The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has promised to consider returning to the United Nations system of safeguards against nuclear weapons proliferation, which they abandoned in 2002, following its commitment last month to dismantle its nuclear arms programme in return for international energy and other aid.
“We are moving forward,” UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told a news conference in Beijing on his return from talks in Pyongyang, the DPRK capital, calling his visit at the Government’s invitation an “overall door opener” that improved a “rocky relationship.”
But “after years before we got back on the right track,” this is “not going to happen over night,” he warned. The DPRK ordered IAEA inspectors out at the end of 2002 and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its agency-monitored safeguards against fuel diversion from energy generation to weapons production. Last October the UN Security Council imposed sanctions after it carried out a nuclear test.
Mr. ElBaradei’s talks with the General Bureau of Atomic Energy Chairman Ri Je Son, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Jun and Vice President of the Standing Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Dae, focused on initial IAEA monitoring and verification for the shut down of the DPRK’s nuclear facilities.
He said the DPRK was “fully committed” to the Six-Party agreement reached in Beijing last month and would allow IAEA personnel in once other parties met their commitments under the “Initial Actions.” The DPRK “was very clear they are ready to implement the February 13 agreement once the other parties implement their part of the deal,” he added.
The “Initial Actions” agreed by the six parties – the DPRK, the Republic of Korea (ROK), China, Japan, Russia and the United States – foresee that within 60 days “the DPRK will shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment the Yongbyon nuclear facility, including the reprocessing facility and invite back IAEA personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verifications as agreed between IAEA and DPRK.”
The next step for IAEA will be to reach an agreement with the DPRK on specific technical arrangements for monitoring and verification. These terms would be subject to approval by the IAEA Board of Governors.
“They are ready to work with the Agency to make sure that we monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon facility,” Mr. ElBaradei said, adding that DPRK officials “reiterated they are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Today and tomorrow he is scheduled to hold meetings in Beijing with Six-party representatives. “I hope in the next few weeks, months and years, we will continue to work with the DPRK with the objective we all share, which is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said.