UN nuclear inspectors to revisit DPR Korea
Inspectors from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will return to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to monitor the shutdown and eventual abandonment of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, it was announced today.
The decision to dispatch the experts came after the IAEA’s Board of Governors, meeting in Geneva, approved a report detailing the agency’s future activities in the Asian country.
“This is the beginning of a long and complex process, but I welcome the return of the DPRK to the verification process,” IAEA’s Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters after briefing the Board.
He said that the inspectors’ mission to the DPRK is contingent on receiving an invitation from the country, but he predicted that IAEA inspectors would travel to the country in the next several weeks.
“According to our experts, the shutting down of the facilities should not take much time, probably a few days,” Mr. ElBaradei said.
Cameras and other equipment also need to be installed to monitor the sites, he added.
Late last month, IAEA inspectors visited Pyongyang and reached agreement with the DPRK regarding arrangements for the agency’s monitoring and verification of the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility and the reactor under construction in Taechon.
Additionally, the Board adopted a 4.2 per cent budget increase for the year 2008-2009.
Although he noted that he is “pleased” with the surge in funding, Mr. ElBaradei said that he “made it clear to the Board that this is far from adequate to meet our increasing responsibilities in the area of verification, safety, security and development.”
In his address to the Board, Mr. ElBaradei said that “the Agency remains under-funded in many critical areas, a situation which, if it remains unaddressed, will lead to a steady erosion of our ability to perform key functions.”
He welcomed the support offered by United States President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Kennebunkport meeting last weekend in which they “made it clear that they fully understand the need for additional financial resources for the for the Agency to meet its increasing responsibilities including the growing interest in nuclear power.”
The Director General also voiced hope that there would be a breakthrough with Iran, to which an IAEA team is heading tomorrow to discuss how to resolve outstanding issues with the country’s authorities.
“I very much, sincerely hope that Iran will seize that opportunity to work in earnest with us in a fast-track mode,” Mr. ElBaradei told reporters.
“I think that this would be a major breakthrough, but I have to reserve that judgment until the mission comes back.”