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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pyongyang to get 1 million tons of fuel

North Korea agreed Tuesday to shut down its main nuclear reactor within 60 days at talks with the US and four regional powers and eventually dismantle its atomic weapons program.

Under the deal, the North will receive an initial 50,000 tons worth of aid in heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor, to be confirmed by international inspectors, Chinese envoy Wu Dawei said. The North will eventually receive another 950,000 tons in aid for irreversibly disabling the reactor.

If Pyongyang goes through with its promises, they would be the first moves the communist nation has made to scale back its atomic development after more that three years of six-nation negotiations marked by delays, deadlock and the North's first nuclear test explosion in October.

Under the agreement, North Korea and the United States will also embark on talks aimed at resolving disputes and restarting diplomatic relations, Wu said. The Korean peninsula has remained in a state of war for more than a half-century since the Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire.

The United States will begin the process of removing North Korea from its designation as a terror-sponsoring state and also of ending US trade sanctions, but no deadlines were set, according to the agreement.

Also, Japan and North Korea will seek to normalize relations, Wu said.

After the initial 60 days, foreign ministers from all countries at the talks will meet - China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas. Another meeting of the nuclear envoys was scheduled March 19.

Under a 1994 US-North Korea disarmament agreement, the North was to receive 500,000 tons of fuel oil a year before construction was completed of two nuclear reactors that would be able to generate 2 million kilowatts of electricity.

That deal fell apart in late 2002 when the US accused the North of conducting a secret uranium enrichment program, sparking the latest nuclear crisis that led to the six-nation talks.

In September 2005, North Korea was promised energy aid and security guarantees in exchange for pledging to abandon its nuclear programs. But talks on implementing that agreement repeatedly stalled on other issues.

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