- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

SEOUL (AP) — North Korea restated its commitment to a landmark nuclear disarmament deal yesterday, saying it would invite U.N. atomic inspectors and discuss shutting down its bomb-making atomic reactor as soon as it confirmed the release of its funds frozen in a banking dispute.

The statement appeared aimed at quelling concern that the unpredictable regime — which has a history of reaching agreements and then scrapping them — may be dragging its feet after missing an April 14 deadline to shut down the reactor.

The North’s atomic agency chief, Ri Je-son, sent a message to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the country remained committed to the Feb. 13 agreement that set the deadline, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

North Korea is ready to invite the IAEA “the moment the actual defreezing of the frozen fund in the bank has been confirmed,” Mr. Ri said, according to KCNA, adding that discussion of a shutdown of the North’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon could also then begin.

The comment echoes the North’s long-standing position that the resolution of the bank dispute is a precondition to its disarmament.

The U.S. State Department said it was pleased with North Korea’s statement.

“We are glad to hear that they are on the record again and that they intend to support and fulfill their obligations,” spokesman Tom Casey said.

North Korea boycotted international nuclear talks for more than a year over Washington’s blacklisting a Macao bank, where Pyongyang had $25 million in accounts, for the bank’s purported assistance to money laundering and passing counterfeit $100 bills by the communist regime.

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