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Tentative Nuclear Deal Struck With North Korea

North Korea's senior nuclear negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan, signaled agreement with all the draft provisions, including fuel aid, according to Chun Yung Woo, the chief South Korean delegate. But the final word had not yet come from Pyongyang, he noted.

According to diplomats' descriptions of what was under discussion, the issue of North Korea's existing nuclear weapons and the plutonium fuel already produced at Yongbyon would be left for later. U.S. experts have estimated that North Korea has enough plutonium to make eight or 10 bombs.

Similarly, a U.S. allegation that North Korea also has started a uranium enrichment program to produce nuclear fuel would not be addressed in the initial agreement. North Korea has denied it has such a program.

Based on the difficulty in moving from the 2005 agreement in principle to Tuesday's accord, those issues seemed likely to generate complicated negotiations in the months ahead. Moreover, they would force North Korean leaders to decide whether they are willing to forsake the nuclear weapons they have devoted so many resources to developing.

Nevertheless, Hill said, reaching the agreement augured well for negotiations on the subsequent steps. A new round of talks on the next steps is likely next month, he added.

Since the negotiations began, in August 2003, they have been marked by long North Korean boycotts and repeated sessions of fruitless discussions.

In addition, when the September 2005 accord was reached, North Korea had a research program but no nuclear weapons. But it exploded a nuclear device last October and swiftly declared itself a nuclear power.

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

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