Pyong Yang: The United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Monday that it has received an invitation from North Korea to resume monitoring parts of its atomic program.
The overture from Pyongyang was confirmed by Gill Tudor, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency. She said her agency received the invitation on Friday – the same day the North announced plans to launch a satellite into orbit. She declined to go into details on what North Korea`s terms were.
The move comes amid increased international tensions generated by North Korea`s announcement that it planned to test a rocket by launching a satellite and in the face of a rare expression of concern from China, its main political and economic ally.
Still, despite Chinese concern and criticism from Western countries and Russia, a senior North Korean nuclear negotiator reiterated his government`s position on the planned long-range rocket launch after holding talks Monday with his counterpart in Beijing. Ri Yong Ho said the launch “is part of our right to develop space programs.”
North Korea, while inviting the UN inspectors to monitor a nuclear deal with the United States, insisted the pact remains in force despite its shock announcement of an upcoming satellite launch.
Next month`s planned launch, which will violate a United Nations resolution, has sparked widespread complaints that the communist state is testing long-range missile technology which could one day deliver a nuclear warhead.
Washington says any launch would breach the bilateral deal announced on February 29, which offered substantial US food aid for a partial nuclear freeze.
The North, which came under new leadership in December under the young and untested Kim Jong-Un, insists otherwise.
"The satellite launch is one thing and the DPRK-US agreement is another," its chief nuclear negotiator Ri Yong-Ho said late Monday in Beijing, using the North`s full name, the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea.
The North will implement its deal with the United States in full, he told reporters, according to video footage aired Tuesday by South Korea`s KBS television.
"In order to implement the agreement, we`ve sent a letter of invitation to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to send inspectors to our country."
The deal raised modest hopes of progress in decades-long efforts to curb the North`s nuclear weapons drive.
It agreed last month to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, along with long-range missile launches and nuclear tests, in return for 240,000 tonnes of US food. It also promised to readmit IAEA inspectors expelled three years ago.
The North insists a peaceful satellite launch is not a missile test.
But the United States, Japan, Russia and other nations have called for it to scrap the plan, and even close ally China has expressed concern.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that any IAEA access would be beneficial.