In what is being described as a breakthrough in the ongoing nuclear dispute with North Korea, United Nations nuclear inspectors are reported to be about to visit a key North Korean nuclear facility.
Japan's Kyodo News agency reported Wednesday that North Korea would allow monitors from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to visit its Yongbyon nuclear facility on Thursday and Friday. "Tomorrow, we're going to Yongbyon," IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen told Kyodo Wednesday. The inspectors would return to the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Friday, he added. It would be the first time an international monitoring team has been given access to the reactor in five years.
The US military will try to independently verify whether North Korea shuts down the Yongbyon power plant, Washington's military commander in the Pacific region, Admiral Timothy Keating, said Wednesday. "You bet, we're gonna pay very close attention along with other countries," Keating told a news conference in Manila.
In an accord reached with the other countries involved in the six-party nuclear talks -- the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- North Korea agreed in February to close the reactor within 60 days in return for economic aid and political concessions. However North Korea failed to meet the April deadline to do so because of a dispute with the United States over North Korean funds which were being held in a bank in Macau.
Pyongyang announced Monday that it would move forward with the disarmament deal after the banking dispute was finally resolved. The inspectors' visit would be a sign that the secretive communist nation is serious about keeping its side of the bargain.