North Korea to shut down nuclear reactor in late July

The Interfax-China news agency reported that according North Korea planed to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor in the second half of July.

"Based on our specialists' evaluations, it will take one month to technically shut down the reactor. This way, we expect to seal it in accordance with agreements reached at six-party talks in the second half of July 2007," the anonymous official was quoted as saying. "So we are counting on sealing it (the reactor) in the second half of July, in accordance with the agreements reached at the six-party talks," the source said.

The diplomatic source said the delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be present at the first stage of stopping the reactor.

"We plan to invite the experts of the IAEA a second time, when the reactor is fully sealed in order to convince them of that," the source was quoted as saying.

North Korea had refused to move on its February pledge to shut down the Yongbyon reactor until it received about US$25 million (EUR18.7 million) in funds that were frozen in a Macau bank. The U.S. accused Banco Delta Asia of helping North Korea's government pass fake US$100 bills and launder money from weapons sales.

The transfer of the frozen North Korean funds is now nearing completion, and North Korea on Saturday invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit - the first concrete sign of a breakthrough in the stalemate over its nuclear program.

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