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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington Welcomes N. Korea Invitation of Nuclear Experts

RIA Novosti

02:41 20/03/2012 WASHINGTON, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - The United States has welcomed North Korea’s move to invite UN nuclear experts to resume monitoring its nuclear program, but cautioned Pyongyang against a planned satellite launch.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday it had been invited to visit N. Korea, three years after its inspectors were expelled from the country.

“Obviously, there’s benefit for any access that the IAEA can get, but it doesn’t change the fact that we would consider a satellite launch a violation, not only of their [N. Korea] UN obligations, but of the commitments that they made to us on Leap Day,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

The North Korean move comes three months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, and only weeks after Pyongyang agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program, as well as nuclear and ballistic missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid.

It is unclear, though, how far North Korea is willing to go in cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog, as the plans to launch an earth observation satellite next month to mark the 100th birthday of its late founding leader Kim Il-sung cast a shadow on Pyongyang’s initiative.

UN Security Council Resolution 1874 prohibits North Korea from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology. A similar launch in 2009 drew international criticism and led to UN Security Council sanctions.

World powers, including Russia and China, have urged Pyongyang to drop its satellite launch plans.

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