U.S., North Korea Work Out Details For Food Aid

North Korean and U.S. negotiators this week were able to reach agreement on critical aspects for the provision of food aid to the Stalinist state in return for its pledge to shut down uranium enrichment activities and other nuclear operations, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, March 7).

Obama administration special envoy on North Korea human rights Robert King described the Wednesday-Thursday talks in Beijing as "positive and productive." 

"We resolved the administrative issues we were concerned with," King said to journalists prior to leaving for Washington, where he is to brief Obama officials. Some remaining "details" still need to be addressed, he said.

This week's meetings followed the announcement last week that Pyongyang and Washington had struck a deal that would provide the North with badly needed nutritional assistance in exchange for its implementation of a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests, and the halt of uranium enrichment work and other "nuclear activities" at the Yongbyon complex. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are to verify the shutdown of atomic operations at Yongbyon.

Should Pyongyang hold up its end of the bargain, the deal could lead to resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks that seek to permanently end North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions. The United States has made suspension of North Korean uranium enrichment a key condition for restarting the talks that also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. The last round of negotiations took place in December 2008.

Washington is also calling for inter-Korean relations to be improved before the six-nation talks are resumed. The nuclear envoys from the two Koreas are both in New York state this week for a security conference, though they are not expected to meet for talks. Meanwhile, both Pyongyang and Seoul in recent days have threatened harsh military measures against the other (Associated Press/Google News, March 8).

China's representative to the six-nation talks on Thursday praised the U.S.-North Korean deal while allowing it was too soon to know at what point the nuclear negotiations would be relaunched, Kyodo News reported.

"It's too early to predict the timing of the resumption of the six-party talks," Wu Dawei said in remarks carried by official Chinese television.

He lauded the "positive steps" Pyongyang and Washington have taken to "improve their relations" (Kyodo News, March 8).

March 8, 2012
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North Korean and U.S. negotiators this week were able to reach agreement on critical aspects for the provision of food aid to the Stalinist state in return for its pledge to shut down uranium enrichment activities and other nuclear operations, the Associated Press reported.

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