Verification of a country's nuclear activities, used together with diplomacy, can be a very effective way of ensuring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the international community must be prepared to take action in the event of non-conformity, the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog has said.
"We cannot afford not to act in cases of non-compliance," Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said yesterday in reference to the way the international community has been dealing with the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Speaking at the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs this week in Seoul, Mr. ElBaradei recalled the many instances where Pyongyang failed to carry out its obligations under the NPT, capped by withdrawing from the accord in January 2003.
"Naturally, all of these actions were promptly reported by the Agency to the Security Council - but with little to no response," he noted.
"This type of reaction by the Council may be setting the worst precedent of all, if it conveys the message that acquiring a nuclear deterrent, by whatever means, will neutralize any compliance mechanism and bring about preferred treatment."
By contrast, he said, verification and diplomacy have been part of the success so far in Iran and Libya, "and in that sense I can only hope that the continuation of the six-party talks on the DPRK nuclear programme will yield results that will include full IAEA verification."