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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

In Beijing today, long-stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program ended in a standing ovation. North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in exchange for a package of energy aid, security guarantees and diplomatic recognition. North Korea would retain the right to develop a civilian nuclear power program if it regains international trust. The agreement was welcomed cautiously in Japan and the United States. President Bush said it was a step forward in making the world a more secure place but added, `The question is: Over time, will all parties adhere to this agreement?' China's representative described it as the most important achievement in two years of talks and South Korea's minister for Unification said it would serve as a first step toward dismantling the Cold War confrontation between the two Koreas. Details remain to be worked out in the next round of talks scheduled in December.

Later in the program, a famed Buffalo soldier is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and an artist's views of combat and daily life in Iraq, "Baghdad Journal," but first, celebration and skepticism over agreement with North Korea. If you have questions about what's in the deal and what it may mean for North and South Korea, for the US and even for Iran, which is also in high-stakes nuclear negotiations, our number here in Washington is (800) 989-8255. That's (800) 989-TALK. The e-mail address is totn@npr.org.

And we begin with Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He's been kind enough to join us here in Studio 3A.

Joe, it's nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. JOSEPH CIRINCIONE (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): My pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: What does this deal say so far?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, it has three basic points to it. One, North Korea agrees to end all its nuclear weapons programs. Two, the United States agrees not to attack North Korea and to work towards the establishment of normal diplomatic relations. So we might actually get a peace treaty that ends the Korean War. We might see embassies opening up in both capitals and trade and full travel restored. And finally and mostly importantly for North Korea, the other five countries agree to provide energy and economic aid to North Korea in return for the end of that country's nuclear program.

CONAN: Including the possibility down the road of a light-water-power nuclear reactor.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: This apparently was one of the last sticking points in a weekend of back-and-forth negotiations and telephone calls between the capitals, but the US made a concession here and agreed to open up the possibility of North Korea getting a light-water nuclear reactor.

CONAN: Why now? Why would Korea agree to this now?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, I think several things have happened here. One is that the US has changed its position over the last few months with North Korea, becoming much more willing to actually negotiate with North Korea, sit down in bilateral talks, and the US has changed its public posture towards North Korea. You've seen a dropping of any references towards the tyrant, Kim Jong Il, the pigmy Kim Jong Il. The North Korean press noted that President Bush referred to Mr. Kim Jong Il on one of his recent press conferences.

Second, I think the Chinese have really stepped up to the plate and taken possession of these talks. They wrote this agreement. They presented it to the parties on Friday and said, `This is it. Take it or leave it. No further negotiations.'

And third I think is that the Iraq War has really limited US options here and made the US more willing to engage in an actual negotiation, make a few compromises in order to get a deal.

CONAN: As you mentioned, the United States' positions at these talks was considerably less aggressive than it was earlier; this, it must be said, after--at the early start of the Bush administration, they discovered that North Korea was cheating on its previous agreement with the Clinton administration on nuclear weapons and it was running another nuclear weapons development program which it first admitted and then refused to concede...

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Right.

CONAN: ...so--but there's been a big change in tone in the second Bush administration. Is that due to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. She deserves a lot of credit here for recognizing that the existing strategy towards North Korea was not working and, in fact, it made the situation worse over the past four years and then slowly, incrementally changing this strategy to allow direct negotiations and real negotiations with the North, and third, by denying that she was changing it and, therefore, allowing President Bush to keep credit for the success that we're now seeing and to keep the president's faith in her as a loyal soldier in his administration. All of this was very deftly done, and you have to give kudos to Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who came into this and really did the heavy lifting, turned this all around and has handled it just about perfectly.

CONAN: North Korea always seemed to have a lot of reasons to do this, but North Korea, the leadership, has always had a very stiff neck and has refused to accept any diminution of its status in any way.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Right. And the wording of this agreement is very diplomatic. It even talks about how the other nations respect North Korea and North Korea's positions here, very important for this kind of diplomatic finery. There's been some question all along about was there any chance that North Korea would agree, and that's what's important about this agreement. It settles that issue. The question was: Would North Korea under any conditions give up its nuclear program? North Korea's clearly saying, `Yes. For the right package, we will completely dismantle our program.' Now the hard work is to actually negotiate that package: Who does what when and how do we verify it?

CONAN: We'll get to that in a minute, but during this long conversation over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, North Korea has also been facing a food crisis in its country. Joining us now is Richard Reagan, the Country director for the United Nations World Food Program, one of the very few Americans who lives and works in North Korea. He joins us now from his hotel in Beijing, China, where it's very late.

We thank you for staying up to speak with us. Hello, Richard Reagan? Well, we've apparently lost the line to Beijing and we'll try to get Richard Reagan back on the phone to talk about the relationship between the food crisis in North Korea and the agreement to--by North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program after agreement with five other countries--the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia--who would in exchange give it more diplomatic recognition, security guarantees and also energy aid to develop its program. Our guest is Joseph Cirincione.

And, Joseph, let me ask you the details of this. This is going to be critical, verification, being sure that North Korea does what it says it will do because that has, as we mentioned just a few minute ago, been a problem in the past.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. And no one here is talking about trusting North Korea. The whole orientation of the Bush administration is that North Korea had to agree to a complete, irreversible, verifiable dismantlement of its program. They appear to have gained agreement in principle from North Korea to do exactly that, that we're going to have to now negotiate out the definitions of this agreement, the sequencing of this agreement and the exact verification procedures to make sure that we know that North Korea is doing what they say they will.

CONAN: Our number, if you'd like to join the conversation, is (800) 989-8255 and our e-mail address is totn@npr.org. We'll begin with Toby. Toby's calling us from Valdosta in Georgia.

TOBY (Caller): Hi. How are you?

CONAN: Very well, thank you.

TOBY: I'd just like for you to possibly discuss the different ways that this plan if it backfired, if, you know, say, things went wrong, what could be the implications in that...

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well...

CONAN: Joseph?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: ...it depends how...

TOBY: ...for either side.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Right. Well, it depends how far down the road we got on this plan. I assume you mean that if North Korea actually starts dismantling its facilities and then we lose interest in monitoring it, what happens. In that case, the way the deal is set up, we would bring North Korea back to ground zero basically. They would not have a nuclear reactor that produces plutonium. They would not have a reprocessing plant. They would not have facilities for turning that material into weapons. So if the deal falls apart at some later stage, they would have to start all over again.

TOBY: With open borders, though, wouldn't that give the North a chance to infiltrate the South?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, actually this is--maybe one of the other guests is going to talk about this. One of the interesting aspects of this plan is that when you start, you know, opening up trade with North Korea and travel in diplomatic recognitions and borders, you start fundamentally changing the very nature of the North Korean regime. And I think that the North Korean elite knows that and they're willing to take that chance in exchange for regime survival, that they are now getting guarantees from the United States and the others--but the United States is--that matters--that the United States will not try to overthrow that government and they seem to want to take the chance that they can survive any economic or diplomatic changes that come in the future.

CONAN: Or what may happen, too, if their people start finding out what's going on in the rest of the world which they don't know right now.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: That's right.

CONAN: Yeah. Toby, thanks very much for the call.

TOBY: Thanks a lot.

CONAN: And I think we now have Richard Reagan with us. As I mentioned, he's the Country director for the United Nations World Food Program, normally lives and works in Pyongyang in North Korea. He joins us now from his hotel in Beijing, China.

It's very late. Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. RICHARD REAGAN (Country Director, United Nations World Food Program): I'm happy to be here, Neal.

CONAN: For 10 years now, the World Food Program has provided emergency food assistance to North Korea. I understand recently the North Korean government said it no longer needs that help. Clarify that for us if you would.

Mr. REAGAN: Well, what they've said specifically is that they no longer need relief food, but they've asked the World Food Program to continue operating there but to change the way we're doing business. So now we're transitioning our program from what is basically a humanitarian type program to a development assistance effort which is a more medium- and longer-term type program.

CONAN: So does that mean they're producing more food?

Mr. REAGAN: Well, I mean, North Korea is probably never going to produce enough food. Only 18 percent of the country is arable. It's mountainous. It has a very short growing season. It only has one. South Korea and Japan, for example, don't produce enough food to feed themselves. They import food. So it's unlikely that they'll ever be in a position agriculturally to do that. But their economy's also weak, so once they grow their economy sufficiently, they'll be able to have enough foreign exchange to purchase food on the world market. So that's the direction that they're moving in today. So we'll work with them on things to try to improve agricultural production, do targeted feeding, but also to improve the economy as well.

CONAN: We just have a few seconds left in this segment. I did want to ask you if there's concern at this point that because of this change in the way you do business, North Korean people will suffer.

Mr. REAGAN: Well, I think in the short term, that's pretty likely. I think most Koreans struggle 24 hours a day to survive. It's very much like the Soviet Union after it collapsed and there was a transition from a planned economy to what's today a market economy. I think North Korea's going through the same sort of transition. There's still remnants of a planned economy, but they're making small steps towards a market-based economy. So they're still sort of in between the two, and while they're in between the two, there are people who aren't supported by a social safety net. So these are the folks that suffer.

CONAN: Can you stay with us over the break?

Mr. REAGAN: Sure. Sure. Sure.

CONAN: We'll have more with this gentleman on the World Food Program.

This is NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking this hour about North Korea. Earlier today, that country agreed to scrap its nuclear weapons in return for aid and other concessions. There's still a great deal of work to do before the deal is a done deal. Our guest is Joseph Cirincione, director for Non-Proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On the line with us from Beijing in China is Richard Reagan, Country director of the United Nations World Food Program in North Korea.

And I did want to ask you: What--did you see a relationship between this change in the status for the World Food Program and the negotiations that were under way with the--in the six-party talks?

Mr. REAGAN: I don't think there's a direct link, but I think certainly part of their calculation is the package of incentives that are on the table. One of the key problems that we faced as the United Nations over the last several years is a lack of official development assistance coming to the country, and this type of investment could focus on some of the areas that they're interested in in the energy and the economic sectors. You know, the country is transitioning from a very difficult period, and it's now hopefully moving in the right direction on that path. And if the donors out there who have been reluctant to invest official development aid into the country are now willing to do so, then you'll see all sorts of movement in key sectors like health and education, possibly water and sanitation, some of those key areas that we're concerned about.

CONAN: Richard Reagan, again, thanks very much for being up so late there in Beijing to speak with us.

Mr. REAGAN: I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Richard Reagan is Country director for the United Nations World Food Program and he joined us from his hotel in Beijing, China.

And let's take a call now. (800) 989 if you'd like to join us--(800) 989-8255. You'd need all those digits to get through to us--or you can send us an e-mail: totn@npr.org. And let's go with David. David calling us from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

DAVID (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air.

DAVID: I have an important question. There's a lot of evidence that North Korea doesn't even have nuclear weapons. It's been widely reported in The New York Times, and it's also been revealed that a lot of intelligence sources have come to that conclusion as well. I'd like for the guest to comment on that if at all possible because we may be developing a program for a nuclear program that doesn't even exist.

CONAN: Joseph Cirincione?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: We don't know for certain whether North Korea has any nuclear weapons. We do know that they have a reactor that produces plutonium. We do...

CONAN: That's at Yongbyon.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: At Yongbyon. We do know that now twice they've taken that fuel out of that reactor and appear to have reprocessed it; that is, extracted the plutonium from that fuel. And we believe that that is enough for approximately two to nine nuclear weapons, but you're absolutely right. We don't know for certain whether they have these weapons or not. I think most of us make the assumption that they've assembled at least one or two, but we don't know.

CONAN: At the end of the Clinton administration, going into the Bush administration, the assumption was North Korea had two or three nuclear weapons.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Yes, and enough, based on what we saw at Yongbyon reactor about two bombs' worth of plutonium. They've since said they've reprocessed more, that it's done another unloading of the reactors. So that estimate is now up to nine.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. There is also, the United States says, a program to enrich uranium, highly enrich uranium, another source of explosives for nuclear weapons. Again, North Korea, at one point, Korea admitted that, then has denied it ever since.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Right. And we seem to have intelligence from the Pakistanis it was the A.Q. Khan network that sold North Korea these centrifuges, these, you know, sort of high-speed devices for purifying or enriching uranium. We don't know how many exactly and if they've ever been successful in putting those together, but there is concern about that program, as well. I don't believe that there's enough there to actually make a bomb's worth of material; I think it's really the plutonium program we're primarily worried about.

CONAN: David, thanks very much for the call.

DAVID: Thank you.

CONAN: Joining us now is somebody who's actually negotiated with North Korea, Robert Gallucci, former ambassador at large. He negotiated the 1994 non-proliferation agreement between the United States and North Korea during the Clinton administration. He's now dean of the Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and he's with us from his office at Georgetown.

Good to have you back on the program, sir.

Former Ambassador ROBERT GALLUCCI (Dean, Georgetown University's School of Foreign Affairs): Pleasure to be with you.

CONAN: How does this agreement from what you've seen of it--and again, many details remain to be worked out, but how does this compare to the 1994 agreement?

Mr. GALLUCCI: I think while the administration probably wouldn't like to hear it characterized this way, I would say that these terms of reference are structurally similar to what we did in the framework a decade or so ago, which is to say that the idea here is still a step-by-step quid pro quo, where the North Koreans give up their nuclear program and in exchange, they get certain benefits. I thought a decade ago that was the best way to deal with this problem, and I think it's still the best way and I think we're headed down the right path. Whether we'll get all the way down the path is another matter.

CONAN: The framework, as you call it, negotiated in the Clinton administration and this more recent agreement announced today both have, I guess at the end of the road, for North Korea a light-water-powered nuclear reactor.

Mr. GALLUCCI: Well, that's certainly a lot less clear of the Bush administration's deal. It appears as though that circle was squared by the Chinese initiative, which put out the possibility of a light-water reactor at the end when the North Koreans had given up their nuclear program presumably in a verifiable way. But as I looked at the language, it recognizes the--or, I should say, the United States and the other states recognized the North Korean assertion of its right to have this and then to at some point in the future appropriate point to discuss the terms under which they might get it, but that's less than a firm commitment.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. I should say in Moscow today, it was announced--the Russians announced they'd be very interested in building such a reactor for North Korea if it should come to that.

Mr. GALLUCCI: They were just as enthusiastic a decade ago until some of us pointed out that the issue really wasn't so much who would build the--at the time--two reactors because the Germans could build it or the French or the United States or the South Koreans or the Japanese all build light-water reactors, but the question is: Who would pay for them? And that was really the issue. And a decade ago, it was the South Koreans mainly with some help from the Japanese who stepped up to foot the bill for their reactors.

CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. This is Kathy. Kathy's with us from Chauncey, Ohio.

KATHY (Caller): Yeah, hi. One of your guests seemed to answer my question, but I just finished reading Ron Suskind's book "The Price of Loyalty," which is a great book. In this book, they state that the deal you're describing was already clearly under way during the Clinton administration. So how much is the Bush administration trying to kind of recover what had already been in place and that had been it seemed like sort of stripped away from the arrogance within the Bush administration?

CONAN: Well, Robert Gallucci, there was a loophole it seems in the framework. The North Koreans said, `Hey, this didn't say anything about a highly enriched uranium program.'

Mr. GALLUCCI: Well, I don't think that's really the--well, I think that's not correct. I think that--or I'm certain that the framework provided for both sides, everybody, to abide by the so-called North-South declaration on denuclearization, which precludes enrichment as well as reprocessing. And in addition, the North Koreans are obligated by the IAEA under that--the terms of the IAEA agreement under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and having a secret enrichment program isn't really consistent with that.

So--and I would say moreover, I don't think the North Koreans, if you had them in your studio right now, would say, `We have a right under the framework to do this.' I think their assertion was that they had a political right in light of what was happening in the Bush administration. So I don't think there was a loophole in the framework, I think, of that kind. If there was a loophole, it wasn't a loophole. It was the absence of any specially designed verification regime to catch them at this activity. We did catch them, but it was through, I would say, our national technical means, our intelligence collection means.

CONAN: Well, getting back to Kathy's question, though, this is--trust seems to be a major factor here. The North Koreans, especially after the `axis of evil' speech, developed a great distrust for the Bush administration. Has that been repaired, and has the Bush administration had its trust with North Korea repaired after they started what the administration believes to have been a secret enrichment program?

Mr. GALLUCCI: I hate to start each answer with a negative, but I don't think trust has much to do with any of this. It didn't in 1994, and I don't think it does now. I don't know that North Koreans trust the administration today but didn't trust them yesterday, and I don't think the agreement in '94 was based on trust at all. I think that at all times, we're looking at the national interests of the country. We're dealing with whether we think we have a reasonable way of monitoring an agreement that we reach, and whether if there is any cheating, we'll find out about it before it does us any harm. So I don't--I think talking about trust here is really misplaced. Over time, if the nuclear issue is put aside, I don't think there are deep-seeded reasons why a relationship that approaches normal could not be developed. It's hard to imagine a completely normal relationship with a regime like the one in Pyongyang, but we could get to a better place than we are now.

CONAN: Kathy, thanks very much for the call.

KATHY: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate it.

And, Robert Gallucci, we thank you for your time today.

Mr. GALLUCCI: Thank you.

CONAN: Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, former ambassador at large. He negotiated the 1994 non-proliferation agreement between the United States and North Korea during the Clinton administration, and he joined us by phone from his office at Georgetown.

And we're here in the studio with Joseph Cirincione of the--director of non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of "Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security."

And let's get back to the devil in these details. That's going to be the negotiation that happens next in December. As you know, at some point, there have been experts who've said, `Look, after four or five rounds now of the six-party talks, they needed something. They've agreed in principle, but there's no substance here. They've just agreed to have something to talk about at the next round of talks.'

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, that's true, but we've turned this very important corner here. I mean, consider the alternative. Negotiations could have ended with no agreement whatsoever with a great black cloud and despair coming out of Beijing. Instead, we have what all the parties involved in the talks believe is a very important step, a victory, for many of the countries involved. As Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said, `We need to take the momentum of this agreement and now work to see that it is implemented,' and that work, I believe, has probably started already. I would expect that over the next few days and weeks, you're going to see a lot of--or there will be a lot of discussions between the US and the Chinese in particular on the details of this and how to make the November meeting a very productive meeting where we start nailing things down.

CONAN: Joining us now is Jack Pritchard, former ambassador and special envoy for negotiations with North Korea under President George W. Bush. He's a visiting fellow now in foreign policy studies at The Brookings Institution and joins us from the studio there. And nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. JACK PRITCHARD (The Brookings Institution): Well, my pleasure. Glad to be here.

CONAN: And what do you think? Let me ask you the same question I asked Joe Cirincione earlier in the program. Why would North Korea agree, do you think, to do this now?

Mr. PRITCHARD: Well, there are two parts to that. One is the fundamental question of why are they agreeing to get rid of their nuclear weapons program? And I think that goes back to a fundamental judgment that their economy, their regime is not going in the direction that they want it to. They'd like it to move out a little bit more smartly in some of the reforms that they took in July of 2002, but to accomplish that, they need access to international financial institutions and the way to get there is through the resolution of the nuclear issue. That's number one.

The immediate question is why did they agree today? And that is just almost as equally an important question. They're notoriously bad about judging the timing of when to come to a conclusion. They could very easily have missed this, and as Joe has pointed out, we could have had, you know, a black cloud of despair, but to their credit and to all the negotiators' credit, they came to an agreement today. They have judged the patience of both the Chinese and the United States, and we're all better off for it.

CONAN: We're talking about North Korea's agreement today to abandon its nuclear weapons program, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get another caller on the line. And this is Thomas, and Thomas is calling us from Germany.

THOMAS (Caller): Hey, how's it going, Neal?

CONAN: All right.

THOMAS: I've got a question for all of your panel members. It's always seemed to me that North Korea has sat down at the international poker table with a pair of twos and said, `Full house. What are you going to do about it?' What has the Western world--has anybody ever given any thought to the exploitation that other rogue regimes could put this to use, `Ha, ha, I have a nuclear weapon. What are you going to do?'

CONAN: Well, let's ask you about that, Jack Pritchard.

Mr. PRITCHARD: Well, the pair of twos are a little bit more ominous than that. I think as Bob and Joe have pointed out, the North Koreans have a nuclear weapons program. Whether or not they have nuclear weapons is conjecture, but they certainly and most probably have produced plutonium, and whether we want that spreading around in non-state actors, in this case, terrorist hands, or even in North Korean hands is a question that we've all asked, and the answer is fundamentally, `No, we don't,' and now we're going to do something about it. You know, the bottom line is, is how much is it worth? And I think that at the end of the day, that the countries involved have settled on an answer, and the answer is in the ballpark of what we're talking about; if we can get North Korea out of the nuclear weapons business and shut them down in a verifiable way in which we hope will be once and for all, it will be well worth the effort.

CONAN: Let me ask you both, though, about the other part of Thomas' question. That's about the effect on other nations. There's one in a very similar process now; a different group of nations negotiating with Iran, but similarly, they're right at the brink at this moment of referring Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions. That's still down the road, but, Jack Pritchard, what message did they receive from this development in Beijing today?

Mr. PRITCHARD: Well, I think it's been actually the other way around. There have been more serious negotiations that have been going on with Iran, with the European three, with the kibitzing by the United States, that has led the North Koreans to use the Iranian example; if you're going to allow the Iranians to have a peaceful nuclear energy program, then you've got to allow us to have one. If you're going to allow the Indians, who are not part of the NPT--and, oh, by the way, you, the United States, are providing the Indians with nuclear technology for their peaceful program--then why are you not in support of such a program for us?

CONAN: Well, Joseph Cirincione, the Iranians more on the defensive after a very aggressive speech at the United Nations by their president over the weekend. Would they feel more isolated?

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Well, I think at the UN this weekend, we saw the Iranians meeting bluster with bluster. They thought the US was taking a very hard line towards them. They took a very hard line back. The president was trying to show that he could defend Iran's national interests. He was really speaking basically to the home crowd and probably to the non-aligned movement, the Third World countries in attendance at the UN. I think this agreement's going to have two impacts. In the short term, it's going to encourage those nations who want to see Iranian negotiations continue. They'll say, `Look, see, talking works. Don't refer Iran to the UN Security Council. Keep the negotiations going.' In the long run, however, if we can nail down this agreement and get North Korea to dismantle its program, this will now be the third country in a row that will have given up a nuclear program.

CONAN: After...

Mr. CIRINCIONE: Iraq, which gave it up in the mid-'90s; Libya in 2003; now it's North Korea. That leaves Iran isolated and it undercuts its case.

CONAN: We'll continue our conversation on North Korea after a short break. Then, artist Steven Mumford will join us. His new book is "Baghdad Journal." It's a collection of drawings from the front lines in Iraq. Plus, a Buffalo Soldier is laid to rest. Stay with us.

I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

And here are the headlines from some of the stories we're following here today at NPR News. New Orleans residents who fled Hurricane Katrina re-entered some parts of that city today. The mayor has allowed people to move back into the Algiers neighborhood. Other residents return to survey damage and salvage some of their belongings. Plans to reopen some areas fell into doubt after President Bush joined those urging caution. You can hear details on that set of stories and, of course, much more later today on "All Things Considered" from NPR News.

Tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION, an examination of the president's plan to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Plus, a conversation with General Richard B. Myers, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Later this week on Thursday, TALK OF THE NATION will host a forum on race and class in America. What have we learned from Hurricane Katrina? If you're in the area and want to be part of the studio audience, send us an e-mail, totn@npr.org. And please put `audience' in the subject line.

Right now, we're wrapping up our conversation about North Korea. If you're just joining us, earlier today, it was announced in Beijing, China, at the end of a round of the six-party talks that North Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for a package of diplomatic recognition, economic aid and security guarantees. We are talking with Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and with Jack Pritchard, former ambassador and special envoy for negotiations with North Korea under the current administration and now a visiting fellow in foreign policy studies at The Brookings Institution.

And let's get another caller on the line. This is Steve. Steve calling us from Anchorage in Alaska.

STEVE (Caller): Yes. I was just wondering which--the way I understand this, it seems to me that North Korea basically won their nuclear gambit and they obtained the aid, which was probably their game all along. Kim outmaneuvered Bush and that Bush, you know, started out talking war and he ended up paying tribute. But I think it goes to show the danger of allowing, say, conservative domestic politics infecting our international diplomacy, because to me, it seems like China demonstrated itself to be the real winner, too, and that we just basically came out looking outmaneuvered.

CONAN: Jack Pritchard, would you agree?

Mr. PRITCHARD: No, I wouldn't. Actually, the proposals that you see before us have been on the table, actually, for a number of years, that has been part of the 1994 agreed framework under the Clinton administration. There has been always something that was going to be given to the North Koreans in exchange for their foregoing either a current program or a future program that they had under construction. And this particular package, which is, for the most part, funded primarily by the South Koreans, is very much a parallel of that same philosophy. You're asking the North Koreans to give up something that they would claim that they have every right to, and in doing so, they're looking to receive something. You know, the balance at the end of the day, whether it's fair or not, will be made at the conclusions of the negotiations.

CONAN: Joseph Cirincione, let me ask you about the other part of Steve's question. The Chinese look to have brokered this deal, and they will come out looking very good.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: They justifiably can feel good about this deal and claim a victory. This reinforces their position that you can accomplish this goal by negotiation and not coercion. They don't want to see a nuclear North Korea either or, for that matter, a nuclear Korean Peninsula. What they didn't want to do is go along with the Bush idea that China should squeeze North Korea, cut off its oil supply, cut off its economic aid. They were afraid this would lead to a catastrophic collapse of the regime, and millions of refugees streaming into Chinese provinces. They believe that they can do us--what the South Koreans also want, a soft landing, a transformation of this regime, and this appears to be working. In other words, we seem to be seeing the triumph of the Libya model over the Iraq model that you can change a regime's behavior and, thereby, transform the regime rather than trying to eliminate the regime from military action.

CONAN: Steve, thanks very much for the call.

Let's get one last call in. This is Tony. Tony from St. Louis, Missouri.

TONY (Caller): Good day. I might mention that a PBS business program last Thursday or Friday noted that North Korea is going to issue a credit card, so perhaps there are some financial sweeteners in the deal.

CONAN: Do we have to ask whose picture is on it?

TONY: Didn't say. And it would be good to note that the evidence for nukes comes from the first Bush administration, which did not deem it important. Thank you.

CONAN: OK. Tony, thanks very much for the call. And, Jack Pritchard, thanks very much for joining us today.

Mr. PRITCHARD: My pleasure. Thank you.

CONAN: Jack Pritchard, now a visiting fellow in foreign policy studies at The Brookings Institution. And Joseph Cirincione, we know you have to run. We appreciate you joining us here in the studio today.

Mr. CIRINCIONE: My pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: Joseph Cirincione, the director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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