North Korea announced June 16 that it plans to shut down and seal its Yongbyon nuclear facilities in accordance with an agreement reached at the six-party talks aimed at addressing the Korean nuclear issue.

At the same time, the country’s foreign ministry released a statement denouncing a controversial U.S. missile defense plan in Europe that it sees as part of a scheme for world dominance by the Bush administration.

Ri Je Son, the top nuclear official in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea, or DPRK), sent a letter to Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, June 16, requesting that a team of inspectors be sent to the DPRK to discuss methods for verifying the shutdown.

Inspectors from the UN agency are scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, the week of June 25. This will mark the first time inspectors have been allowed into the country since 2002.

The outcome of the most recent round of talks, which also involved China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States, included an agreement in which the DPRK would shut down its nuclear facilities and, in return, the U.S. would, among other concessions, unfreeze $25 million of DPRK funds the U.S. had ordered frozen in Banco Delta Asia, a Macao bank. The U.S. and South Korea also promised energy aid to offset the shutdown of the North’s nuclear energy program.

A series of technical glitches delayed the U.S.-directed release of North Korea’s funds for months, prompting the DPRK to hold back from fulfilling its side of the agreement by an April 14 deadline and causing international jitters. However, as soon as the funds were released, the North began taking steps to close its principal nuclear complex.

Almost simultaneously, the DPRK’s foreign ministry issued a statement condemning U.S. plans to pursue its goal of constructing a worldwide missile defense (MD) system with bases in Eastern Europe. It noted the irony of the situation: even as the DPRK is working with the international community to denuclearize, the U.S. has listed North Korea and Iran as the two main reasons for having an anti-missile program.

Echoing Russia, China and other nations, the foreign ministry said the U.S. MD program really has nothing to do with the DPRK. Noting that the program stretches back to Ronald Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative” against the Soviet Union, the ministry said its sheer size means “this huge defense network is not targeted against just a few small countries.”

“It is nonsensical,” the statement reads, “for the U.S. to assert that it is expanding the MD network to far away Oceania in the south beyond Japan and Guam … to intercept missiles from the DPRK. And it is illogical for the U.S. to claim that it is deploying an interceptor missile base in Eastern Europe … to intercept those from Iran.”

The U.S. wants to “seige” all of “Eurasia from east to west,” said the DPRK, agreeing with those who argue the Bush administration is aiming to dominate rival economic powers by military means.

The Bush administration believes, said the DPRK, that “if big powers in Eurasia become embroiled in arms race” in response to the MD program, it will weaken them economically. In the event this strategy doesn’t work, it said, the U.S. hopes to “unilaterally perfect and expand the MD so as to neutralize the nuclear retaliatory capacity of other big powers and maintain unchallenged military hegemony.”

The foreign ministry statement said if MD is allowed to go forward, “there will be neither a trend toward multi-polarization nor any hope for democratization in the world.” Instead, the world “will be exposed to the military blackmail and high-handed practices of the only hegemonic country.”