North Korea Agrees to Nuclear Moratorium, IAEA Inspections

Posted February 29th, 2012 at 9:50 pm (UTC-5)
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North Korea has agreed to suspend nuclear weapons tests, long-range ballistic missile launches and other nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment.

U.S. and North Korean officials simultaneously announced the breakthrough Wednesday. It came after talks last week in Beijing between U.S. and North Korean officials, just two months after the death of North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong Il.

In Washington, the White House welcomed the announcement, calling it a “positive first step.” But it stressed that the United States is looking for North Korea to follow through with action.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman says Beijing welcomes what it calls improved relations between Washington and North Korea. The spokesman says China will continue to strive to play a constructive part in bringing peace and security to the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says said U.S. and North Korean teams will meet in the immediate future to complete details of a plan for 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food assistance for the North. She said the deal calls for “intensive monitoring” to ensure the aid reaches the most needy.

The former U.S. special representative for North Korea Policy in the Obama administration, Stephen Bosworth, voiced similar sentiments in an interview with VOA.

“My hope is that the agreement will hold and lead to some next steps, such as the return of the IAEA inspectors to Yongbyon and North Korea and to resuming a new flow of food aid… and that would be followed by further efforts to reach an agreement on the relaunching of a deeper U.S. – North Korea dialogue and eventually the resumption of the six-party process.”

Another U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said the steps North Korea has now agreed to open the door to serious negotiations and wider talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the heritage Foundation, a Washington-based research institution, said while the steps North Korea has agreed to are a move in the right direction, they are not a significant breakthrough.

“A cynical take on it would be that the U.S. is paying additional economic benefits simply for North Korea's agreement to affirm previous agreements that it has already signed its name to three times in the six-party talks.”