2 Mar 2012

North Korean deal welcomed

5:25 am on 2 March 2012

China and Japan have welcomed a deal between North Korea and the United States under which Pyongyang will halt key elements of its nuclear weapons programme.

In return, the country will receive 240,000 tonnes of food aid from the US.

North Korea confirmed the suspension in a foreign ministry statement released in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

US officials said the aid will be intended for children and pregnant women. North Korea has undergone persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

The BBC reports the United States has not sent food aid to North Korea since 2009.

Correspondents say the announcement could pave the way for the resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang.

North Korea agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan. But the talks became deadlocked in 2009.