The United Nations top atomic energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he will visit North Korea next month to discuss the freeze of its nuclear facilities.
ElBaradei said on Friday that North Korea invited him to visit to help it implement an agreement reached last week to shut down its nuclear facilities. Pyongyang also wants to try and normalize relations with the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.
On February 13, North Korea agreed to first close its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon and allow atomic energy inspectors in the country within 60 days in exchange for energy aid.
A spokeswoman for ElBaradei said that he would probably go to North Korea in the second week of March.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he hopes the trip will lead to concrete steps to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
A White House spokesman (Tony Fratto) also welcomed the news, calling it a "positive sign." The spokesman said the development shows that the agreement on North Korea's nuclear weapons was beginning to be carried out.
North Korea expelled I.A.E.A. weapons inspectors in late December 2002, and officially withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in January 2003.