N Korea confirms funds row over

Pyongyang says it is ready to go ahead with nuclear disarmament commitments.

    Supplies of food and other aid are conditional on North Korea shutting down its nuclear programme [AFP]

    The funds, which had been frozen in a Macau bank account, had been the roadblock to implementing the six-nation agreement reached in Beijing in February.

     

    Under the deal North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear programme in return for energy aid and other benefits.

     

    The funds, held in an account at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, were frozen in 2005 following allegations from the US that the money was connected to North Korean money-laundering and counterfeiting operations.

     

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    Announcing it had received the funds, the North Korean statement said the funds would be used "for humanitarian purposes", but did not elaborate.

     

    The North Korean announcement came as a team of inspectors from United Nations's nuclear watchdog arrived in Beijing en route to Pyongyang.

     

    The team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to hold discussions with North Korean officials on the processes for verifying a shut down of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

     

    Speaking on arrival at Beijing airport on Monday Olli Heinonen, the head of the IAEA delegation, said his team was going to negotiate "how to verify and make sure the reactors will be shut down at Yongbyon".

     

    He added however that he was unsure whether the team would have a chance to visit the reactor site.

     

    Deadline

     

    The visit is the first time inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been allowed to enter North Korea since they were kicked out almost five years ago.

     

    North Korea, which tested its first atom bomb last year, agreed in February to shut down its Yongbyon reactor.

     

    The agreement set a deadline of mid-April, but that was missed amid the on-going row over access to the frozen funds.

     

    US envoy Chrisopher Hill says he expects the
    shutdown to take place within  weeks [EPA]

    But on Monday Russia's Dalkombank, which acted as an intermediary in the transaction, said in a statement on its website that the funds had finally been transferred to North Korea.

     

    "On June 25 the funds were transferred to the Bank of Foreign Trade of Korean Democratic Republic. Therefore the problem of the funds transfer has been solved," the statement read.

     

    Last week, Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator, made a surprise 24-hour visit to North Korea in an effort to push forward the long-delayed disarmament deal.

     

    He said on Saturday the Yongbyon reactor was expected to be shut within three weeks, and foreign ministers would meet in July to discuss the next steps in Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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