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U.S., N. Korea agree on 240,000 tons of food assistance: sources
SEOUL, Dec. 17 (Yonhap) -- The United States agreed to provide up to 240,000 tons of food aid to North Korea in recent talks held in Beijing, diplomatic sources in Seoul said Saturday, noting the agreement could help ensure progress at a fresh round of nuclear negotiations scheduled for later this month.

   The sides, the sources said, "reached the agreement based on North Korea's pledge to implement initial measures of denuclearization that include a suspension of its uranium enrichment program."

   The meeting between U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights Robert King and Ri Kun, director-general for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry, was held for two days from Thursday.

   King, speaking to reporters Friday shortly after his meeting in Beijing, said the talks were "constructive" and that he will report the outcome of the meeting back to Washington.

   North Korea, suffering from chronic food shortages, is said to have requested rice, but the sources in Seoul said the U.S. assistance will largely consist of biscuits and vitamin supplements for infants.

   The U.S. has long held doubts food assistance for North Korea, especially rice, may be diverted to the North's military.

   "It appears the North has also agreed to address the United States' monitoring concerns," a source said while speaking on condition of anonymity.

   The assistance will be delivered in shipments of 20,000 tons for the next 12 months, the sources said.

   The U.S. and North Korea are expected to hold a new round of high-level dialogue from Thursday to help resume the six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambition.

   The nuclear negotiations, also involving South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, have stalled since late 2008.