Pyongyang says IAEA inspectors can return: CNN

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Pyongyang says IAEA inspectors can return: CNN

Pyongyang said it would allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to a nuclear facility in North Korea after talks with Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, according to CNN.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, who is accompanying Richardson on his trip to Pyongyang, said that North Korea also agreed to negotiate the sale of 12,000 nuclear fuel rods and have them sent to an outside country. The rods, which would be enough to create roughly six to eight nuclear weapons, may be sold to South Korea.

North Korea also apparently agreed to consider Richardson’s proposal to set up a military commission between the United States, North Korea and South Korea and also a military hotline between the two Koreas, CNN said. Richardson is on a private trip that was given a green light by the U.S. State Department.

Richardson was quoted by CNN as saying North Korea should not take “aggressive steps” in retaliation for South Korea’s live-fire drill that took place in the Yellow Sea yesterday. Richardson had several meetings with North Korean officials, including top envoy for the six-party denuclearization talks Kim Kye-gwan; vice minister of foreign affairs, Ri Yong-ho; and Maj. Gen. Pak Rim-su.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, said last Friday in Tokyo that the agency is ready to send inspectors to monitor North Korea’s nuclear facilities once Pyongyang agrees to let them in.

The South Korean government did not have an official statement confirming the North’s comments after CNN’s report yesterday.

The decision to let inspectors return would reverse Pyongyang’s decision to expel them in April 2009 after it abandoned the six-party talks and said it would be restarting its nuclear program at its atomic facility in Yongbyon. In November, the North showed a visiting U.S. scientist a new uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon.

Washington has accused North Korea of secretly running a program based on uranium enrichment to fuel weapons.

Richardson was invited to visit North Korea for four days by Kim Kye-gwan. The U.S. troubleshooter has been dispatched to Sudan and Iraq as a special envoy, in addition to two trips to North Korea in 1990 to request the release of U.S. prisoners. He also made a visit in April 2007 to bring back the remains of U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Korean War.

On Sunday, General Pak told Richardson that North Korea would return the recently discovered remains of hundreds of American soldiers killed during the Korean War, CNN said.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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