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US expresses 'guarded optimism' over North Korea nuclear moratorium decision


March 1, 2012 - Washington

The United States has expressed guarded optimism over an agreement with North Korea on freezing the country's nuclear weapons program in return for desperately needed food aid.

North Korea opened the doors to resumption of the stalled international talks over its nuclear arsenal by announcing it would suspend its uranium enrichment programme in return for American food aid.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the North Korean move, but also expressed reservations.

"The United States, I will be quick to add, still has profound concerns, but on the occasion of Kim Jong-il's death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations," The Telegraph quoted her, as saying.

"Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction. We, of course, will be watching closely and judging North Korea's new leaders by their actions," she added.

The deal with Pyongyang, which includes a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests as well as allowing international IAEA inspectors back into North Korea, was accompanied by a widespread note of caution from both diplomats and analysts due to the country's record of accepting international aid without adhering to agreements.

According to the report, in return for reopening its nuclear facilities for inspection, North Korea will receive 240,000 tonnes of food aid and assurances from the US that it would discuss the lifting of sanctions and the possible provision of light-water reactors to generate electricity.

While announcing the details of the deal, the official North Korean news agency said that it was offering the concessions "with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere" for the Six Party disarmament talks which have been frozen since 2009.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors were expelled by the North in 2002 and 2009, said it was ready and waiting to begin verification visits again.

"Pending further details, we stand ready to return to Yongbyon to undertake monitoring activities upon request and with the agreement of the agency's Board of Governors," the IAEA said in a statement.

ANI

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