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N. Korea 'Breakthrough' Reported

Journal and Wire Report
    A U.S. delegation to North Korea led by Gov. Bill Richardson has apparently reached a "breakthrough" deal with the rogue nuclear nation that clears the way for the dismantling of its nuclear reactor and the admittance of nuclear inspectors, NBC News reported late Tuesday.
    The deal struck after late-night negotiations between Richardson and North Korea's top nuclear negotiator would start the dismantling process and allow U.N. inspectors back in, said Andrea Mitchell, the network's chief foreign affairs correspondent, who accompanied the group.
    Richardson headed a bipartisan group that left for the Stalinist nation last weekend. The stated purpose of the trip— which included Anthony Principi, President Bush's former veteran affairs secretary— was to recover remains of American servicemen from the Korean War.
    But the trip comes at a critical time in nuclear disarmament efforts. And Richardson has in the past negotiated with the North Koreans over the nuclear issue.
    The United States had issued a weekend deadline for North Korea to shut down its main nuclear facility, but a stalemate developed over the release of $25 million in frozen North Korean bank accounts.
    Mitchell in her telephone report on NBC Nightly News said that stalemate appeared to be broken after a meeting with Richardson and the North's top nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan.
    "Members of the American team believe they convinced Pyongyang it would get its frozen bank account when the banks open in a few hours. That's been the hang-up," Mitchell said. "That promise, coordinated with the U.S. Treasury back in Washington, led Kim to say that they would start dismantling the reactor and let U.N. nuclear inspectors back in— and that it could be done within 30 days."
    She said an announcement would be made today after the Richardson delegation reached South Korea.
    After Mitchell's report, the Richardson presidential campaign sent electronic links to it to other media, including the Journal.
    If North Korea follows through on its promises, they would be the first moves the communist state has made to scale back its nuclear development since it kicked out international inspectors and in 2003 restarted its sole operating nuclear reactor.
    The hard-won agreement, reached four months after North Korea rattled the world by testing a nuclear device, has been held up by the dispute over the frozen funds.
   
The Associated Press contributed to this report.