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UN nuclear inspectors pull out of Pyongyang

UNITED Nations nuclear experts left the Democratic People's Republic of Korea yesterday after they were ordered out amid an escalating standoff over the country's recent rocket launch.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency left the main site in Yongbyon after removing all seals and switching off surveillance cameras, IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said in a statement.

They arrived in Beijing on a flight yesterday but declined to speak to reporters.

Four United States experts monitoring Yongbyon were also preparing to depart, the US State Department said.

US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said their departure would be "a step backward."

North Korea ordered the monitors out on Tuesday after the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the North's April 5 rocket launch as a violation of previous resolutions barring the North from ballistic missile-related activity.

The US, Japan and other nations have accused North Korea of using the launch to test long-range missile technology since the delivery systems for sending satellites and missiles are similar.

North Korea, which claims the right to develop a space program, said it launched a satellite into orbit and reacted furiously to the UN censure by vowing to boycott international disarmament talks and restart its nuclear program.

China urged calm and restraint. "We hope all parties could proceed from the long-term and overall interest, exert calmness and restraint and properly handle relevant issues so as to devote themselves to safeguarding the six-party talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Russian special envoy Grigory Logvinov called the North's move "disappointing," but held out hope for the resumption of nuclear talks.

"We believe that there is a chance to return to the negotiating table ?? nobody has burned bridges and the door has not been slammed shut," Logvinov said.

Republic of Korea joined the US and Japan in urging the DPRK to return to the negotiating table. ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said he hoped Pyongyang would make the effort.


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