North Korea agrees to nuclear moratorium, IAEA inspections
North Korea agreed on Wednesday to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches, and to allow nuclear inspectors to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify the moratorium has been enforced.
The breakthrough, announced simultaneously by the U.S. State Department and North Korea's official news agency, paves the way for a resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang and follows talks between U.S. and North Korean diplomats in Beijing last week.
It also appears to mark a significant policy shift by North Korea's reclusive leadership following the death in December of veteran leader Kim Jong-il - although analysts cautioned that Pyongyang has backtracked repeatedly on past deals.
"The DPRK, upon request by the U.S. and with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere for the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity at Yongbyon and allow the IAEA to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment while productive dialogues continue," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.
North Korea is known formally as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The State Department said that in return the United States was ready to go ahead with a proposed 240,000 metric-ton food aid package requested by North Korea and that more aid could be agreed to based on continued need.
"Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Congressional panel on Wednesday, noting that Washington continued to have profound concerns over a range of North Korean activities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which withdrew its inspectors from North Korea in 2009, said it was ready to return, calling the moratorium deal "an important step forward."
South Korea and Japan both welcomed the announcement, with the Foreign Ministry in Seoul saying it could form the basis for a broader agreement on North Korea's nuclear program.
"It is our assessment that the basis has been set for moving forward on our efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue in a comprehensive and fundamental manner," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Buyung-jae said in a statement.Continued