North Korea has agreed to a moratorium on its nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and uranium enrichment program, the State Department announced Wednesday.
“On the occasion of Kim Jong Il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership would choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. “Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.”
"The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities," the State Department said in a statement.
The United States also agreed to provide 240,000 metric tons of food to North Korea.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he is worried that the Obama administration may be getting duped by North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-Un.
Food aid to North Korea may be diverted to inappropriate uses, he said.
"Years of getting duped by North Korea should tell us that verification on their turf is extremely difficult, if not impossible. That applies to food aid distribution, where the military has stolen food aid," he said. "Last year, I passed legislation prohibiting food aid to any country that may divert it for unauthorized use. Congress must ensure that the Administration is not skirting this law."
Royce offered an amendment to this year's Agricultural spending bill to prohibit food aid to countries that divert aid.
The announcement comes roughly three months after the country's longtime leader, Kim Jong Il, died and was replaced by his son, Kim Jong Un.
The State Department cautioned that the United States still has "profound concerns" about North Korea's nuclear activities but said the moratorium reflects "progress in addressing" them.
Following bilateral talks between U.S. officials and North Korean officials in Beijing, the State Department said that the United States does not have "hostile intent" toward North Korea and is willing to improve relations.
House Appropriations State Department subcommittee Chairman Kay Granger (R-Texas) noted that the development is modest but said it may prove "very important."
The State Department stressed that any sanctions imposed on North Korea are not meant to hurt the "livelihood" of North Koreans.
— This story was last updated at 1:35 p.m.