WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton eased economic sanctions against North Korea today, the first significant gesture toward the communist government since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The move will allow ``most consumer goods to be available for export to North Korea and will allow the importation of most North Korean-origin goods into the United States,'' press secretary Joe Lockhart said.

He said Clinton's order would not affect counterterrorism or nonproliferation controls on North Korea, which prohibit exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most types of U.S. assistance. Restrictions imposed by law, such as U.S. missile sanctions, will remain in place, the White House said.

Clinton ordered relaxation of the sanctions in return for North Korea's conditional pledge to refrain from long-range missile testing, under an agreement reached during talks last week in Berlin.

``On the basis of these discussions, it is our understanding that North Korea will continue to refrain from testing long-range missiles of any kind as both sides move toward more normal relations,'' Lockhart said.

While the president's decision deals with transactions involving consumer goods, it also will relieve restrictions on transportation, banking and personnel movements.

``To support this easing of sanctions in the trade of goods,'' Lockhart said, ``most personal and commercial funds transfers will be allowed between U.S. and North Korean persons. The relaxation of transportation restrictions will allow commercial air and sea transportation between the U.S. and North Korea for passengers and cargo, subject to normal regulatory requirements.''