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North Korean Nuclear Talks End With Verification Agreement

Six-nation talks on disarming North Korea's nuclear program have ended with Pyongyang agreeing to complete steps to disable its nuclear facilities by the end of October.

The agreement was reached today after three days of negotiations in Beijing.

Pyongyang also agreed to let outside experts verify that its nuclear facilities are being dismantled -- although a precise timetable for the inspections still has to be worked out.

The broad details of the verification plans were announced in a joint communique read out by the head of the Chinese delegation, Wu Dawei.

Wu said both Koreas, China, Russia, the United States, and Japan agreed -- in principle -- to adopt a verification mechanism that would include experts from the six nations visiting facilities, reviewing documents and interviewing technical personnel.

Wu added the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, could also be asked to assist in verification if necessary.

New Working Group

International envoys did not reach final agreement on a detailed guideline of how to verify the North's account of its nuclear activities made last month.

But chief U.S. envoy Christopher Hill told reporters that they mandated a working group to draw up the details.

Hill said he saw no big problems in reaching agreement. "[We would like] first of all a protocol to be reached within the 45 days and secondly to actually begin the verification within the 45 days. We are just anticipating that, and we don't see any obstacles to getting that done," Hill said.

But South Korean envoy Kim Sook said it was just the easier part of the job that had been done.

This last round of talks between the six nations began on July 10 following a nine-month break in negotiations.

North Korea submitted a long-delayed declaration of its nuclear activities in late June under a six-nation agreement, and destroyed a cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear plant.

The declaration was a key part of the six-nation disarmament accord reached last year, under which the North agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for an array of diplomatic incentives and economic aid.

compiled from agency reports