U.N. Chief Nuclear Inspector Arrives In North Korea

Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 5:40 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The chief U.N. nuclear inspector expressed hope for progress in relations with North Korea as he arrived Tuesday in Pyongyang for talks on implementing a landmark nuclear disarmament agreement.

``We hope we can make progress in our relationship,'' Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said after arriving in the North, Associated Press Television News reported. ``I hope the outcome will be positive.''

In 2002, the North kicked out IAEA inspectors after U.S. officials accused it of running a secret uranium enrichment program, a charge denied by the North.

Under the Feb. 13 agreement, the North is to ultimately give up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for economic aid and political concessions.

Meanwhile, former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung urged North Korea not to miss the opportunity to get aid and other concessions for ending its nuclear weapons program. Kim said if the North goes back on its promises that it could face strong collective sanctions from the U.S. and its four regional partners _ South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

``North Korea also has a reason to seize the opportunity to achieve success in the six-party talks,'' Kim said at a meeting of international journalists in Seoul. He said ``North Korea's survival could be threatened'' if it faced tough sanctions.

Kim, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his engagement policy toward the North, also asked the U.S. to give North Korea what it wants and embrace the isolated country as part of international society.

The U.S. has agreed to resolve a dispute over its financial restrictions on a Macau bank that was accused of complicity in counterfeiting $100 bills and money laundering by North Korea. The U.S. move led Macau authorities to freeze about $24 million in North Korean assets.

Kim's comments come as officials from the U.S. and the North prepared to meet their counterparts from South Korea, China, Russia and Japan this week in Beijing to start working group talks aimed at putting the Feb. 13 agreement into effect.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China would head the group on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while South Korea would lead the economic and energy cooperation group and Russia would take charge of the group on peace and security in Northeast Asia.

A session on economic and energy cooperation will be held at the South Korean Embassy in Beijing on Thursday, the South's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The North held separate working group meetings with the U.S. and Japan on normalizing diplomatic ties last week.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the main American nuclear envoy, was scheduled to arrive Wednesday in Beijing for the working groups and will stay at least a week, said Susan Stevenson, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Beijing.

Hill is likely to meet Elbaradei who is expected to return Wednesday to Beijing, though no official meeting has been set, according to the embassy.

The working group sessions will be followed by a full session of the six-nation North Korea nuclear talks set to convene Monday.