[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 07:16 GMT
Inter-Korean dialogue to restart
Negotiators for the six-party talks in Beijing on 13 February 2007
The deal came after intense negotiations in Beijing
North and South Korea have agreed to resume ministerial talks, a day after a nuclear disarmament deal was reached.

Cabinet-level talks have not taken place between the two Koreas since Pyongyang's missile tests last year.

On Tuesday a deal was reached during six-nation talks in Beijing, in which Pyongyang pledged to shut its main nuclear reactor in return for fuel aid.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed the agreement, but warned that it was "not the end of the story".

Warming ties?

South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a statement that delegates from the two Koreas would meet on Thursday to discuss when to restart ministerial talks.

North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA said Pyongyang had agreed to the South's proposal of renewed contact.

Analysts say the resumption of the talks - which have not taken place since Pyongyang test-launched an array of missiles in July - is a sign of warming inter-Korean relations in the wake of Tuesday's deal.

Believed to have 'handful' of nuclear weapons
But not thought to have any small enough to put in a missile
Could try dropping from plane, though world watching closely

Seoul's unification minister, Lee Jae-Joung, in charge of relations with the North, hailed the Beijing agreement as a "critical turning point" in the creation of a peaceful Korean peninsula.

But it is not just South Korea that is showing signs of guarded optimism over the six-party deal.

Condoleezza Rice said the agreement was "a good beginning" towards the goal of "the complete, verifiable and irreversible de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

President George W Bush, who once labelled North Korea as part of an "axis of evil", said the agreement represented "the best opportunity to use diplomacy to address North Korea's nuclear programme".

But other US figures voiced scepticism. John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, said North Korea should not be rewarded for only partially dismantling its nuclear arsenal.

"I will be the saddest man in Washington" if President Bush goes along with the agreement," Mr Bolton told reporters. "I think the agreement is fundamentally flawed."

And while Japan has approved the joint deal, Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted as saying that Tokyo would not provide aid to the North as there had been no progress on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North in the 1970s and 80s.

Problems ahead

Chinese envoy Wu Dawei announced the new deal on Tuesday, at the end of the Beijing talks, saying it was "favourable for the peace process in north-east Asia and for the improvement of ties between relevant countries".

Under the agreement, Pyongyang has pledged to close its Yongbyon reactor within 60 days, in return for 50,000 metric tons of fuel aid or economic aid of equal value.

The closure of Yongbyon will be verified by international inspectors.

The North will eventually receive another one million tonnes of fuel oil or an equivalent when it permanently disables its nuclear operations.

The US has agreed to begin the process of removing North Korea from its list of terror states and establish diplomatic relations. Japan will also discuss normalising relations with the North.

One of the topics that looks set to be left for later discussion is the fate of any nuclear weapons the North already possesses.

Despite the difficulties ahead, analysts say this deal is an important sign of progress, after three long years of talks devoid of progress.

The previous deal, agreed in September 2005, rapidly fell apart over differences between North Korea and the US over implementation.

The North Korean nuclear issue has become even more pressing in recent months, after Pyongyang conducted its first atomic test in October.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific