Six countries reached a tentative agreement Tuesday on initial steps toward North Korea's nuclear disarmament that could usher in the first concrete progress after more than three years of talks marked by delays, deadlock and the communist country's first nuclear test explosion.
The U.S. envoy to the talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, emerged in the early morning hours of Tuesday looking weary after a marathon 16-hour negotiating session and announced that a tentative deal had been struck at the latest round of six-party talks on the North's nuclear program.
The draft agreement contained commitments on disarmament and energy assistance along with "initial actions" to be taken by certain deadlines, Hill said. Working groups will be set up, hopefully in a month, laying out a framework for dealing with regional tensions, he added.
He declined to give further details of the draft.
The agreement could herald the first step toward disarmament since the talks began in 2003. The process reached its lowest point in October when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test explosion, alarming the world and triggering U.N. sanctions.