The chief United Nations weapons inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, says North Korean officials have told him they are committed to getting rid of their nuclear weapons programs. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing, where ElBaradei spoke to reporters shortly after returning from meetings in Pyongyang.
The head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency called his two-day visit to North Korea "quite useful," saying Pyongyang remains committed to the terms of a February 13 preliminary accord that is designed to lead to North Korea's complete nuclear disarmament.
"We cleared the air," he said. "We opened the door for a normal relationship between North Korea and the IAEA. And both of us agreed that the most important thing is to look forward and not back."
North Korea has not allowed U.N. inspectors into the country since it expelled them in 2002 at the start of the nuclear crisis.
The agreement reached among delegates to the six-nation North Korea nuclear talks last month calls for North Korea to shut down and seal its only nuclear plant and plutonium factory by mid-April. In exchange, the North is to get energy aid and diplomatic concessions.
ElBaradei said that while the North Koreans stated they are willing to allow U.N. inspectors to return to the country and verify the shutdown, they are not ready to do so yet.
"They are, in their view, waiting for implementation by the other parties of their commitment," he said. "Specifically they are waiting for the lifting of the financial sanctions."
In last month's agreement, the United States committed to settling a dispute over the freezing of North Korean accounts at a Macau bank.
The U.S. imposed the sanctions in response to what Washington says was North Korean money laundering and counterfeiting.
The chief U.S. negotiator to the six-party nuclear talks, Christopher Hill, said Wednesday that the Macau bank issue would be resolved as promised.
The United States Treasury Department is scheduled to announce a decision on the Macau bank in Washington later on Wednesday.
Hill arrived in Beijing Wednesday to take part in working group talks among six-party delegates, which also include China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea.
On Monday, the chief delegates are scheduled to reconvene for a full session of the negotiations.