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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN to Send Experts to Watch N. Korea Reactor Shut Down

VIENNA -- The UN's nuclear agency Monday agreed to send experts to North Korea to supervise the closure of its plutonium-producing reactor, said the agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors approved the mission at a special session focused on a report compiled by the agency's deputy director general after a visit late last month to the North's plutonium-producing Yongbyon facility.

"[On] Mr. Olli Heinonen's, my deputy director general for safeguards, mission to Pyongyang last week ... he visited facilities at Yongbyon, we agreed on the modalities that need to be taken to shut down the four facilities there, with a view to eventual abandonment," ElBaradei told reporters after the meeting.

"This is the beginning of a process. It's going to be a long and complex process, but I welcome the return of the DPRK to the verification process and I look forward to working with them as the verification process evolves," he said, referring to the country by the acronym for its official name.

ElBaradei said timing for the visit depended on when the North Koreans issued an invitation. "When do we go to the DPRK? I think that depends on the invitation we will receive from DPRK. ... Our expectation is that it should be in the next week or two," ElBaradei said.

The shutting down of the facilities should not take much time, he said.

"Activities are going to happen in the next couple of weeks, I hope," he added.

Four months after testing a nuclear bomb, North Korea pledged in February to shut down and disable the 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, which is capable of producing enough plutonium for one nuclear bomb a year, in exchange for economic aid and political concessions.

That landmark agreement was the result of talks between North Korea and the United States, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan.