The United States said Wednesday North Korea has agreed to suspend nuclear activities and a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests in a breakthrough in negotiations with the secretive communist nation.
The announcement comes little more than two months after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il, and suggests North Korea has met the key U.S. preconditions for restarting multi-nation disarmament-for-aid talks that the North withdrew from in 2009.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the North has agreed to alllow International Atomic Energy inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment and confirm disablement of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.
Her statement says the U.S. will meet with North Korea to finalize details for a proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of food aid.
North Korea issued a similar, although differently worded statement released simultaneously in Pyongyang.
An unidentified spokesman from North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in its statement carried by the state-run news agency that the North agreed to the nuclear moratoriums and the allowance of UN inspectors "with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere" for the U.S.-North Korea talks.
The announcement follows talks in Beijing last week between U.S. and North Korean negotiators, the first since negotiations were suspended after Kim's death in December from a heart attack.
Before his death, the U.S. and North Korea were close to such an agreement, which appears to meets U.S. preconditions for restarting the six-nation talks suspended three years ago.
"The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today's announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these," Nuland said.
She said the United States reaffirms that it does not have hostile intent toward North Korea and "is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality."
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