A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) left for North Korea on Thursday to verify and monitor the shutdown and sealing of nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, a diplomat in Vienna said.
The inspectors would make a short stop in Beijing and then fly to Pyongyang on Saturday, the diplomat told Xinhua.
On Tuesday, the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said in a statement that the IAEA had received an official invitation from North Korea and an inspector team would leave for the country "within the next few days."
The team would monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities as agreed between the IAEA and North Korea and approved by the agency's board of governors, said the statement.
An IAEA delegation, headed by the agency's Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen, visited Pyongyang in late June and reached a consensus with North Korea on the procedure for the shutdown of the reactor.
At a special session on Monday, the IAEA's board of governors approved a report submitted by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei on the mission in Yongbyon.
The ratification of the report provided the legal basis for the IAEA's new mission.
Also on Thursday, a South Korean ship with 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil left Ulsan port for North Korea.
It was the first delivery of heavy fuel oil to North Korea under an agreement adopted in February's six-party talks on the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean ship, which left the port at 12:00 AM local time (03:00 GMT), is expected to arrive in North Korea's northeastern port of Sonbong on Saturday after a 36-hour voyage. It will return to South Korea next Monday or Tuesday after unloading the oil.
The North Korean government announced last week that it will shut down nuclear reactors after receiving the first delivery of heavy fuel oil.
Under an earlier agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang, South Korea will deliver a total of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil within 20 days after the first delivery of the oil.
Under the joint agreement reached during the six-party talks in February, North Korea promised to shut down its nuclear facilities as initial steps of denuclearization, while other parties will provide a total of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea.
(Xinhua News Agency July 13, 2007)