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North Korea opens to U.N. nuclear probe
SEOUL — North Korea invited U.N. nuclear inspectors yesterday in the first concrete sign of a breakthrough in a stalemate over its atomic program, as the transfer of frozen North Korean funds at the center of the impasse neared completion.
The North sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), inviting inspectors to discuss shutting down its main nuclear reactor, as “it is confirmed that the process of de-freezing the funds … at Banco Delta Asia in Macao has reached its final phase,” the country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
It said a “working-level delegation” from the U.N. nuclear watchdog was invited to verify and monitor the Yongbyon reactor’s shutdown.
North Korea had refused to act on its February pledge to disarm until it received access to $25 million once frozen in a U.S.-blacklisted Macao bank. Washington 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. It conducted its first-ever atomic bomb test in October.
Signs of a breakthrough in the standoff emerged this week as the North Korean funds at the Macao bank began to be transferred.
Once the North Koreans get the money, “we hope they will get on with what they need to do in terms of implementing the February agreement,” Mr. Hill said.
Although the timing of the next round of six-party talks is up to the host country, China, Mr. Hill said he expected them to be held early next month. Besides the United States, the two Koreas and China, other participants in the talks are Russia and Japan.
The first phase requires the North to shut down its reactor and invite IAEA inspectors.
In the next phase, North Korea is required to make a complete declaration to the IAEA and other parties about its nuclear program before dismantling the reactor. As a reward, the country ultimately would get aid in the form of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil along with other political concessions.
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
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