North Korea declares food-for-nukes deal over

Citing the United States' postponement of delivery of food aid, North Korea says that it is no longer obligated to hold off on nuclear development.

Ng Han Guan/AP
In this April 15 photo, a North Korean vehicle carrying what appears to be a new missile passes by during a mass military parade in the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. North Korea said late Tuesday that because the US had reneged on its end of a food-for-nukes agreement, they are no longer obligated to hold off on nuclear development.

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North Korea said late yesterday that because the US had reneged on its end of a food-for-nukes agreement, North Korea was no longer obligated to uphold a moratorium on nuclear development.

''We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement," the foreign ministry said, according to the BBC

"The US will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences,'' it said. ''Peace is very dear for us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us."

Washington was supposed to provide 240,000 tons of food aid to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang's cessation of uranium enrichment and nuclear and missile tests. But the US postponed food shipments after Pyongyang's plans to launch a rocket became public; the US warned that going through with the launch would abrogate the agreement. The rocket launch – which the North said was to launch a satellite but which others saw as a test of ballistic missile technology – was carried out last week, but ultimately failed. Observers believe another nuclear test – the country's third – is now on the horizon, Agence France-Presse reports.

The rocket launch was strongly criticized by the US, the United Nations, and even North Korean ally China. Two days ago, the UN Security Council "strongly condemned" its actions, calling for further sanctions and other punitive action.

In response to the UN condemnation, North Korea accused the US of leading an effort to prevent development of its civilian space program, the Associated Press reports. Pyongyang is adamant that the launch was not a missile test, but a weather satellite launch, and did not violate its deal with the US or violate any UN stipulations.

Citing Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, AFP reports that a "longstanding policy" in which China promptly repatriates any North Koreans who reach China has also been put on hold in response to the rocket launch. 

"North Korea failed to disclose specific plans of the missile launch to the Chinese side," the paper quoted one unidentified official as saying.

The suspension reflects Beijing's displeasure with its neighbour which "did not show the necessary attention to its friend China", the official said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak today expressed his satisfaction with China's reaction to North Korea's recalcitrance. "I believe we can trust China.... we should continue to manage relations with it," he was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying, according to AFP.

North Korea previously indicated that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, would be allowed into the country as part of the deal, but the IAEA no longer expects to be allowed to make an inspection, BBC reports.

Reuters reports that North Korea is expected to test a nuclear device using highly enriched uranium in its third nuclear test, something it is believed to have been working on for a long time. "If it conducts a nuclear test, it will be uranium rather than plutonium because North Korea would want to use the test as a big global advertisement for its newer, bigger nuclear capabilities," said Baek Seung-joo of the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, according to Reuters.

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