THE Clinton administration has voiced cautious optimism that the latest nuclear inspection crisis with North Korea might have eased. United States officials said they are ready to resume high-level talks with Pyongyang, although no dates have been set.
The move toward resuming talks came as both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and US officials said there is no evidence that North Korea has diverted any nuclear fuel into a bomb-making program.
The IAEA, in a statement released Saturday at its headquarters in Vienna, said North Korea has agreed to meet with its inspectors to discuss plans for monitoring spent fuel rods. A team of ``senior safeguards officials'' was expected to arrive tomorrow in North Korea for the talks. But there was no guarantee the North would meet the agency's demands to take samples from the spent fuel. The IAEA insists on inspections to determine whether any fuel has been diverted to produce plutonium.
IAEA officials had said Thursday they planned to notify the UN Security Council that North Korea was in ``serious violation'' of a nuclear safeguards agreement, raising the possibility of sanctions.
Defense Secretary William Perry said Friday that inspectors must be permitted to analyze the fuel rods to determine if fuel was diverted in the past.