IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Inspectors ‘satisfied’ with N. Korean reactor

U.N. nuclear watchdog officials said on Friday they were “satisfied” with a tour of a North Korean reactor complex that the secretive state has promised to scrap under an aid-for-disarmament deal, Kyodo news agency said.
/ Source: Reuters

U.N. nuclear watchdog officials said on Friday they were “satisfied” with a tour of a North Korean reactor complex that the secretive state has promised to scrap under an aid-for-disarmament deal, Kyodo news agency said.

The reactor at Yongbyon was still operating, the agency also quoted the officials as saying on their return to Pyongyang.

The visit to the reactor is the first by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials since Pyongyang expelled the Vienna-based agency’s inspectors in December 2002.

The communist state subsequently walked out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, announced that it had atomic bombs and, last year, conducted its first nuclear test.

North Korea’s nuclear program, which dates back to at least the 1980s, is centered at Yongbyon north of Pyongyang.

Shutdown announcement imminent?
In South Korea, Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying: “The IAEA could announce the date (for Yongbyon’s shutdown) as early as this week.”

A diplomat close to the IAEA had said earlier that if the team finalized terms for an inspection mission, the agency’s 35-nation board of governors would meet -- probably on July 9 -- to ratify the deal.

The sprawling Yongbyon complex of more than 100 buildings includes a five-megawatt reactor and a plutonium reprocessing plant where weapons-grade material can be extracted from spent fuel rods.

Kyodo said “five places” would be subject to inspections.

The disarmament deal, under which Pyongyang would receive energy aid, security guarantees and better diplomatic standing in return for scrapping its nuclear arms programs, was stalled for weeks by a dispute over some $25 million in North Korean funds frozen in a Macau bank at Washington’s behest.

Officials hint at resumption of talks
Following the release of the funds, North Korea agreed this week to implement the deal it struck with South Korea, China, the United States, Russia and Japan in February.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, in Washington for talks with U.S. officials, has hinted at a possible early resumption of the six-way nuclear disarmament talks involving North Korea and those five countries.

“It would be effective to hold the talks at an appropriately linked time with the shutdown,” Song told South Korean reporters, Yonhap said.

(With additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in SEOUL)