North Korea’s agreement to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to the country appeared to be a significant concession.

Globe_AsiaWASHINGTON — North Korea agreed to suspend nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to verify and monitor activities at its main reactor, the North’s official news agency and the State Department announced, as part of a deal that included an American pledge to ship food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation.

Although the Obama administration called the steps “important, if limited,” they signaled a potential breakthrough in the impasse over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program following the death late last year of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il. He has since been replaced by a son, Kim Jong-un, and administration officials have been watching closely to see if his rise to power would alter the country’s behavior. North Korea also agreed on a moratorium on launches of long-range missiles, which have in the past raised military tensions in South Korea and Japan.

North Korea has agreed in the past to halt its nuclear program, only to back out and demand more concessions. And the statement Tuesday in the North’s official Korean Central News Agency appeared to give the North wiggle room again this time, saying that it would carry out the agreement “as long as talks proceed fruitfully.”

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Source: Steven Lee Myers and Choe Sang-Hun | The New York Times