- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

President Obama’s spokesman said Wednesday that North Korea’s decision to suspend its nuclear programs is a “positive first step” toward disarming the country of its nuclear weapons.

“These are concrete measures that we consider a positive first step toward complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “Obviously, they need to be followed up by action. We need to focus on action as well as statements.”

The United States has agreed to provide North Korea with more than 500 million pounds of food aid in exchange for the halt to its nuclear testing, long-range missile tests and other programs. But Mr. Carney said the food “is not a quid pro quo,” arguing that the U.S. is interested in reducing famine worldwide.

The White House said it was especially promising that the agreement came so soon after the presumed transfer of power to 27-year-old Kim Jong-un, son of the late dictator Kim Jong-il, who died late last year.

Asked if the development would lead to renewal of six-nation talks on nuclear disarmament, Mr. Carney said: “This is a step towards that, but again, I think it will depend on the actions that the North Koreans take to demonstrate that they are upholding the agreements that they made. Our approach has not changed. Our goals have not changed. We are a very long way from achieving our goal.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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