Archive for the ‘IAEA’ Category

NK Shuts Down 4 More Nuclear Facilities: ElBaradei

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Korea Times

North Korea has ceased operations of four more nuclear facilities after closing Saturday its key nuclear reactor that produces weapons-grade plutonium, the chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Wednesday.

“We have verified all the five nuclear facilities have been shut down,” Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was quoted as saying in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by the Associated Press.

He said some of the facilities have been sealed by IAEA inspectors who are currently staying in the North to verify the shutdown and disablement of the North’s nuclear facilities.

His remark comes as a new round of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament is set to resume in Beijing Wednesday afternoon.

The talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia are supposed to deal with disablement of the North Korea’s nuclear facilities and the North’s declaration of all of its nuclear programs under the second phase of a February agreement.


N. Korea Shutters Nuclear Facility

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Washington Post Foreign Service
Edward Cody
7/15/2007; Page A01

Move Follows Delivery of Oil; U.N. Team to Verify Shutdown

After four years of off-and-on negotiations, North Korea said it began closing down its main nuclear reactor Saturday, shortly after receiving a first boatload of fuel oil aid.

The closure, if confirmed by U.N. inspectors, would mark the first concrete step in a carefully orchestrated denuclearization schedule that was agreed on in February, with the ultimate goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for fuel and other economic aid, and increased diplomatic recognition.

More broadly, it constituted the first on-the-ground accomplishment of six-nation negotiations that have been grinding away with little progress since 2003 under Chinese sponsorship. The talks — including North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and China — are likely to resume next week in Beijing to emphasize the parties’ resolve to carry out the rest of the February agreement and eventually create a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

“We welcome this development and look forward to the verification and monitoring of this shutdown by the International Atomic Energy Agency team,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, referring to a 10-member team of U.N. inspectors who flew into North Korea earlier Saturday.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator, warned reporters in Japan, where he was visiting in anticipation of the new talks, that moving forward into further denuclearization would probably prove as difficult as the previous four years of discussions. Given the track record, which includes several North Korean walkouts and long standoffs, some Asian and U.S. analysts have questioned whether North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, has genuinely made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons after so many years devoted to developing them.

The next steps, as outlined in the accord, would be for North Korea to permanently disable the reactor, a plutonium facility at Yongbyon, 60 miles northeast of Pyongyang, the capital, and to reveal the full extent of the nuclear weapons, nuclear processing plants and stored nuclear material it has accumulated. That would include an accounting of any uranium enrichment efforts, which North Korea denies it has undertaken but which the Bush administration says have been part of the country’s nuclear research.

Uranium aside, U.S. intelligence estimates have said North Korea has extracted enough plutonium from the Yongbyon facility to build as many as a dozen bombs, although it is not known how many weapons the reclusive Stalinist nation’s military has put together. Last October, while the talks were again stalled, North Korea announced it had conducted its first underground nuclear test and henceforth should be considered a nuclear-armed state.

Kim’s government has based much of its power on the military, and possession of nuclear weapons has been described in North Korean propaganda as a matter of national pride. But the thought of nuclear weapons in the hands of Kim and his aides has unsettled his Asian neighbors, including China. As a result, they have persisted in the six-party negotiations despite repeated delays and abrupt changes of position by North Korean diplomats.

North Korea’s decision to go ahead with the Yongbyon closure, for instance, came only after nearly two years of wrangling over about $25 million in North Korean accounts blocked in a Macau bank.

The funds were frozen because of U.S. Treasury Department allegations in September 2005 that they were tainted by money laundering and counterfeiting. After months of insisting the Treasury accusations were a law enforcement matter separate from the nuclear talks, the Bush administration switched positions and promised to get the money liberated, leading to February’s milestone agreement. But several months more passed while Hill struggled to find a banking system that would handle the allegedly tainted money. Ultimately, the funds were transferred out of Macau via the Federal Reserve Bank of New York into the Russian banking system and, from there, transferred into North Korean accounts in a Russian trading bank near the border with North Korea

Diplomats from the six nations have suggested that, should they be successful, the North Korean nuclear negotiations could eventually evolve into a permanent forum for East Asian security cooperation, bringing North Korea into a closer relationship with its neighbors. But as Hill did in Japan on Saturday, they acknowledge they have a long road ahead before anything like that is possible.

Saturday’s announcement, while widely applauded, essentially returned the East Asian landscape to what it was in 2002, when operations had been suspended at the Yongbyon reactor under an earlier deal put together in 1994 under the Clinton administration.

U.S. diplomats said in 2002 that North Korean representatives acknowledged a secret uranium enrichment program — something North Korea has steadfastly denied since then — and the Bush administration stopped the oil shipments that were part of the 1994 deal. In return, North Korea expelled U.N. weapons inspectors, quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarted operations at Yongbyon.

The North Korean government had made no formal announcement by early Sunday. But a diplomat at the North Korean U.N. mission, Kim Myon Gil, told the Associated Press that the reactor was shut down Saturday and its closure would soon be verified by the U.N. inspectors. The State Department said in Washington that it got official word from North Korea shortly after a South Korean ship pulled into Sonbong, a port in northeast North Korea, with a cargo of 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil to power generators in the rickety North Korean electricity grid.”

The delivery represented a down payment on a scheduled 50,000 tons of fuel oil aid in return for shutting down the reactor. In all, the February accord promised North Korea up to 1 million tons of oil and other economic aid as it takes further denuclearization steps over the months ahead.

The accord also held out the prospect of improved relations with the United States, which has long been a goal of North Korea. In signing the accord, for instance, the Bush administration undertook to review whether it could remove North Korea from the list of countries said to sponsor terrorism and to engage in diplomatic discussions aimed at dissipating the hostility that remains more than half a century after the Korean War.


Nuclear watchdog set to resume inspection of N.K. nuke facilities

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007


Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tuesday that United Nations nuclear inspectors will return to North Korea following the international deal committing the communist regime to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

“The IAEA will go back to North Korea to ensure that all nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes,” he told reporters during a visit to Luxembourg.

He did not say when the inspectors would go but said it would be discussed at a meeting of the agency’s board of governors on March 6.

ElBaradei welcomed the agreement, although he had yet to see all thedetails. “It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “This is the first part of the process.”

He suggested it could serve as an example for ending the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

“We should find a way to get Iran to sit around the table” and talk to world powers, ElBaradei said.

The agency has been shut out of North Korea for four years and ElBaradei has frequently urged Pyongyang to end its nuclear pariah status by returning to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty it quit in 2003 and allowing back agency inspectors.

In a related move, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the groundbreaking deal struck with North Korea to end its nuclear program, calling it the “first practical stage” toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Ban was “encouraged that this constructive effort by the international community can eventually result in strengthening the global nonproliferation regime as well as in contributing to durable peace, security and prosperity in the region,” a statement issued through U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

“This agreement represents the first practical stage toward a non-nuclear peninsula,” said Ban, South Korea’s former foreign minister.

He also urged participants at the six-party talks in Beijing — the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan — “to make every effort to sustain the current positive momentum and ensure that this accord is implemented as agreed.”