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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korean Nuclear Deal Struck

After years of brinkmanship and arduous talks and just four months after testing a nuclear bomb, North Korea agreed Tuesday to stop its main nuclear reactor and eventually to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Under the agreement struck in Beijing on Tuesday, North Korea pledged to shut down and seal its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon within 60 days while the United States, Russia, China and South Korea would provide initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of fuel.

Japan, the sixth party in the talks, refused to provide any aid to Pyongyang until the fate of Japanese hostages abducted by North Korean agents decades ago is resolved.

While Russian officials welcomed the deal, political analysts were skeptical that North Korea would give up its only foreign policy tool that easily.

"We support suspending the reactor as a step of the first stage [of denuclearization]," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said Tuesday. Losyukov is serving as the head of Russia's negotiating team in Beijing.

In accordance with the deal, North Korea will receive another 950,000 tons of fuel and continue receiving 1 million tons of fuel every year in exchange for complete disabling of the reactor, allowing international inspections and declaring all nuclear programs.

The United States will also take North Korea off its list of nations that sponsor terrorism and end economic sanctions against the communist regime.

In addition to sending supplies, Russia may write off part of Pyongyang's $8 billion debt, Interfax reported Tuesday, citing a source involved in the negotiations.

Both President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered no comments Tuesday.

Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, praised the outcome of the talks, calling them "an important precedent" that showed a serious problem could be resolved through negotiation as opposed to threats.

"This time, it seems, the world community managed to resolve the problem of North Korea's nuclear weapons in an optimal manner," he said.

Leonid Slutsky, the first deputy head of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, called the agreement a "breakthrough in the stabilization of the situation of the whole Korean peninsula," adding that "a North Korea with nuclear weapons is a direct threat to the national security and national interests of Russia."

Russia was never declared a potential target by Pyongyang, but during North Korea's test launches last fall, a faulty ballistic missile veered off course toward Russia and reportedly sank in Russian waters.

Pyongyang has repeatedly violated its earlier international commitments, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il once humiliated Putin. In 2000, he promised Putin that he would abandon his nuclear weapons program. After Putin broke the news at a Group of Eight summit in Japan days later, the North Korean dictator said he had been joking.

Russian security and political experts strongly suspected foul play on the part of Pyongyang.

"The nuclear program is the only resource that North Korea has to interact with the outer world. It will never give it up so easily," said Alexander Khramchikhin, an analyst with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.

Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Moscow branch of the Center for Defense Information, a U.S. think tank, said North Korea might eventually decide to raise the stakes by kicking out international inspectors and resuming its nuclear weapons programs. Pyongyang did this in 2003.

If the North Korea deal stands, it will relieve Moscow of yet another diplomatic headache without Russia having had to do much, political analysts agreed.

Security experts concurred that inspecting North Korea's entire nuclear program might prove tough given that the government was believed to have buried some of its nuclear facilities inside mountains.

Also, internal political dynamics in the United States, North Korea or Japan might prompt unilateral action by any of these countries, Margelov said.

Under Tuesday's agreement, five working groups are to be created to oversee implementation of the pact. Russia will take charge of a group charged with maintaining peace and security in northeast Asia.

The groups are to meet March 19 to discuss progress.