Tuesday, March 20, 2012

North Korea invites UN nuke monitors to return

VIENNA (AP) -- North Korea has invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to return, three years after expelling its nuclear monitors, the agency said Monday. The U.S. said such a move would be welcome but remained critical of the North's rocket launch plans.

Without disclosing the North's terms, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said it received the invitation on Friday. That was the same day that Pyongyang announced it plans to launch a satellite on a rocket, a move that Washington has suggested could jeopardize a nuclear moratorium deal reached with the United States last month.

IAEA's announcement of the overture from the North came just hours after Ri Yong Ho, a senior North Korean nuclear negotiator, said Pyongyang was sending invitations to agency inspectors as part of implementing the moratorium agreement.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington had not been told of a formal invitation to the IAEA from the North -- but said such a move would be positive, while repeating America's reservations about the planned satellite launch.

"Obviously there's benefit for any access that the IAEA can get," Nuland told reporters. "But it doesn't change the fact that we would consider a satellite launch a violation not only of their U.N. obligations but of the commitments they made to us." Read More