UPDATE 6-N.Korea agrees to nuclear moratorium, IAEA inspections
"We believe that its important to translate this initial sign of Pyongyang's seriousness of purpose into substantive and meaningful negotiations on denuclearization that get at the entirety of the North's nuclear program," the official said.
The State Department said that in return, the United States was ready to go ahead with a proposed 240,000 metric-tonne food aid package requested by North Korea and that more aid could be agreed to based on continued need.
Along with halting weapons activities, North Korea said it would permit nuclear inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify the moratorium on uranium enrichment has been enforced.
"The DPRK, upon request by the U.S. and with a view to maintaining positive atmosphere for the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity at Yongbyon and allow the IAEA to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment while productive dialogues continue," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.
North Korea is known formally as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Congressional panel the North Koreans had made "a modest first step in the right direction," but noted that Washington continued to have profound concerns over a range of North Korean activities.
The IAEA, which withdrew its inspectors from North Korea in 2009, said it was ready to return, calling the moratorium deal "an important step forward".
South Korea and Japan both welcomed the announcement, with the Foreign Ministry in Seoul saying it could form the basis for a broader agreement on North Korea's nuclear program..