N. Korea "Ready To Implement" Nuke Pact

South Korean delegates, left, shake hands their North Korean counterpart during a meeting at the North Korean border town of Kaesong, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007.
AP Photo/Korea POOL
North Korea is ready to implement an agreement reached earlier this week on initial steps for denuclearization, a news report Thursday quoted the North's top envoy to the disarmament talks as saying.

"The talks went well," Kyodo News agency quoted North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan as saying on his return from the Beijing-hosted six-nation negotiations.

"We are ready to implement the results of the meeting," he said at Pyongyang airport to both Russia's ambassador and a senior Chinese embassy official, according to Kyodo.

Clearing another major diplomatic hurdle, North and South Korea agreed to resume stalled high-level talks later this month, officials said Thursday, in the first concrete sign of easing tensions on the divided peninsula.

The Cabinet-level talks — the highest dialogue channel between the two Koreas — will be held in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, from Feb. 27 through March 2, according to a joint statement adopted at a lower-level meeting in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

South and North Korea have held 19 high-level meetings since 2000, but they have been suspended for seven months amid chilled relations following North Korea's missile launches in July and nuclear test in October.

The two sides "affirmed each other's will to continue developing South-North relations," the statement said.

Cabinet-level talks — which usually serve as a forum for discussion on Seoul's aid to the impoverished North — could lead to a resumption of the regular delivery of rice and fertilizer to the communist nation. South Korea suspended its aid after the July missile tests.

South Korean delegate Lee Kwan-se said the planned talks will help "advance reconciliation and cooperation between the South and the North, and to promote peace on the Korean peninsula."

"The North side, just as we did, wanted to restore South-North relations and resume dialogue to discuss pending issues," Lee said, according to pool reports by South Korean journalists.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and his U.S. counterpart President Bush agreed during a telephone conversation that "they were now at a starting point to kick-start the process of resolving the North Korea nuclear issue," Roh's office said in a statement Thursday.

The two leaders also "stressed that each country should sincerely implement" the nuclear deal, according to the statement.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Song Min-soon had similar telephone discussions with his U.S. and Chinese counterparts, and planned to talk with the Japanese and Russian foreign ministers, the Foreign Ministry said.

Despite the concrete signs of progress, North Korea kept up its harsh anti-U.S. rhetoric Thursday, with No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam ordering all soldiers and citizens to maintain a war mobilization posture to counter the threat of a U.S. attack.

"We will mercilessly repel the aggressors and achieve reunification by mobilizing" in case of a U.S. attack, Kim warned in a speech to thousands of government and military officials that was carried on state television.

The comments were not unusual, and appeared to be directed at North Koreans as they prepare to celebrate the 65th birthday of leader Kim Jong Il on Friday.

North Korea regularly accuses the United States of planning to attack it. U.S. officials say they have no such intention.

The disarmament pact reached Tuesday among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States is worth about $250 million at current prices.

It requires North Korea to seal its main nuclear reactor, allow international inspections and begin accounting for other nuclear programs within 60 days. Within that time, more talks are planned on ending the hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. and Japan.

In return, North Korea will receive 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, a modest down payment on a promised 1 million tons in oil or aid of a similar value if it ultimately disarms. One million tons of oil is more than two-thirds of North Korea's entire oil consumption in 2004, according to the CIA Factbook.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.