North Korea Reaches Tentative Disarmament Deal

Feb. 12, 2007 — -- There is new hope that North Korea may be nearing a nuclear disarmament agreement. A compromise was reached that would give North Korea one million tons of fuel oil and electricity, ABC News' Martha Raddatz has learned.

The major sticking point in the six-party-talks in Beijing had been North Korea's demand for an energy package. The country had requested two million tons of fuel oil and two million kilowatts of power before it would agree to begin shutting down its nuclear program.

While the deal gives North Korea half of what it initially demanded, it's twice as much fuel oil as was offered to Kim Jong Il during the Clinton adminstration's 1994 U.S.-North Korea disarmament agreement. That deal would have sent 500,000 tons of fuel oil a year to North Korea, but it was squashed five years ago when North Korea was accused of conducting a secret uranium enrichment program.

It's now been four months since the country conducted a nuclear test, leading to the urgency of the current negotiations.

The latest progress comes a day after the talks appeared near collapse, but compromises were made and a final deal is expected to be announced late tonight. The draft agreement was reached after 16 hours of talks today between the six nations involved, including South Korea and Japan.

Inspectors to Return to North Korea

The agreement calls for a step-by-step deal that would lead to a shutdown of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said all parties had to make concessions, but he would give very few details.

"I think everybody had to make some changes to try to narrow the differences, so let's get the thing approved and [then] we can talk who did what," Hill said.

President Bush has long said that the United States would not compromise with North Korea. An administration official insists that remains the case, saying that it was principally South Korea that was involved in the energy negotiations.

The first steps in the agreement would involve North Korea selling its nuclear reactor and allowing international inspectors back into the country. The agreement would essentially freeze the existing program, but there is no deadline for turning over nuclear weapons or fuel already manufactured.

"The real question is whether or not we'll be able to follow up the freeze with a real denuclearization where we get our hands on the nuclear material North Korea has produced over the last four or five years," said North Korea proliferation analyst Jon Wolfstahl.

The Clinton administration reached an agreement for North Korea to freeze its nuclear activity in 1994 -- but the North Koreans broke that agreement.

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration says this is different.

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