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U.S. Envoy Visits North Korea over Disarmament Deal

BY Admin  June 21, 2007 at 1:30 PM EDT

North Korea's Ri Gun with Christopher Hill

“We want to get the six-party process moving,” Hill told the Associated Press Television Network at Pyongyang’s airport. “We hope that we can make up for some of the time that we lost this spring and so I’m looking forward to good discussions about that.”

North Korea agreed to shut down its bomb-making nuclear reactor at Yongbyon by mid-April in a deal brokered in February with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

The reactor had been shut down since 1994 in a deal with the Clinton administration but was restarted in 2002 after a dispute with the Bush administration. North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in October and processed enough plutonium from the reactor for 12 nuclear weapons, reported the Washington Post.

The agreement then foundered over a delay in the release of $25 million in North Korean assets that the U.S. Treasury froze during an investigation into possible money laundering.

North Korea said since it still hasn’t received the money, it would withhold official confirmation of a planned visit by monitors from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Our side has informed the IAEA that we have no objection to them preparing the visit as a plan, but we are not ready to give our official confirmation for the visit as scheduled by the agency,” said Hyon Yong Man, counselor at North Korea’s Embassy in Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA headquarters.

But Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said Thursday that the money was in the process of being transferred to a North Korean account at a Russian bank, according to Reuters.

“I believe this issue can be resolved,” Kislyak said. “It now only consists of bank operators pressing certain buttons.”