US heads for nuclear deal with N Korea

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WASHINGTON - The crisis in relations between the United States and North Korea may be defused after the US National Security Council recommended that President Clinton accept a deal whereby the US would cancel military exercises next year in return for the North Koreans allowing inspection of some of their nuclear facilities, writes Patrick Cockburn.

The US suspects that North Korea has some plutonium but the government is divided on whether it can really make a nuclear bomb. The North Koreans offered a deal last week after barring the International Atomic Energy Agency from its main nuclear sites. It is unlikely, however, that Pyongyang will agree to complete inspection on a regular basis without steps towards diplomatic recognition by the US, an end to its economic isolation and military disengagement.