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Korea Nuke Talks To Resume As IAEA Expects Smooth Shutdown And Oil Flows North

Six-nation talks will resume in Beijing on July 18.

Rice encouraged on North Korea nuclear progress
Washington (AFP) Jul 12 - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed cautious optimism Thursday that North Korea would stick to a deal to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. "I do believe that the North Koreans will shut down the reactor. They say that they have made a strategic choice to get rid of their nuclear weapons programs," she said in an interview with Fox News. Nine months after the hardline communist state shocked the world with its first atomic test, hopes are rising for the imminent closure of North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, which produces bomb-making raw material.

Rice said "at some point in time, that there's got to be an accounting for whatever was made out of the activity at Yongbyon." "I think we're going to know a lot about that in this next phase where they will have to declare what they've done, where they will have to disable the programs and the facilities in a more irreversible way than simply a shutdown. "But I think we are seeing good signs that they're going to invite the IAEA inspectors in," the secretary of state said.

Ten inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were expected in North Korea Saturday after a stopoff in Beijing, the UN agency said. North Korea has said it will consider shutting the Soviet-era Yongbyon facility as soon as it receives the first shipment of oil promised in a breakthrough deal with the United States and five other powers in February. The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have been negotiating since 2003. They will meet again in Beijing on July 18 and 19, the Chinese foreign ministry said. "They're going to shut down Yongbyon and then there will be considerable pressure, I think from the six parties," Rice said. "It's a very good thing that we're in this with the other big regional players -- China, Japan, Russia, South Korea."

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jul 13, 2007
Six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme will resume here next week in an effort to build on recent positive developments, China's foreign ministry said Thursday. "The heads of delegations of the six-party talks will resume discussions in Beijing on July 18 and 19," ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters. He said China, the traditional host of the talks, and the other nations involved had agreed that further discussions were timely to build on recent progress towards North Korean disarmament.

Recently, Washington freed up North Korean funds that had been frozen by US sanctions, eliminating a major hurdle, and the North has since indicated it is willing to begin shutting down his main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

"We believe that this type of momentum needs to be maintained," Qin said. "The meeting of the heads of delegations will press ahead with this positive momentum."

The head of the United Nations' atomic watchdog agency also said in Seoul on Thursday he expected North Korea to begin closing Yongbyon early next week.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are likely to arrive Saturday to monitor the shutdown of the reactor, which produces the raw material for bomb-making plutonium, and four related plants.

"I expect that operation to move smoothly. We already have an agreement on how to go about it," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told a press conference.

North Korea has said it will consider shutting the Soviet-era Yongbyon facility as soon as it receives a first shipment of oil agreed to as part of a six-nation disarmament accord brokered in February.

South Korea announced on Thursday that a first delivery of 6,200 tons of oil had set sail for the North.

The six-nation talks -- involving China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia -- began in 2003 with the aim of brokering a deal that would see the North abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Under the February accord, the North agreed to close Yongbyon and allow IAEA inspectors back into the country in exchange for 50,000 tons of fuel oil.

North Korea agreed to also eventually completely disband its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for a total of one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent energy aid, plus a wide range of diplomatic concessions.

earlier related report
IAEA chief expects smooth NKorea shutdown
Seoul (AFP) Jul 12 - The head of the UN's atomic watchdog agency said Thursday he expects the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear reactor to start early next week and to go smoothly.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are likely to arrive in the North Saturday to monitor the shutdown of the Yongbyon reactor, which produces the raw material for bomb-making plutonium, and four related plants.

"I expect that operation to move smoothly. We already have an agreement on how to go about it," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told a press conference, saying the initial shutdown was "not a complicated process."

A preparatory IAEA mission visited North Korea last month to discuss arrangements for the monitoring.

"This (shutdown) is going to start early next week," the IAEA chief said, and cameras and other monitoring equipment should be installed within a month.

"I am quite optimistic. This is a good step in the right direction," the IAEA chief said.

But he cautioned that full denuclearisation is "going to be a long process. We should not delude ourselves. This has been a problem for over 15 years, the Korean nuclear issue, and it will take time to have a comprehensive solution."

ElBaradei said inspectors would have to ensure that all programmes, including any enriched uranium project, are declared.

"That is a process that will obviously take some time because we will also have to make sure that if they have nuclear weapons, as they say they do, these weapons should be dismantled."

The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have been meeting since 2003 to negotiate an end to the North's nuclear ambitions. Talks assumed added urgency after the North tested a nuclear weapon last October.

Under a February agreement the energy-starved North will receive one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent aid, plus major diplomatic benefits and security guarantees, if it declares and dismantles all nuclear programmes.

Yongbyon's closure, to be rewarded with an initial 50,000 tons of oil from South Korea, is the first step.

North Korea has said it will consider a shutdown as soon as it receives a first shipment of oil. A tanker left Thursday and was to arrive Saturday.

ElBaradei said the second step -- the abandonment of the nuclear programmes and an inventory of all nuclear material -- would depend on progress in the six-nation talks, which are expected to resume in Beijing next week.

"I hope all six parties make every effort to reach a comprehensive settlement," he said, expressing hope also that the North would eventually return to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

ElBaradei said a nuclear settlement would be "good for the DPRK (North Korea), good for East Asia and good for the international community."

His inspectors would have to ensure the North's inventory "is correct and complete, as we do in other countries," he said.

"Whether we can do that obviously depends on the level of transparency we receive from the DPRK."

earlier related report
SKorea sends oil as hopes rise on NKorea
Ulsan, South Korea (AFP) - A South Korean tanker left Thursday with a first shipment of fuel oil for North Korea, a delivery expected to prompt the North to start shutting down its nuclear weapons programme.

With UN inspectors on their way to North Korea, the head of the UN's atomic watchdog agency said he expected the shutdown of the Yongbyon reactor to start early next week and to go smoothly.

Inspectors left for Pyongyang Thursday to monitor its first steps in ending its nuclear weapons programme, officials said. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission starts Saturday in North Korea after the 10 inspectors stop off in Beijing, said an agency statement.

They are due to arrive in the Chinese capital Friday before leaving for Pyongyang on Saturday morning. Nine inspectors left from Vienna and the tenth is coming from another location, an IAEA spokesman said.

Nine months after the hardline communist state shocked the world with its first atomic test, hopes were rising for the imminent closure of the reactor, which produces bomb-making raw material.

China announced that six-nation nuclear disarmament talks would resume next Wednesday after a four-month break.

North Korea has said it will consider shutting the Soviet-era Yongbyon facility as soon as it receives the first oil shipment.

"I expect that operation to move smoothly," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said of the initial shutdown, describing it as "not a complicated process."

"This is going to start early next week," he told a press conference in Seoul. "I am quite optimistic. This is a good step in the right direction."

But he cautioned that full denuclearisation is "going to be a long process. We should not delude ourselves. This has been a problem for over 15 years, the Korean nuclear issue, and it will take time to have a comprehensive solution."

The No. 9 Hanchang set sail from the southeastern port of Ulsan with 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil aboard, carrying a banner reading "First shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for North Korea."

It was expected to reach North Korea's Sonbong port around Saturday after a 38-hour voyage.

The inspection mission will be the first since a previous nuclear accord collapsed in 2002, after US claims that the North was running a secret highly enriched uranium (HEU) project in addition to its plutonium operation.

That alleged programme, which the North denies operating, will be one of many contentious issues to be tackled in the second phase of a February six-nation disarmament deal.

The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have been negotiating since 2003. They will meet in Beijing on July 18 and 19, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Under their February pact the energy-starved North will receive one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent aid, plus major diplomatic benefits and security guarantees, if it declares and dismantles all nuclear programmes.

Yongbyon's closure, to be rewarded with an initial 50,000 tons of oil from South Korea, is the first step.

ElBaradei said his inspectors in the second phase would have to ensure that all programmes, including any enriched uranium project, are declared.

"That is a process that will obviously take some time because we will also have to make sure that if they have nuclear weapons, as they say they do, these weapons should be dismantled."

Any nuclear settlement would be "good for the DPRK (North Korea), good for East Asia and good for the international community," he said.

North Korea says a denuclearised peninsula was the final wish of founding president Kim Il-Sung but that it needs the bomb to deter US aggression.

Diplomatic relations with the United States and a peace pact formally ending the 1950-53 war are on offer if it scraps all nuclear projects and weaponry.

But US ambassador Alexander Vershbow cautioned Wednesday that Washington would not settle for a partial solution which would leave North Korea "with even a small number of nuclear weapons."

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UN Nuclear Watchdog To Return To North Korea On Saturday
Seoul (AFP) July 12, 2007
UN atomic agency inspectors will likely return to North Korea on Saturday to monitor the shutdown of its reactor, the agency's chief said, as long-stalled nuclear disarmament efforts gathered pace. "I think they will travel on the 14th so hopefully they will arrive there on the 14th," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters Wednesday on his arrival in South Korea for a conference.







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