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    North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return

    North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho ( 2011 file photo)
    North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho ( 2011 file photo)

    North Korea considers its February 29 agreement with the United States still in effect, despite Washington's insistence that, if Pyongyang goes ahead with a so-called space launch next month, that will break the deal. The North says it is inviting United Nations inspectors to return to the country to monitor the recent agreement with the United States.

    North Korea is continuing efforts to keep its announced “satellite launch” from jeopardizing its recent agreement to partly freeze its nuclear programs in exchange for American food aid.
    Chief nuclear negotiator, Ri Yong Ho, says Pyongyang intends to carry out the deal with the United States.

    Ri says North Korea has invited members of the International Atomic Energy Agency to go to the North as part of implementing what has already been agreed to with Washington.
    The United Nations nuclear watchdog confirms it has received an invitation to visit North Korea, three years after its inspectors were expelled.

    Ri spoke to reporters in Beijing following a second round of discussions between Chinese and North Korean diplomats.

    A Chinese government statement says there was a “frank and in-depth exchange of opinions on how to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

    China earlier expressed rare disapproval with its long-time ally after North Korea announced plans for a mid-April space launch.

    South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae characterizes the planned launch as Pyongyang's latest attempt to test a ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

    Cho says North Korea is prohibited from using any such technology and Seoul shares the international community's opinion it does not make a difference whether Pyongyang says it is launching a satellite or testing a military missile.

    North Korea denies its mid-April launch will violate any United Nations' resolutions, saying such criticism emanating from Seoul is “a petty trick of stupid and ignorant guys.” 

    Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Institute in Hawaii, notes it is typical for North Korea to follow international agreements with provocations. He says the space launch announcement demonstrates little has changed under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father after Kim Jong Il's death in December. 

    "This latest development leads outside observers to conclude even more strongly that it's as if Kim Jong Il is still running North Korea's foreign policy from the grave," Roy said. "There's been no appreciable change in virtually all of the policies that we learned to loathe under the Kim Jong Il regime." 

    In its announcement last week, North Korea said an Unha-3 rocket, believed by the intelligence community to be a three-stage missile, will put into orbit an “earth observation satellite.”

    North Korea's two previous launches failed to place satellites into orbit, contrary to Pyongyang's claims of success.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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