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North Korea freezes nuclear programme for US food aid

North Korea has agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for food assistance from the US. It will also let IAEA inspectors monitor the moratorium.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2012 02:41 IST
Yashwant Raj

North Korea has agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for food assistance from the US. It will also let IAEA inspectors monitor the moratorium.

Obama administration has called these steps "modest" and that "they merely unlock the door to the resumption, eventually, of Six-Party talks (which collapsed in 2009)".

North Korea will implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities.

In return, the US will supply 240,000 metric tonnes of nutritional assistance over a year, conditional upon Pyongyang delivering on its part of the deal.

A US delegation met North Korean officials in Beijing last week, making it the first contact on the watch of Kim Jong-un, since taking from his father late Kim Jong Il.

Kim has taken up from where his father left. The deal struck last week was first offered by the US last July, and North Korea was about to sign it when the elder Kim died.

But the US was surprised the speed with which North Korea reacted after the change of leadership.

"Some were thinking that their transition would last a long time as the last one did 17-some years ago and that it would take a while," said a senior administration official."

"But as it happened, they were quite quick to make a decision to get back to the table with us."

But official made clear these were modest steps and no more. Nothing in the joint statement by the two countries pointed to the resumption of the sis-party talks.

And it was made abundantly clear that North Korea's offer of moratorium is reversible and it could turn right back and resume its nuclear programme if it didn't like anything about the talks.

The US also made it very clear that the food assistance will be monitored very closely to ensure none of it landed in the market, as it has in the past.