In what could be a diplomatic breakthrough, the United States said today that North Korea had agreed to cease nuclear weapons tests and enrichment and will allow U.N. inspectors to verify activities at its main reactor.
The announcement comes just two months after the country's leader Kim Jong Il died and the Communist Party handed the reins of power to his son Kim Jong Un. The AP reports that the agreement also includes a moratorium on long-range missile tests.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the announcement is a "modest first step in the right direction" in the path toward peace, but that the U.S. still has "profound concerns."
Along with the agreement, the United States also said it would send North Korea 240,000 metric tons of food aid.
"North Korea's agreement to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to the country appeared to be a significant concession. After years of negotiations, North Korea expelled inspectors and went on to test a nuclear bomb in 2006.
"Two days of talks in Beijing last week initially appeared to have produced few concrete results, but after the North Korean negotiators returned home, the country's leaders responded positively to American offers to resume international negotiations — and deliver the food aid — provided the country agreed to the steps announced on Wednesday. In a statement, the State Department said that in exchange the United States was "prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality" and to allow cultural, educational and sports exchanges with North Korea."
The Guardian reports that North Korea's state media backed up the U.S. statements.
"An unidentified spokesman from North Korea's foreign ministry said in the statement – which was carried by the state-run news agency – that North Korea agreed to the nuclear moratoriums and the allowance of UN inspectors 'with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere' for US-North Korea talks," the paper reports.