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N Korea Puts UN Nuke Inspectors On Hold

From those lovers of secretive communist dictators at Reuters:

N.Korea puts atom monitors’ return on hold over funds

By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) – A visit by U.N. nuclear monitors to North Korea set for next week has been put on hold, a North Korean official said on Thursday, clouding hopes Pyongyang would start shutting down its atom bomb program soon.

Hours earlier the U.S. nuclear envoy began a surprise visit to North Korea a few days after it hinted it would start carrying out nuclear disarmament and allow a return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to verify this.

But the signs of movement in a long stalled process faltered when North Korea’s embassy in Vienna, headquarters of the IAEA, said Pyongyang had not received any of $25 million released from frozen North Korean funds.

The reclusive communist state had refused to honor its February 13 nuclear disarmament deal until the money was transferred to it from Macau’s Banco Delta Asia with U.S. help.

“As of now, the frozen funds had not reached our bank account. Nobody knows why the remittance is delayed,” said Hyon Yong Man, counselor at Pyongyang’s embassy in Vienna.

“So our side has informed the IAEA that we have no objection to them preparing the visit as a plan, but we are not ready to give our official confirmation for the visit as scheduled by the agency,” he told reporters.

Asked whether the visit on hold for now, he said, “Yes.”

A spokesman for the Vienna-based U.N. watchdog said: “We are still waiting for official confirmation from the DPRK (North Korean) embassy regarding the date of the visit.”

The IAEA had said on Monday the trip by IAEA safeguards directors, designed to agree details for a return of inspectors expelled in 2002, would go ahead next week.

Hyon cited media reports that the funds had been forwarded by the Federal Reserve Bank in New York to Russia’s central bank a week ago for relay into a North Korea account in Russia.

“But we have no idea where the money is,” he said.

Separately, North Korea accused South Korea of sending naval vessels into its territorial waters off the west coast and warned of retaliatory action. Seoul denied its vessels had intruded into the North’s waters…

What a surprise.

Of course it may have been a mistake to route the money through Russia.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, June 21st, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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