IAEA says it is in talks with N. Korea, US
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Despite North Korea's preparations for a long-range rocket launch in April, the U.N. nuclear agency is continuing consultations with Pyongyang and Washington over a promised return of its inspectors to the communist nation, an official said Sunday.
"I can confirm that the Agency has been discussing an invitation from the DPRK (North Korea) with parties concerned, including the DPRK and the United States," said Gill Tudor, the spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an email to Yonhap News Agency.
She refused to elaborate when asked if the consultations are being affected by the North's rocket launch move.
"I'm afraid I can't give any further details of or make any comments on ongoing consultations," said Tudor.
Last week, the North invited IAEA inspectors back to its key nuclear complex in Yongbyon under its Feb. 29 deal with the U.S., which pledged a shipment of 240,000 metric tons of food.
A diplomatic source here said the U.S. leaves open the possibility that an IAEA delegation will visit Pyongyang for discussions on more specific terms in early April.
"IAEA officials may be able to visit Pyongyang first, before a rocket launch if possible, to discuss detailed terms on allowing inspections at Yongbyon nuclear facilities," the source said.
The North announced that it will launch the rocket to put a satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16, coinciding with the 100th birthday anniversary of the North's late founding leader Kim Il-sung on April 15.
The U.S. views the planned launch as another thinly veiled test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
But Washington will not announce ending the latest food agreement until the actual launch of a rocket. It said it does not oppose the IAEA sending inspectors to the North itself.
"I think it depends on the circumstances of the invitation and what the IAEA is able to see. We don't want them to waste their time, but we're not opposed for opposition's sake," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing last week.