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Pyongyang to Shut Down Nuclear Reactor?
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Positive comments attributed to Pyongyang and Washington have generated a wave of optimism just days before the resumption of the six-party talks in Beijing.

North Korea has told the United States it is willing to shut down a key nuclear reactor and accept UN inspections providing certain conditions are met, a news report from Washington said Thursday.

North Korea said it could close the five-megawatt reactor in its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon while also accepting inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo reported from the US capital, citing an unidentified State Department official.

The conditions include Pyongyang's long-standing call for Washington to lift financial restrictions caused by its alleged currency counterfeiting and money laundering as well as a demand for energy aid, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, Yonhap news agency reported that the United States has said it is willing to give written security guarantees to North Korea if initial steps towards denuclearization are taken.

Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, the South Korean agency revealed the United States conveyed its stance to North Korea last month when diplomats from both sides met in Beijing, adding that the security guarantees would be signed by the top US leadership, including President George W. Bush.

In Washington, US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said he did not "want to get into specific things that we'll be proposing," when asked if North Korea should shut down its nuclear reactor as a token of good faith.

He said Washington would discuss easing restrictions on financial sanctions on North Korea during the talks set to resume on Monday.

China's Foreign Ministry Thursday called on all parties to show "cool-headedness and patience" in the upcoming talks.

(China Daily December 15, 2006)

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