UN weapons inspectors could arrive in N. Korea June 21 - agency

Other News Materials 18 June 2007 17:46 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - UN nuclear weapons inspectors may visit North Korea June 21 to discuss arrangements for the closure of the country's nuclear reactor expected in a few weeks' time, the South Korean Yonhap news agency said.

North Korea said it would close down its Yongbyon reactor once the transfer of its $25-million funds had been completed. The funds were frozen in China's Macao Bank at the request of the United States on accusations of money laundering and counterfeiting.

A Russian Far Eastern bank agreed at the weekend to handle the fund transfer, and the North Korean government then invited UN inspectors to arrange the closure.

North Korea severed contacts with the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), during the first nuclear crisis in 1994, but restored them after the U.S. agreed to build light-water reactors for the North. But the plans were thwarted in 2003, and Pyongyang expelled the inspectors until a breakthrough deal was struck at six-party negotiations in February. North Korea promised to seal its reactor in exchange for aid, diplomatic contacts, and the money transfer.

In March 2007, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei visited North Korea to finalize the agreement that international inspectors would arrive shortly after the blocked funds had been released.

Christopher Hill, U.S. envoy for the six-way negotiations, said Monday the Yongbyon reactor would be shut down in a matter of weeks.

The six-nation negotiations on North Korea involve Russia, the U.S., Japan, China, North and South Korea.