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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

N. Korea to End Nuclear Tests for Food Aid

February 29, 2012

William Ide

North Korea has agreed to temporarily suspend nuclear tests, long-range ballistic missile launches, and other nuclear activities, including enrichment of uranium. U.S. and North Korean officials announced the surprise breakthrough after talks in Beijing. The development came just a little more than two months after the death of the secretive communist state's supreme leader Kim Jong Il.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says while there are still profound concerns about North Korea's behavior, the announcement reflects progress.

"On the occasion of Kim Jong Il's death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will chose to guide their nation on to the path to peace by living up to its obligations. Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction," said Clinton.

Clinton says the United States will continue to watch North Korea closely and judge the country's new leaders by their actions.

U.S. and North Korean officials say in addition to a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests, the North has agreed to allow United Nations inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to nuclear facilities to verify and monitor the suspension of uranium-enrichment activities.

Inspectors with the IAEA were kicked out of North Korea in 2009 when the country withdrew from the so-called six-party talks on ending its atomic-weapons program. According to the new agreement, Pyongyang is to allow inspectors access to its main facility at Yongbyon and other nuclear sites.

U.S. officials also say inspectors will confirm the disablement of the five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon.

Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, and the uranium-enrichment program, which was first disclosed in November of 2010, could give the North another way to make nuclear weapons in addition to its longstanding plutonium-based program.

In return for its agreement to the moratorium, the United States has agreed to provide the North with 240,000 tons of food aid. U.S. officials say they will meet soon to determine the final details of that nutritional assistance and provide other aid as needed.

Floods and a poor harvest last year have caused widespread hunger in North Korea. The impoverished state suffered a major famine in the 1990s, which is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The announcement comes just days after U.S. and North Korean representatives met in China to discuss the resumption of the six-party talks. It was the first round of talks since the authoritarian state transferred power to Kim Jong Il's untested young son Kim Jong Un.

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