A joint agreement to close the Yongbyon nuclear facility has been reached in the fifth round of Six Party Talks aimed at implementing the closure of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
Yongbyon is the site of a 25 MW gas-cooled graphite-moderated nuclear reactor as well as reprocessing facilities, which have been used for plutonium production.
The agreement comes at the end of five days of talks held in Beijing. The six parties - North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the USA - agreed that in the initial phase, North Korea would shut down the facility which they would "seal for, eventual abandonment." IAEA personnel would be invited back to conduct verification and monitoring. In return North Korea would receive an initial shipment of 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. Both measures will take place within the next 60 days.
The initial and subsequent phase of the implementation provides for North Korea to fully declare all nuclear programs and disablement of all nuclear facilities including graphite-moderated reactors and reprocessing plants, in return for the equivalent of 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil in total.
The countries also agreed to set up working groups to look into denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, normalization of North Korea-US and North Korea-Japan relations, economy and energy cooperation, and peace and security in Northeast Asia. The working groups are to be set up within the next 30 days, and will report back at the next round of talks which are scheduled to begin on 19 March 2007.
North Korea previously agreed to halt its nuclear weapons programme in return for energy assistance including the construction of two 1000 MWe light water nuclear power reactors. The project was suspended then finally terminated in May 2006 following the resumption of North Korea's nuclear activities and expulsion of IAEA inspectors in December 2002. In October 2006 North Korea carried out an underground nuclear weapons test.
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