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Archive for Saturday, March 3, 2007

S. Korea says aid will follow nuclear shutdown

March 3, 2007

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— South Korea added pressure on North Korea to comply with an international disarmament agreement Friday, refusing the impoverished nation's demand to restore full aid shipments until after its main nuclear reactor is shut down.

At the first high-level talks between the two Koreas since the North's underground nuclear test in October, the communist nation "agreed to make joint efforts for a smooth implementation" of its pledge last month to take initial steps toward dismantling its atomic program, according to a final statement.

The North and South also agreed to resume family reunions of relatives split by their border and planned test runs of railway lines between the countries.

North Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency have agreed on March 13 as the starting date for a two-day visit by the agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, U.N. officials said Friday. The officials asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal specifics of the trip, which is expected to help alleviate some misgivings that the unpredictable regime might renege on the agreement to shut down and disable its nuclear facilities.

This week's meetings in Pyongyang were part of the historic reconciliation launched between the Koreas since their leaders met in their first and only summit in 2000. The countries remain technically at war because the cease-fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War has never been replaced by a peace treaty.

But attempts to bring the countries together have been complicated since 2002, when Washington accused North Korea of secret uranium enrichment efforts the U.S. said violated an earlier disarmament deal.

The situation deteriorated further in July when North Korea test-launched a series of missiles, prompting South Korea, one of the main sources of aid such as rice and fertilizer to the North, to put the shipments on hold.

Relations worsened after North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear test, but eventually led to a revival of deadlocked six-nation nuclear negotiations - China, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and the two Koreas - that led to a breakthrough Feb. 13 accord where the North pledged to move toward abandoning its nuclear program.

North Korea is set to get an initial 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down its reactor as part of the arms agreement. North Korea also is moving to normalize ties with the U.S. and Japan at meetings next week.

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