Bill Richardson (left) with North Korean Supreme People's Assembly Vice President Kim Yong-Dae in Pyongyang on April 10 (AFP)
April 11, 2007 -- North Korea says it will miss an April 14 deadline to shut down its main nuclear reactor, but could start the process within 30 days.
The U.S. television network NBC quotes Pyongyang's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-Gwan, as making the comments to a visiting U.S. team led by Bill Richardson, the governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico.
But Richardson today said North Korea has offered to invite UN nuclear inspectors to return to the country within one day of receiving $25 million frozen in a Macau bank due to a money-laundering dispute.
Richardson said the North Korean government told him that, after receiving the funds, it would move "promptly" to invite International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) representatives to Pyongyang to draft the terms for shutting down its Yongbyon reactor.
He said the U.S. delegation told the North Koreans that such a timetable was "not acceptable."
Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said there is no reason for Pyongyang to delay any further after the U.S. State Department announced on April 10 that authorities in Macau had unblocked the funds.
North Korea has insisted it must be able to access the $25 million before it will begin to implement a February 13 agreement that gave it 60 days to shut its nuclear facilities in return for energy aid.
(compiled from agency reports)