The United States said Wednesday North Korea has agreed to suspend nuclear activities and accept a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, in a breakthrough in negotiations with the secretive communist nation.Allowing inspectors to review operations at known nuclear facilities is an improvement, and may mean that the regime under Kim Jong Un is moving away from the militaristic tone set by his father. It may also mean that the regime recognizes just how bad its socio-economic conditions are and that the need for food aid is finally driving the regime to curtail its military programs. The agricultural situation in the country may be even worse than the regime is letting on.
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 allow 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 US 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 U.N. 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.
That may be wishful thinking - but if the regime has to begin focusing on improving its agricultural resources so that the nation doesn't starve while curtailing the nuclear and missile programs, then that's a significant accomplishment of the sanctions regime in place.