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North Korea to shut down nuclear reactor

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North Korea last night agreed to shut down its principal nuclear reactor in return for fuel aid, the BBC reports.

The deal, reached in Beijing following lengthy talks, raises hopes that Pyongyang has decided to bow to international pressure and move towards nuclear disarmament.

Envoy Wu Dawei, representing China at the negotiations which also included representatives from North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US, confirmed an "important consensus" had been reached.

Specifically, North Korea will "close its Yongbyon reactor within 60 days, in return for 50,000 metric tons of fuel aid or economic aid of equal value". The country will receive another one million tonnes of fuel oil when it "permanently disables its nuclear operations", Wu explained.

He added that the US "had agreed to begin the process of removing North Korea from its list of terror states and establish diplomatic relations" while "Japan would also discuss normalising relations with the North".

The US - which engaged in some energetic sabre-rattling over North Korea's nuclear warhead test in October last year - is reportedly sceptical at Pyongyang's pledges. It has some justification: North Korea broke a similar deal signed back in the 1990s, by simply continuing with its nuclear programme. ®

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