North Korea Invites IAEA Chief to Discuss Dismantling Nuke Facilities

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Friday that North Korea has invited him to visit to discuss dismantling its nuclear facilities — a sign of the country's new willingness to subject its atomic program to outside scrutiny.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he and North Korean authorities would discuss how to "implement the freeze of (nuclear) facilities" and "eventual dismantlement of these facilities."

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said ElBaradei would probably visit in the second week of March, after the agency board meets on North Korea and Iran, the other country of international nuclear concern.

While ElBaradei offered no details, his announcement signaled the North's further willingness to open its nuclear program to outsiders for the first time since withdrawing from the Nonproliferation Treaty three years ago and ordering agency inspectors to leave.

Under a Feb. 13 agreement, the North — which said it tested a nuclear weapon late last year — agreed to dismantle its nuclear facilities and to normalize its relationships with South Korea, Japan and the United States in exchange for oil shipments, other aid and security guarantees.