The head of the United Nations Nuclear watchdog agency said today he looked forward to sending his inspectors back to the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as soon as possible following its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“This is all very encouraging news,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna of the joint statement released by the six nations at talks in Beijing on the DPRK’s nuclear programme.
Asked when IAEA inspectors would return to the DPRK, from which they were withdrawn when the country left the NPT almost three years ago, he said a precise date was still to be fixed, but the commitment was for DPRK to go back to inspections and the NPT at an early date.
“I certainly will be consulting with the DPRK, with the concerned parties and clearly the earlier we go back, the better,” he added. “This is going to be a complex inspection process. We need again to reconstruct activities that have taken place since 2002, in fact even before 2002 because since 1993 we haven´t been able to perform comprehensive verification inspection in North Korea.”
He said the commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula at the Beijing talks between China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas, constituted “a balanced package in my view that addresses both the security needs of North Korea as well as the concerns of the international community about North Korea´s nuclear activities.
“It has been a long and complex process,” he added of the talks that have been going on since 2003, “but at the end negotiation pays.”
In February Mr. ElBaradei called the DPRK “a serious challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.” Its claim to possess nuclear weapons “is a matter of the utmost concern and has serious security implications, and highlights yet again the importance and the urgency of finding a diplomatic solution through dialogue,” he said then.
Today he said the IAEA would conduct “the necessary inspections to assure ourselves that the nuclear weapons programme in the DPRK has been abandoned and that all nuclear activity in the DPRK is subjected to safeguards and dedicated for peaceful purposes.”