Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Saturday, 12 July 2008 14:47 UK

N Korea agrees to nuclear checks

Cooling tower at Yongbyon plant destroyed 27 June
Pyongyang has already started destroying parts of its nuclear facility

Negotiators from six-nation talks in China have agreed steps to verify North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

Officials from China, the US, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas agreed Pyongyang would finish disabling its main nuclear facility by October.

The other nations will complete deliveries of fuel and economic aid ahead of visits by verification teams.

The deal comes after South Korea's leader proposed reviving direct talks with the North in a major policy shift.

President Lee Myung-bak told parliament on Friday he was willing to carry out previous bilateral summit accords and provide the impoverished North with food aid.

Fine details

US envoy Christopher Hill at talks in Beijing
We don't see any obstacles
Christopher Hill
US envoy
The agreement is the latest stage of a six-party deal reached in February 2007, when the North said it would scrap its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and diplomatic concessions.

Last month, North Korea handed over a long-delayed list of its nuclear activities and demolished the cooling tower at its main plutonium-producing Yongbyon nuclear reactor, in a symbol of its commitment to talks on ending its nuclear programme.

Announcing the latest agreement, the head of the Chinese delegation Wu Dawei said the verification process would include experts from the six nations visiting facilities, reviewing documents and interviewing technical personnel.

He said the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, could also be asked to help if necessary.

2002: N Korea pulls out of previous deal after US accuses it of having secret uranium programme
October 2006: North Korea carries out its first test of a nuclear weapon
February 2007: N Korea agrees to end nuclear activities in return for aid
July 2007: North Korea closes its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allows IAEA inspectors in
December 2007: N Korea misses a deadline to hand over a declaration of its nuclear work
June 2008: N Korea hands over nuclear programme details; US cautiously welcomes the move
July 2008: Six-party talks agree verification process

The BBC's James Reynolds, in Beijing, says allowing outside monitors into North Korea is an important issue for the US.

He says the Bush administration does not trust North Korea enough to take it at its word, and will only be satisfied with proper independent verification.

The precise details of the verification process are still to be decided, but US envoy Christopher Hill said he hoped they would be finalised soon.

"We'd like a protocol to be reached within 45 days and secondly to actually begin the verification within 45 days," he said.

Despite the progress, all sides know that there are still some major potential stumbling blocks in the way of the long-term goal of completely dismantling all of North Korea's nuclear programmes.

Some experts believe North Korea has already produced enough weapons-grade plutonium to make as many as 10 nuclear bombs, and the US has also accused Pyongyang of running a second weapons programme based on uranium.

Neither topic has yet been addressed publicly by the delegates.

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