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North Korea Retracts Invitation to IAEA: Sources

North Korea has retracted its invitation to U.N. nuclear monitors in retaliation for the U.S. announcement it would not send food assistance to the isolated nation, anonymous diplomatic insiders told the Yomiuri Shimbun on Monday (see GSN, April 16).

The United States called off plans to deliver 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance following the failed flight of a long-range North Korean rocket on Friday (see related GSN story, today). The North was to receive the food in return for shutting down uranium enrichment and other atomic operations at the Yongbyon complex and abstaining from new nuclear and long-range missile talks. Under the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency was to return to the North to confirm the nuclear shutdown had occurred.

With both sides backing away from their February commitments, it appears the food aid-for-nuclear shutdown deal is dead.

Washington has accused Pyongyang of violating the terms of the agreement by attempting to fire its Unha 3 rocket into space. North Korea, though, said the rocket launch was permissible and is expected to blame the breakdown of the deal on the Obama administration for canceling the promised food assistance.

The reported refusal to permit the U.N. nuclear agency to return to North Korea after three years could hurt efforts to persuade Pyongyang to halt uranium enrichment and increase the potential for another nuclear test, according to the report (Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16).

The U.N. Security Council on Monday rebuked the North for the rocket launch and warned against further missile flights or nuclear trials.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Monday reminded journalists of Pyongyang's track record from 2006 and 2009 of following rocket firings with underground atomic blasts, Reuters reported.

"Clearly the potential for that pattern to persist is one that all members of the international community are mindful of and think would be a disastrous course for the North to pursue. It will only lead to the North's increased isolation," Rice said (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters I, April 16).

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said the North Korean regime should focus less on its nuclear weapons effort and more on providing food for its citizens, Reuters reported.

"The new young leadership of North Korea has a very stark choice; they need to take a hard look at their policies, stop the provocative action," the secretary said in Brasilia. "They need ... to put their people first ahead of their ambitions to be a nuclear power."

New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power in December following the death of his father Kim Jong Il (Mohammed/Soto, Reuters II, April 16).

U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Samuel Locklear on Tuesday said the Obama administration is considering multiple avenues for preventing a new North Korea atomic blast, according to Reuters

"I don't think it would be appropriate to comment on how we would pursue any future military operation," the admiral said in response to a question on whether the United States would mount a targeted attack on North Korea's Punggye-ri test area. "I can tell you that with the alliance, that we are continually looking at all options."

The U.N. Security Council in its Monday presidential statement warned Pyongyang it was committed "to take action accordingly in the event of a further D.P.R.K. launch or nuclear test" (Jack Kim, Reuters III/Yahoo!News, April 17).

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North Korea

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