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Analysis: Complex issues remain on NKorea nukes
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    SEOUL, South Korea — It took years of talks, coddling and concessions to prod North Korea to step back from its decades-long effort to make atomic weapons, leading to Friday’s dramatic destruction of its nuclear reactor cooling tower.
    That was the easy part.
    Past experience suggests North Korea will seek more rewards before it moves further to disarm. If Pyongyang actually hands over the nuclear bombs believed to be in its arsenal — the country’s most valuable bargaining chips — the communist leadership would only do so after a long wish list of demands is granted.
    The North has repeatedly shown a talent for brinksmanship, along with a mastery of playing countries against each other. And Pyongyang is just getting started.
    Hints of the problems to come emerged just hours after the reactor tower tumbled to the ground in a cloud of dust and smoke.
    While praising the U.S. for starting to remove sanctions, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it would closely watch whether the other sides from the arms talks meet their commitments.
    ‘‘What is important in the days ahead is for the U.S. to fundamentally drop its hostile policy toward the (North), a policy that compelled (North Korea) to have access to a nuclear deterrent,’’ the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
    So far, the United States and other countries have agreed to give the North the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil for disabling its main nuclear facility and providing a list of nuclear programs. The U.S. is also moving to eliminate some sanctions against the regime.
    The North has 45 days to agree on procedures to verify its declaration, the date by when the U.S. plans to remove the country from a State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.
    The next and far more complicated phase of the disarmament process is for North Korea to abandon and dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. So far, the other countries have not said what they will give the North in exchange for doing so.
    For dismantling its reactor, the energy-starved country is expected to demand a new reactor of a type it would use solely for generating electricity.
    Under a 1994 disarmament deal with the U.S., the North was offered two reactors for power. But construction was abandoned long before they were completed amid the latest nuclear crisis that began in 2002, when the U.S. accused Pyongyang of pursuing a secret uranium enrichment program.
    The North still wants the reactors, and won a concession in a September 2005 agreement that other countries would talk ‘‘at an appropriate time’’ about a new reactor.
    To finally end the nuclear threat, the U.S. will want the North to hand over its bombs. But in exchange, North Korea will likely demand security guarantees from Washington and normal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
    As early as Monday, the chief negotiators from the six nations involved in the nuclear talks — North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia — will meet in Beijing to begin discussions on the specifics of how North Korea’s declaration of its nuclear programs will be verified. The key element that requires verification is the amount of plutonium North Korea says it has produced. Officials say that may take several months to determine.
    As early as July, even before the declaration is verified, the highest-level contact between the United States and North Korea since 2000 may take place at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the six nations involved in the talks. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would attend this as-yet unscheduled meeting along with her North Korean counterpart.
    The U.S. technically remains at war with the North. Some 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the Korean War, where fighting stopped in an 1953 armistice but no peace treaty was ever signed.
    The bombs from that war left the peninsula bitterly divided. The destruction of the reactor tower, which was not shown on North Korean television, is a landmark step showing how far the U.S. and North Korea have come since then, even as peace in northeast Asia remains elusive.
    Burt Herman is chief of bureau in Korea for The Associated Press.

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