North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator is heading to New York next week, following a deal between the nations to suspend uranium enrichment in return for food aid, it emerged today.
Two people with knowledge of negotiations between the United States and North Korea said Ri Yong Ho would be visiting the US following yesterday’s announcement of the deal.
The agreement calls for the US to provide food aid in exchange for a suspension of uranium enrichment and a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests by North Korea.
The sources, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said the North Korean envoy would attend a security forum at Syracuse University in New York.
The US State Department said the North had agreed to allow International Atomic Energy inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment and confirm disablement of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.
The US will meet North Korea to finalise details for a proposed package of 240,000 tonnes of food aid.
North Korea issued a similar, although differently worded statement released simultaneously in Pyongyang.
The Foreign Ministry said in its statement carried by the state-run news agency that the North agreed to the nuclear moratoriums and to allow in UN inspectors “with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere” for the US-North Korea talks.
The announcement follows talks in Beijing last week between US and North Korean negotiators, the first since negotiations were suspended after long-time ruler Kim Jong Il’s death in December from a heart attack.
Before his death, the US and North Korea were close to such an agreement, which appears to meet US preconditions for restarting the six-nation talks suspended three years ago.
“The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behaviour across a wide range of areas, but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these,” the US statement said yesterday.
It said the United States reaffirmed that it did not have hostile intent towards North Korea and “is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality”.