SEOUL — North Korea has invited UN inspectors to monitor a nuclear freeze deal with the United States, insisting the pact remains in force despite its shock announcement of a planned satellite launch.
Next month’s scheduled launch, which would defy a United Nations ban, has sparked widespread complaints that the communist state is testing long-range missile technology which could one day deliver a nuclear warhead.
Washington says any launch would breach the bilateral deal announced on February 29, which offered major US food aid for a partial nuclear freeze.
The North, led since December by the young and untested Kim Jong-un, insists otherwise, and said it was inviting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) back three years after expelling the UN division.
“The satellite launch is one thing and the DPRK (North Korea)-United States agreement is another,” its chief nuclear negotiator Ri Yong-ho said late Monday in Beijing.
The North will implement its deal with the United States in full, he told reporters, according to video aired Tuesday by South Korea’s KBS television.
“In order to implement the agreement, we’ve sent a letter of invitation to the IAEA to send inspectors to our country,” Ri said.
The US deal had raised modest hopes of progress in decades-long efforts to curb the North’s nuclear weapons drive. — AFP