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North Korea invites nuclear inspectors to return

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 19, 2012 -- Updated 2341 GMT (0741 HKT)
Satellite images obtained by a nuclear security think tank in 2010 purportedly show a uranium enrichment facility in North Korea.
Satellite images obtained by a nuclear security think tank in 2010 purportedly show a uranium enrichment facility in North Korea.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • North Korea kicked out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in 2009
  • It invited the agency back last week, the IAEA says
  • IAEA spokeswoman says the agency is weighing the offer

(CNN) -- North Korea has invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to return, nearly three years after it kicked U.N. nuclear inspectors out of the country, the IAEA said Monday.

IAEA officials are considering the offer, which was sent Friday, agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor told reporters. No details of the invitation were released.

"Details will be discussed," Tudor said. "Nothing has been decided yet."

North Korea threw IAEA inspectors out of its Yongbyon nuclear complex in April 2009, about a month before it conducted its second nuclear weapons test.

The invitation comes as the North plans to launch a satellite atop a long-range rocket, a move the United States warned would jeopardize a food-aid agreement reached in early March. The launch has been condemned as a back-door missile test, something long-impoverished North Korea agreed to forgo in exchange for food.

Under the aid deal, the north would receive 240,000 metric tons of food in exchange for a halt to nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and uranium enrichment activities. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week that planning for the food shipments was "relatively far advanced," but the deal could be put on hold if Pyongyang went ahead with its rocket launch.

North Korea says it has a right to a peaceful space program and invited international space experts and journalists to witness the launch, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday. The satellite would be sent into orbit in mid-April to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder and current leader Kim Jong Un's grandfather.

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