The visit to Yongbyon, usually off-limits to all but key officials and workers, will take place on Thursday, Olli Heinonen, the head of the IAEA team told Japan's Kyodo news agency.

 

He said the team would likely spend two days at the plant, discussing plans for shutting it down in a process that is verfiable for the outside world.

 

Progress

 

Your Views

"North Korea has only one card in hand and that is its nuclear programme"

Rahy, Tehran, Iran

Send us your views

News of the visit follows optimistic comments from a European Union delegation and South Korean officials that there may finally be progress on the nuclear dispute after months of delay.

 

On Wednesday the head of a five-member EU delegation returning from a visit to Pyongyang said they had come away with a strong impression that North Korea was committed to closing the Yongbyon reactor.

 

"We had the real impression that they are willing immediately to shut down and they will start as they promised to do so," Hubert Pirker, a member of the EU parliament, told a press conference in Seoul.

 

He added though that North Korean officials had offered no specific timeline for a closure.

 

The details, Pirker said, would be worked out by North Korea and the IAEA inspectors.

 

His comments were echoed by South Korea's foreign minister who said he believed the North was now ready to shut down Yongbyon "as early as possible".

 

Song Min-soon said the shutdown schedule was now a "technical issue", which would not be subject to a "political decision" by North Korea.