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N. Korea to drop nuke program

Burt Herman Associated Press

BEIJING – North Korea pledged to drop its nuclear weapons development and rejoin international arms treaties in a unanimous agreement today with other countries at six-party arms talks. The joint statement was the first ever after more than two years of negotiations.

The North “promised to drop all nuclear weapons and current nuclear programs and to get back to the (Nuclear) Nonproliferation Treaty as soon as possible and to accept inspections” by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the agreement by the six countries at the talks.

“All six parties emphasized that to realize the inspectable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the target of the six-party talks,” the statement said.

The North and United States also pledged in the agreement to respect each other’s sovereignty and right to peaceful coexistence, and also to take steps to normalize relations.

“The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade (North Korea) with nuclear or conventional weapons,” according to the statement, assurances echoed by South Korea.

Negotiators agreed to hold more talks in November, where they were expected to move on to concrete discussions about implementing the broad principles outlined in today’s agreement. The main U.S. envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, has warned that could still be a long process.

The negotiations had been deadlocked over Pyongyang’s demands that it retain the right to civilian nuclear programs after it disarms, and the statement acknowledges the North has made such an assertion but doesn’t go beyond that.

North Korean officials had also demanded the country be given a light-water nuclear reactor at the latest talks – a type believed to be less easily diverted for weapons use – but Washington had said it and other countries at the talks wouldn’t meet that request.

Pyongyang has also refused to totally disarm without getting concessions along the way, while Washington has said it wants to see the weapons programs totally dismantled before granting rewards. The statement, however, says the sides agree to take steps to implement the agreement “in a phased manner in line with the principle of ‘commitment for commitment, action for action.’ “

The other countries at the talks said they were willing to give energy assistance to the North, including a South Korean plan to deliver electricity across the heavily armed border dividing the peninsula.

The talks, which began in August 2003, include China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas.

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