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North Korea, US agree on nuclear halt

S Korea: North Korea said Wednesday it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and allow the return of UN inspectors in a deal that includes US food aid, marking a potential breakthrough after years of tension.

In an agreement just two months after the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-Il, North Korea and the United States announced that Pyongyang would suspend its uranium enrichment programme and halt nuclear and missile tests.

“Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as she testified before a Senate committee in Washington. “We of course will be watching closely and judging North Korea's new leaders by their actions,” she said.

The deal followed talks in Beijing last week between the two sides, the first dialogue since Kim's young and untested son Kim Jong-Un took power. The United States said it would provide 240,000 tonnes of “nutritional assistance” to North Korea.

A US official said that Washington rejected a request for rice and grains and instead would provide vegetable oil, pulses and ready-to-eat meals designed for young children and pregnant women. “These are people whom the regime either cannot or has chosen not to feed,” the senior official said in Washington on condition of anonymity.

The North said it would allow the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment. The North -- which is suspected of supplying equipment, materials and know-how to Syria and Libya -- kicked out inspectors in 2009. In Vienna, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano welcomed the announcement as “an important step forward” and said that the agency was ready to return.

The deal was also welcomed by Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba in Japan, one of six countries in talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons that also include China, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States. AFP

 

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