The chief U.S. envoy to the North Korea nuclear disarmament talks says there is no reason for North Korea to delay shutting down its main nuclear facilities and letting U.N. inspectors into the country. North Korea still says it intends to abide by a February agreement to give up its nuclear programs - but not until it confirms the receipt of millions of dollars previously frozen in a Macau bank. Daniel Schearf reports from the Chinese capital.
North Korea's foreign ministry announced through the official Korea Central News Agency it would begin shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor as soon as it had the funds from the frozen North Korean accounts.
The statement said Pyongyang would "confirm soon" whether or not the money had been unfrozen as promised by Macau authorities and the United States.
North Korean officials told a visiting U.S. delegation this week they would invite United Nations nuclear inspectors back into the country within 24 hours once they had the money but they also said they wanted the deadline extended by a month.
The chief U.S. negotiator on North Korea's denuclearization, Christopher Hill, arrived in Beijing Friday for meetings with Chinese officials. He said the money was unfrozen at Banco Delta Asia and there was no reason for North Korea, known formally as the DPRK, to delay.
"Frankly, there's no reason why the DPRK can't get on with this task of denuclearization," he said. "They could have done it frankly weeks ago. But certainly in the last few days even by their own definition of the resolving the BDA matter - it's been resolved even by the DPRK's view of that for several days and yet we haven't seen them step forward on their own obligations."
Negotiators have acknowledged North Korea will not likely meet a Saturday deadline to shut down its reactor, but have urged Pyongyang to begin the process nonetheless.
The six nations in the talks, North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia agreed in February that Pyongyang would close its nuclear facilities and bring International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the country by April 14, in return for energy aid and diplomatic incentives.
Washington promised to resolve the dispute over the North Korean accounts frozen in Macau within 30 days. But there have been difficulties in finding a bank to accept the transfer of funds.Hill is in China after meetings in Seoul with the South Korean delegate to the nuclear talks and will on Saturday meet with the head Chinese negotiator Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.