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23 Jun, 2007 03:51

N Korea to shut Yongbyon reactor: U.S. Envoy

North Korea could shut down its controversial Yongbyon reactor within three weeks, according to U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill, who's just returned from Pyongyang.

North Korea says it will begin implementing the disarmament deal as soon as it recovers funds frozen in Macau.

“We expect Yongbyon to be shut down after the agreement between the DPRK and the IAEA on how to monitor this shutdown. We do expect this to take place soon, within probably three weeks. I don't want to be pinned down on precisely the day, but probably in that timeframe,” said Christopher Hill.

Pyongyang also extended an invitation to IAEA nuclear monitors, who are expected to visit North Korea next week.

“Our team heading to North Korea will be leaving on Sunday, and will be arriving to Pyongyang on Tuesday, and hopefully then we will start the process of working with the DPRK, the modalities for shutting down the nuclear facility at Yongbyon. This is good news and I think that finally we should be able to start what I think is a long and complex process but I believe very much it is a process in the right direction,” commented Mohamed ElBaradei.

Mr Hill's visit to the communist state comes after a resolution of a banking dispute that has held up negotiations for months.  

Following the U.S. allegations that Pyongyang was involved in money laundering, counterfeiting and the illegal sale of weapons, $U.S 25 MLN were frozen in September 2005.

Earlier this week, the funds were reportedly transferred from a bank in Macau to Russia's Central Bank.

North Korea has not confirmed it has received the money but has promised to shut down its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon as soon as the transfer is completed.