WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and nuclear and long-range missile tests in a breakthrough in negotiations with the United States, which is set to provide food aid in return.
The rare simultaneous announcements Wednesday by the two longtime adversaries could clear the way for resumption of multi-nation disarmament-for-aid talks that the North withdrew from in 2009.
Coming just over two months after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il, it signals a willingness by the reclusive government under his untested youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to improve ties with the U.S. and win critical assistance. It still falls far short of an agreement to abandon the nuclear weapons program that Pyongyang likely views as key to the regime's survival.
In a key concession, North Korea said it had agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to verify and monitor a moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a program that the North unveiled to visiting U.S. academics in 2010.
Uranium enrichment could give it a second route to manufacture nuclear weapons, in addition to its existing plutonium-based program. At low levels, uranium can be used in power reactors, but at higher levels it can be used in nuclear bombs. The North has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006 and a long-range rocket test, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
IAEA monitors will also confirm disablement of a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and associated facilities, the U.S. said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States will meet with North Korea to finalize details for a proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of food aid, referring to it as "nutritional assistance." She said that intensive monitoring of the aid would be required — a reflection of U.S. concerns that food could be diverted to the North's powerful military. The U.S. said there was the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need.
Source: Huffington Post