Skip to comments.IAEA Says Very Worried About North Korea Nuclear Move
Posted on 12/26/2002 10:09:46 AM PST by blam
IAEA Says Very Worried About N.Korea Nuclear Move
Reuters to My Yahoo!
By Paul Eckert
SEOUL (Reuters) - The U.N. atomic watchdog said on Thursday North Korea 's move to activate nuclear facilities was "very worrying" as South Korea vowed to play a leading role in stopping its communist neighbor's brinkmanship.
The Vienna-based U.N. inspection agency -- the International Atomic Energy Agency -- said North Korea had moved 1,000 fresh fuel rods to a nuclear reactor that produces plutonium used in nuclear warheads.
"The big worry (is) if they start to operate the reprocessing plant that will produce plutonium, which can be directly used to manufacture nuclear weapons -- and there again we have no way to verify the nature of the activity," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN from Sri Lanka."
"So the situation is very worrying," he said.
IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told the BBC the 1,000 fresh fuel rods moved to the reactor site had not yet been loaded into the reactor core. He said they would need to move another 7,000 rods to reach the capacity of the reactor core.
"Moving toward restarting its nuclear facilities without appropriate safeguards, and toward producing plutonium raises serious non-proliferation concerns and is tantamount to nuclear brinkmanship," ElBaradei said in a statement.
South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung told his security and foreign policy ministers they should seek dialogue with the North through existing channels while working with the United States, Japan and others to defuse the crisis over the facilities closed since 1994.
"South Korea must play a leading role in solving the North's nuclear issue, which is a critical problem for the Korean peninsula," he said, in remarks relayed by his office after the special strategy meeting.
Kim, who favors constructive engagement with the North over the current U.S. approach of playing hard ball, did not spell out specific new measures but his government has opened channels of communication while discussing aid and reunification.
Gwozdecky said North Korean technicians had broken most seals and disabled U.N. surveillance devices at all four nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, 55 miles north of the capital, Pyongyang.
Cameras had been monitoring a 1994 oil-for-compliance deal that ended an earlier crisis over the North's nuclear ambitions.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jun said the North had made no unusual military moves during the dispute. Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, echoing a Bush administration official, said its nuclear moves appeared largely aimed at forcing the United States to talk.
But a U.S. official, who accused the North of playing games to draw the United States into normalization talks, said Washington was unwilling to play the game and predicted diplomatic pressure would bring the North into line.
An influential U.S. senator also stressed the importance of working with other nations including South Korea, China, Japan and Russia to bring the North into line. "Our strategy now has to be one of multilateral engagement," Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told NBC's "Today" show on Thursday.
The latest crisis erupted after the United States said in October the North had admitted operating a secret nuclear weapons program using highly enriched uranium. The United States, South Korea and other states suspended the oil shipments in December.
The Bush administration, which has labeled the North a member of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran, says it appears to be pacing its provocations to draw a U.S. response.
"It's like a strip-tease," said the administration official, who asked not to be named.
The North insists it has a right to possess nuclear weapons and says Washington must sign a nonaggression pact as a basis for talks on their differences.
On Thursday official Radio Pyongyang repeated North Korea's assertion that it was unfreezing the reactor to produce electricity to make up for the loss of the fuel oil.
"The United States and others are spreading a false view in the international community that our reactivation of nuclear facilities signals the development of nuclear weapons," the broadcast said, denying any intent to build nuclear arms.
The reactor in question, however, is a research reactor and is "irrelevant to (North Korea's) ability to produce electricity," ElBaradei said.
The U.S. official said a critical point might come if North Korea started harvesting plutonium from the 8,000 or so spent fuel rods stored in a cooling pond at its Yongbyon complex.
The Bush administration official predicted diplomacy, particularly from China, the North's chief ally, would stop it from going that far.
"I wouldn't be surprised if (the North Koreans) try to back off and try to find some way out," the official said.
France and Germany added their voices on Thursday to the chorus of condemnation of North Korea's move. "We deplore this new and worrying development," a Foreign Ministry spokesman told a news briefing in Paris.
"The German government calls on North Korea again to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, to the agreement signed with the United States in 1994 and toward the International Atomic Energy Agency without limitations, immediately and unambiguously," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in a statement.
U.S. intelligence officials say enough weapons-grade plutonium had already been produced at Yongbyon to build two nuclear weapons by the time the plant was closed down in 1994.
Gwozdecky said the IAEA was keeping two inspectors in North Korea to keep an eye on the situation.
South Korea's Kim hands power in late February to President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who won a Dec. 19 election pledging to deepen Kim's "sunshine policy" of engagement. Roh has criticized Washington's get-tough stance as dangerous.
Pretty much sums up toothless, worthless, irrelevant international bodies who pretend to offer competent global governance, only to be accepting power and money, but not the burden that goes with it.
Bomb North Korea's sites and do it now. Leave nothing standing for fifty miles around their reactors.
When you find OIL there then we will bomb. Until such time we will let it fester so as to increase the potential for the other faction (indutrial-military complex). Remember it's only your money that is being spent.
As the lefty envirowackos love to remind us, nuclear reactors don't power diesel engines. NK is posturing to get us to ship them oil again for their tanks, trucks and tractors.