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article imageNorth Korea agrees to stop nuclear tests and uranium enrichment

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 1, 2012 in World
Pyongyang - The U.S. government has announced a breakthrough in talks with North Korea. The country has agreed to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and allow U.N. inspectors check the facility.
Reuters reports the announcement was made simultaneously on Wednesday in Pyongyang and Washington. Also, the U.S. would provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea.
CNN reports the state-run North Korean news agency, KCNA, quoted a statement by a spokesman for North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying the deal is part of an effort to improve relations between the two countries. The official statement said: "The U.S. reaffirmed that it no longer has hostile intent toward the DPRK and that it is prepared to take steps to improve the bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality...The U.S. also agreed to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports."
Reuters reports White House spokesman Jay Carney, described the North Korean offers as "...concrete measures that we consider a positive first step toward complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner."
According to CNN , U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, greeted the announcement cautiously, saying: "Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction. We, of course, will be watching closely and judging North Korea's new leaders by their actions."
Reuters reports, however, that the details of North Korea's commitment to abandoning the major elements of its nuclear program are uncertain. It is not clear either how much access to its facilities the country would grant U.N. inspectors.
This latest announcement is significant, coming only two months after the young Kim Jong-un succeeded his father Kim Jong-il, perpetuating a family dynastic rule over North Korea since the country was formed.
China has welcomed the agreement, saying it would help to restart the six-party disarmament talks. China hosted the U.S.-North Korea talks that led to the deal.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, said: "China is willing to strive with all other concerned parties to continue advancing the six-party talks process, playing a constructive role in achieving the lasting peace and stability of the peninsula and of northeast Asia."
The IAEA has signified its willingness to return to North Korea and described the latest moratorium agreement as an "important step forward."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said he hoped North Korea would follow up on the agreement and take concrete steps for nuclear disarmament in the peninsula. Spokesman for the secretary-general Martin Nesirky, said: "The Secretary-General also stresses the urgency of meeting the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people in (North Korea)."
U.S. grants food aid
CNN reports the United States has agreed to grant food aid of 240,000 metric tons to North Korea. U.S. State Department officials said the food aid includes corn-soy blend, beans, vegetable oils and ready-to-eat therapeutic food. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, said delivery and distribution of the food will be closely monitored to ensure it is not diverted to North Korean military or government elites.
North Korea has suffered chronic food shortages since the U.S. stopped food aid to the country in 2009 following a dispute over transparency of food distribution. The U.S. accused the North Korean authorities of diverting food supplies from vulnerable people, such as young children and pregnant women, to feed its army. According to Reuters, North Korea suffered a famine in the 1990s that killed an estimated one million people.
Analysts have reacted to the news of suspension of Korea's nuclear program with guarded optimism, saying North Korea has been known to give false hopes of a new start in its relationship with the rest of the world. Analysts say Pyongyang has reneged on deals in the past. Disarmament talks involving North and South Korea, United States, Russia, China, Japan and Russia broke down in 2008 and Pyongyang expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors in 2009.
Reuters quotes a U.S. official, saying: "The truth is we've been around the six-party block before. It has a history of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups. We can't allow the same patterns of the past to repeat themselves."
According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration has described the agreement as "important, if limited."
Reuters reports former U.S. negotiator and head of the Korea Economic Institute Jack Pritchard, said it was unlikely the new young leader would agree to scrap the country's entire nuclear program. Pritchard said: "How does a 28-year-old give up the only legitimate piece of leverage that he has in dealing with the superpowers to preserve the survivability of his regime? He's not going to do that."
Others have expressed suspicion that Korea has other facilities besides the Yongbyon facility. Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis group think tank, cites intelligence reports that North Korea has two or three other facilities. He said: "The fact Yongbyon was built so quickly, and is so sophisticated, suggests it is not the first time they have built such a facility."
But some are encouraged by the fact that the new deal is coming from a new leader who may be looking to start a new course for his country. The Washington Post reports U.S.officials say though they are uncertain of the influence of the 28-year-old leader Kim Jong-un in fashioning the deal, the start for his government is encouraging. According to a senior U.S.official: “We were sitting across from essentially the same North Korean negotiators who have been at this in some cases for, well, for decades. The way that they presented the issues was quite familiar to us...[The North Koreans’ willingness to reengage, however, shows the Stalinist government is interested in]...picking up where the previous one left off — and that’s great."
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