BEIJING (AP) – North Korea agreed Tuesday after arduous talks to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually dismantle its atomic weapons program, just four months after the communist state shocked the world by testing a nuclear bomb.
The deal marks the first concrete plan for disarmament in more than three years of six-nation negotiations. The plan also could potentially herald a new era of cooperation in the region with the North’s longtime foes – the United States and Japan – also agreeing to discuss normalizing relations.
“Obviously we have a long way to go, but we’re very pleased with this agreement,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters. “It’s a very solid step forward.”
Making sure North Korea declares all its nuclear facilities and shuts them down is likely to prove difficult, nuclear experts have said.
The country has sidestepped previous agreements, allegedly running a uranium-based weapons program even as it froze a plutonium-based one – sparking the latest nuclear crisis in late 2002. There are believed to be countless mountainside tunnels in which to hide projects.