Report: N. Korea to permit U.S. visit

Jan. 2, 2004 at 7:37 AM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- North Korea has agreed to let a group of U.S. experts visit its top nuclear facility at Yongbyon next week, USA Today reported Friday.

The visit would mark the first time outsiders had seen the plant since nuclear inspectors were forced to leave a year ago.

Analysts said if such a high-profile visit went ahead, it would suggest the two sides were moving closer to agreeing to hold new talks. The last round of negotiations, held in Beijing in August, ended without progress.

The newspaper said the visitors to Yongbyon would include Sig Hecker, a former director of the United States' top nuclear facility, the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Other delegates were said to include a China expert from Stanford University, two Senate foreign policy aides who have visited the North Korean capital of Pyongyang before, and a former State Department official who has been involved in negotiations with North Korea.

An official at the South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed the report's detail to the BBC, though it remained unclear which of the various facilities at Yongbyon would be open to the visitors.

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