North Korea has agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and uranium enrichment in exchange for food, according to U.S. officials and the North Korean press agency.
The deal touches on essential U.S. conditions aimed at ending its nuclear program.
In exchange for the moratorium, the U.S will send 240,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea.
The agreement comes two months after the country's long time leader Kim Jong Il died and his son Kim John Un has taken charge. It was announced in a statement released by the State Department and confirmed by the North Korean press agency KCNA.
North Korea has made similar promises in the past only to later back away.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction."
The announcement follows the recent meeting between the U.S. special envoy for North Korean policy Glyn Davies and Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's first vice minister of foreign affairs, in Beijing. The two countries held previous discussions in July and October 2011. In December there were reports a deal was imminent, but talks were cut short with the death of Kim Jong Il. Whether his son would take his father's approach on the issue was previously unclear.
As the week got underway so did annual war exercises between the U.S. and South Korea (ROK). North Korea signaled its displeasure with what it deemed an act of aggression and declared its forces "ready to fight a way" and that "the war mongers will meet destruction." Just days later, North Korea is now characterizing the deal as a "confidence building measure…in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality."
The U.S. hinted there may be more aid to come. According to the State Department, the U.S. will meet with North Korea to discuss delivery "with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need."