SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea sent a letter to the United Nations
nuclear watchdog Saturday, inviting inspectors to the country to discuss
shutting down its main nuclear reactor, state media reported.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill speaks to
the media in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator June 16, 2007. North
Korean funds that had been frozen in a Macau bank account for nearly two
years will soon reach Pyongyang and that should spur inspections of the
North's nuclear sites, Hill said. [Reuters]
The letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency
noted "that a working-level delegation of the IAEA has been invited to visit
(North Korea) as it is confirmed that the process of de-freezing the funds of
(North Korea) at the Banco Delta Asia in Macau has reached its final phase," the
North's Korean Central News Agency reported.
Ayhan Evrensel, a spokesman for the IAEA in Vienna, said the agency had not
received a letter from North Korea. He declined comment further.
The inspectors were invited for "discussions of the procedures of the IAEA's
verification and monitoring of" shutting down its Yongbyon reactor, the report
North Korea had refused to act on its February pledge to disarm until it got
access to $25 million once frozen in a US-blacklisted Macau bank. The US accused
Banco Delta Asia of helping North Korea's government pass fake $100 bills and
launder money from weapons sales.
Claiming the financial freeze was a sign of Washington's hostility, North
Korea boycotted international nuclear talks for more than a year, during which
it conducted its first-ever atomic bomb test in October.
In an attempt to win North Korea's promise to start dismantling its nuclear
program, the US agreed earlier this year to give its blessing for the money to
The US, Japan, China, Russia and the two Koreas took part in the arms
negotiations that prompted the February pledge from the North to stop making
nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and political concessions.
South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Chun Yung-woo, welcomed the North Korean
announcement as "good news."
"As we watch how the discussions between North Korea and the IAEA proceed, we
will start preparations for implementing our own obligations as outlined by the
Feb. 13 agreement," Chun told The Associated Press.
Chun was referring to the shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil the North
Korea is to receive in return for shutting down its reactor and allowing U.N.
inspectors back into the country to verify the closure and seal the facility.
North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors in December 2002.
Signs of a breakthrough in the standoff emerged this week as the North Korean
funds at the Macau bank finally began to be transferred.
US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said earlier Saturday that a technical
glitch was holding up the final transfer, but that the issue would likely be
"I heard that the money was transferred, it's in Russia, and they're having
some technical problems in getting it to the bank where the actual North Korean
accounts are," Hill told reporters at an Asia Society conference in Mongolia.