WASHINGTON (AFP) — President George W. Bush Wednesday hailed a six-nation deal under which North Korea is committed to declaring and disabling its nuclear program, saying it would help establish a Korean Peninsula free of atomic weapons.
Beijing released Wednesday an agreement reached between China, the United States, the two Koreas, Russia and Japan by which North Korea would declare all its nuclear programs and disable its main atomic reactor by year's end under US supervision.
The deal is the second phase of a long-running denuclearization process aimed at ending the North's atomic weapons drive.
"Today's announcement reflects the common commitment of the participants in the six-party talks to realize a Korean Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons," Bush said in a statement.
The US leader, who is working hard to ensure that his administration's policy shift on "axis of evil" North Korea succeeds, noted that North Korea had committed to provide "a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs, nuclear weapons programs, materials, and any proliferation activity."
The hardline communist state "also committed not to transfer nuclear materials, technology, or know-how beyond its borders," Bush said.
Recently leaked US intelligence had cited alleged atomic links between North Korea and Syria and said that Pyongyang may be helping US arch rival Syria build a nuclear weapons facility.
The reports, citing unnamed sources, were based on intelligence information apparently from an Israeli raid on targets inside Syria.
Washington for decades has accused North Korea, which carried out a nuclear weapons test in October 2006, of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation.
US officials have charged Syria with bankrolling terrorist groups in the Middle East.
Bush described the announcement of the new phase in North Korea's denuclearization effort as "important" and said it "will help secure the future peace and prosperity of the Northeast Asian region."
The declare-disablement phase is the second under a February deal in which North Korea agreed to end its nuclear weapons drive in return for energy aid and diplomatic and security guarantees.
It shut down its key Yongbyon nuclear reactor in July under the initial phase of the deal.
The United States will lead the disablement of the North Korean nuclear program and send a team of experts next week to launch the process, US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said.
"We hope that we can get them in early next week and they can begin the actual task of disablement," he told reporters.
North Korea had previously shut down the Yongbyon reactor under a 2004 agreement clinched during the former administration of President Bill Clinton but withdrew from the pact after the Bush administration in 2002 accused it of developing a secret uranium enrichment program.
The North responded by throwing out weapons inspectors, leaving the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and resuming its atomic activities.
The agreement released Wednesday is "a significant step," said Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman.
"If we get this agreement implemented by the end of this year, it is pathbreaking and something which would not have occurred before," he said.
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