In exchange for 240,000 metric tonnes of food aid

United States officials on Wednesday confirmed that North Korea has agreed to halt nuclear tests and activities and implement a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile development in exchange for a U.S. package of 240,000 metric tonnes of food aid.

Announcing the critical breakthrough in negotiations, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the North Korean agreement would include suspension of uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and also permission for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to return “to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities... and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities”.

Noting that a U.S. delegation had just returned from Beijing after a third exploratory round of talks with North Korea, Ms. Nuland however reiterated that it still had “profound concerns regarding North Korean behaviour across a wide range of areas,” but Wednesday's announcement reflected “important, if limited, progress” in addressing some of these concerns.

Outlining some of the key points emerging from the February 23-24 discussions in Beijing, the State Department said the U.S. reaffirmed that it “does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality”.

This included the U.S.' commitment to the September 2005 Joint Statement, officials said, adding that U.S. and North Korean nutritional assistance teams would meet in the “immediate future to finalise administrative details on a targeted U.S. program consisting of an initial 240,000 metric tonnes of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need.”

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