Pyongyang Halts Uranium Enrichment for Food

February 29, 2012  

North Korea’s announced Wednesday it has agreed to suspend nuclear tests and uranium enrichment program under a deal that includes US food aid for the impoverished nation.

The agreement, confirmed simultaneously by Washington, represents a potential breakthrough in efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The deal followed talks in Beijing last week, which marked the first dialogue since the late King Jong-Il’s son Jong-Un came to power. Kim Jong-Il died in December and Jong-Un is regarded as young and untested.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Pyongyang said it would allow the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment.

Washington has promised 240,000 tons of “nutritional assistance,” with the prospect of additional food aid, in exchange.

The enrichment program, first disclosed in November 2010, could give the communist state a second way to make atomic weapons, in addition to its longstanding plutonium program.

North Korea is believed to have produced enough material for six to eight atomic weapons, and has detonated two warheads in underground nuclear tests.

The North said the US had offered to discuss lifting of sanctions and the provision of light-water reactors to generate electricity as a priority, once six-party nuclear disarmament talks resume.

The Beijing talks were aimed at persuading the North to return to the six-nation talks which it abandoned in April 2009. It staged its second atomic weapons test a month later, following the first in 2006.

The North said it “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”.

It also confirmed both sides reaffirmed their commitment to a September 2005 six-nation deal. This envisaged the North scrapping its nuclear programs in return for major diplomatic and economic benefits – and a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

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