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Seoul welcomes US-North agreement

Washington to reward Pyongyang with food aid

Stephen Hong, Seoul

March 1, 2012

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The government in Seoul has welcomed an agreement between the US and North Korea to temporarily suspend nuclear activities at their recent talks in Beijing. North Korea announced yesterday that it would temporarily halt its nuclear program. Its official news agency, the Korean Central News Agency, said yesterday: "North Korea agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests and uranium enrichment activity, and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment." Simultaneously, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced the results of the third round of talks between the US and North Korea on February 23-24 in Beijing. She said the US will provide North Korea with 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance. The talks in Beijing were the first since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last December. Welcoming the agreement, Cho Byung-jae, South Korean foreign ministry spokesman, said in a press release: "The US-North Korea announcement reflects the close cooperation South Korea and the US have [had]" to resolve the nuclear issue in North Korea. Cho hoped this would provide a foundation to move forward with the resumption of the six-party talks [between Japan, China, North and South Korea, Russia and the US] to solve the fundamental nuclear issue. The six-party talks have been stalled since 2008. Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, also issued a statement, welcoming "the positive and substantive progress achieved at their recent talks in Beijing." Hoping several initial steps will be implemented towards a verifiable de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula, Ban stressed "the urgency of meeting the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people in North Korea." Experts on North Korea noted that simultaneous announcement by the US and North Korea is "very rare," adding it is meaningful that "the two countries move together for a dialogue." But they doubted if North Korea would implement its agreement, saying in many cases it has not fulfilled it. Related reports US, North Korea meet ‘will yield little’
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