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UN atomic energy agency to visit nuclear facilities in DPR of Korea

UN atomic energy agency to visit nuclear facilities in DPR of Korea

IAEA Headquarters
The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced plans to visit nuclear facilities in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) next week in what the Agency hopes will mark a first step towards renewed cooperation with Pyongyang.

The visit from 15 to 19 January to the Nyongbyon area of the country will include a stop at the Isotope Production Laboratory, an installation that the DPRK has stated was involved in the early stages of developing its nuclear programme.

"This is a small but welcome step towards a return to full-fledged inspections required under North Korea's safeguards agreement," said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. He encouraged the DPRK, which withdrew its membership from the Agency in June 1994, to normalize its relations with the IAEA, including the resumption of full safeguards inspections.

Because it has been unable to fully implement its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the DPRK since 1993, the IAEA could not verify the completeness and correctness of Pyongyang's initial 1992 declaration of its nuclear inventory. If it were to resume inspections with full cooperation by the country, the Agency estimates that it would take three to four years to verify that all nuclear material in the DPRK had been declared to the Agency.

In May 2001, the Agency proposed concrete steps in the DPRK verification process, but at a subsequent technical meeting in November, Pyongyang declined to start prompt implementation of those proposals, citing the delay in carrying out the United States/DPRK Agreed Framework as the principal reason for its decision. However, Pyongyang did agree to a visit - not an inspection - by Agency inspectors to the Isotope Production Laboratory.

Since November, 1994, the Agency has been monitoring the "freeze" of the DPRK's graphite moderated reactors and related facilities, in accordance with a request by the UN Security Council and the US-DPRK Agreed Framework.