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North Korea agrees to suspend nuclear activities (+video)

North Korea agreed to suspend nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment, and allow in international inspectors, according to the US State Department. The US will provide food aid.

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North Korea failed to carry out complex agreements to halt its nuclear program reached at six-party talks in 2007. The talks, which had been ongoing since 2005, were last held in Beijing in December 2008.

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South Korea’s reaction

South Korea’s conservative president, Lee Myung-bak, has been reluctant to provide aid for North Korea. After his inauguration four years ago, President Lee suspended almost all aid to North Korea, reversing the decade-long Sunshine policy of reconciliation. He demanded North Korea first give up its nuclear program. 

However, the Foreign Ministry said “today’s announcements faithfully reflect the measures developed through close consultation,” including Mr. Lee’s meetings with President Obama.

The agreement, said the South Korean statement, has “laid the foundation for our efforts toward comprehensive and fundamental resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue to move forward.”  

Reason to believe the North this time?

The fact that North Korea requested the talks is seen as reason to believe that North Korea, for the near future, will want to carry out the deal under which IAEA inspectors will again enter the nuclear complex at Yongbyon

North Korea’s five-megawatt reactor is believed to have produced enough plutonium for up to a dozen warheads, and the North has been building a facility for producing warheads with highly enriched uranium.

North Korea has conducted two underground nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, and also test-fired its long-range Taepodong missile in 1998 and in 2009. The UN Security Council imposed severe sanctions on trade with North Korea after the second missile and nuclear tests.

The State Department avoided any sign of lifting sanctions, which it said were not “targeted against the people” of North Korea, but said talks would begin soon on implementing the promise of food aid.

A major consideration is whether the aid will go to those who need it most or will be diverted to the North Korean armed forces as well as government and party officials. The US characterizes the aid as “nutritional,” meaning that it will consist of items needed by mothers and children, not rice rations for soldiers.

“The food aid is badly needed,” says Straub. “There are lots of hungry North Korean children.”

Davies briefed South Korea’s envoy Lim Sung-nam on the agreement in a stopover here last weekend, but the White House and State Department waited until today apparently to make sure South Korea had no objections.

 North Korea food and nukes: 5 key questions

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