GENEVA — North Korea agreed Sunday to account for and disable its atomic programs by the end of the year, offering its first timeline for a process long sought by nuclear negotiators, the chief U.S. envoy said.
Kim Gye Gwan, head of the North Korean delegation, said separately his country’s willingness to cooperate was clear — in return for “political and economic compensation” — but he mentioned no dates.
Christopher Hill, a U.S. assistant secretary of state, said two days of talks between the United States and North Korea in Geneva had been “very good and very substantive” and would help improve chances of a successful meeting later this month with Japan, Russia, South Korea and China in six-nation talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear weapons program and improving relations between North Korea and other countries.
“One thing that we agreed on is that the DPRK will provide a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year, 2007,” Hill told reporters, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Hill said the declaration will also include uranium enrichment programs, which the United States fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.
“When we say all nuclear programs, we mean all,” he said.
He said later in response to a question from The Associated Press that it was the first time that North Korea had ever offered a timeline for declaring and disabling its nuclear program.
Kim said, “We agreed a lot of things between the United States and the DPRK. We are happy with the way the peace talks went.”
“We made it clear, we showed clear willingness to declare and dismantle all nuclear facilities,” he said.
The agreement is “very significant, for sure,” said Patricia Lewis, director of the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, noting that North Korea had allowed U.N. inspectors back into the country and that they could verify what is declared.
“Confidence can increase and we can see whether or not it’s really being shut down,” Lewis said.
Hill declined to say whether the agreement would include more than the plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, which North Korea shut down in July.
“We have to work out some of the details on that,” Hill told reporters. “We will have a declaration in time to disable what needs to be disabled,” he said, adding that “for example the Yongbyon reactor would have to be included.”
He said he and Kim had discussed a range of issues in their two days of talks at the U.S. and North Korean missions to U.N. offices in Geneva.