N.Korea acquiesce to US on nuclear halt

North Korea has announced it will hold in abeyance its nuclear tests and uranium enrichment programme in return for US food aid, in a breakthrough less than three months after the death of leader Kim Jong-Il.  Following talks with the United States last week, the regime led by Kim’s young and untested son Kim Jong-Un late Wednesday promised also to suspend long-range missile tests and allow the return of UN nuclear inspectors.

US analysts expressed cautious hope that the deal might forebode a more conciliatory posture from Pyongyang, which has built up a costly nuclear programme despite suffering from dire food shortages and grinding poverty. But Republican critics in Washington warned that North Korea had spent years deceiving the West, and accused the US administration of reneging on repeated promises not to link humanitarian assistance to the nuclear issue.

The United States and North Korea reaffirmed their commitment to a September 2005 six-nation deal. This envisaged the North scrapping its nuclear programmes in return for major diplomatic and economic benefits and for a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.