However, what I clearly confirmed is that [Kim] has a firm will about peace and there was consensus that there should be an agreement this time that presents a future direction about peace," Roh said.

    More Work to Do

    Roh acknowledged that the North, one of the world's most isolated nations, was taking a cautious approach in opening up to its capitalist neighbor.

    "North Korea still has some skepticism about the South, and doesn't trust it enough," Roh told the luncheon. "We have to make more efforts to further tear down this wall of distrust."

    He also said the North expressed regret that the international standoff over its nuclear weapons programs had prevented greater economic cooperation with the South.

    As the summit started Wednesday, Roh and Kim briefly mentioned recent floods in the North that left about 600 people dead or missing and tens of thousands homeless and prompted North Korea to delay the summit from its original August date.

    Kim appeared animated and smiled repeatedly Wednesday as he greeted Roh — a contrast from his dour demeanor Tuesday, when the two first met briefly at an outdoor welcoming ceremony after the South Korean president arrived in Pyongyang.

    From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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