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UN Nuclear Inspectors End Fruitful Visit To North Korea

IAEA's Olli Heinonen - AFP file image

NKorea says US conducted 1,100 spy missions this year
Seoul (AFP) Jul 01 - North Korea has accused the United States and South Korea of conducting at least 1,100 spy plane missions over the communist state in the first half of this year, official media said. They carried out more than 170 flights in June alone, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday. North Korea has issued a monthly report on alleged US and South Korean spy plane missions which it denounces as preparations to invade the communist nation despite repeated denials from Washington and Seoul. The North is in a standoff with the United States over its nuclear weapons programme. Tensions have been eased since an aid-for-disarmament deal for Pyongyang was reached in February. The two Koreas, despite recent peace initiatives aimed at ending enmity dating back to the 1950-1953 Korean War, still remain technically at war as the conflict was ended in an armistice not a peace treaty. KCNA said the US had mobilised such reconnaissance planes as the U-2, RC-135, E-3, EP-3, RC-7B and RC-12 to spy on the North while the South has also used RC-800 and RF-4C aircraft for the spy missions.
by Francois Bougon
Beijing (AFP) July 1, 2007
United Nations inspectors confirmed on Saturday after a "fruitful" visit to North Korea that the country intended to shut down its main nuclear reactor, although no time frame had yet been set. "We have now reached an understanding on how we are going to monitor the sealing and shutting down of the Yongbyon nuclear facility," the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team, Olli Heinonen, told reporters.

However, Heinonen said it was still too early to say when the Yongbyon reactor, which is at the core of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, would be sealed.

He said the IAEA's board of governors and the six nations involved in long-running efforts to end the North's nuclear programme would make the arrangements on closing the facility.

Heinonen was speaking to reporters at Beijing airport after he and the three other members of the IAEA inspection team flew out of Pyongyang, ending a five-day visit to North Korea.

They were the first IAEA inspectors to visit North Korea since the UN nuclear watchdog was kicked out of the country in late 2002.

Their expulsion was at the start of a chain of events that led to the regime testing an atomic weapon for the first time last year, which triggered widespread international condemnation and UN sanctions on North Korea.

Heinonen gave a positive assessment of his team's trip, which included a visit to Yongbyon, 95 kilometres (60 miles) north of Pyongyang.

"We had fruitful discussions and visits to the Yongbyon site," he said.

Heinonen had already been quoted as saying on Friday from Pyongyang that a "mutual understanding" had been reached to close the Yongbyon reactor.

The closure of Yongbyon is the first step in a six-nation deal reached in February that would see North Korea eventually eradicate its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for aid and wide-ranging diplomatic concessions.

The other nations involved are China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Christopher Hill, the US chief envoy to the six-party process, said last week after visiting Pyongyang that he expected the North to shut down Yongbyon by mid-July.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon said Thursday that the next round of six-party talks would likely be held very soon after the reactor was closed.

China, which is the host of the six-party talks and one of North Korea's closest allies, is also expected to push forward the disarmament process when Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visits Pyongyang next week.

A foreign ministry spokesman said when the July 2-4 trip was announced that Yang would discuss the disarmament process with his hosts.

North Korea said Yongbyon was built to generate electricity but it is reportedly not connected to any power lines.

Instead, experts believe, it has produced enough plutonium over the past 20 years for possibly up to a dozen nuclear weapons.

Under the February deal, the North must eventually completely dismantle the reactor and come clean on all of its nuclear programmes, including an enriched uranium-based scheme which it has denied operating.

In return, Pyongyang will eventually receive energy aid equivalent to one million tons of heavy fuel oil.

For closing Yongbyon and allowing the IAEA inspectors back in, North Korea will receive an initial 50,000 tons of fuel oil -- which South Korea will begin shipping within two weeks, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said Saturday.

South Korea has said it will pay for the first batch of oil, and it also on Saturday resumed rice aid to the North that had been suspended since Pyongyang conducted missile tests in July last year.

A ship left the South Korean port of Gunsan carrying 3,000 tons of rice, the first tranche of 400,000 tons worth 152 million dollars that will be delivered over the next six months, the unification ministry said, according to Yonhap.

earlier related report
Koreas agree fuel aid shipment start date: official
Seoul (AFP) June 30 - South Korea is to begin shipping fuel oil to North Korea within two weeks as promised under a deal to disarm the North of its nuclear capabilities, the Unification Ministry here said Saturday.

"The two sides agreed that the South start the shipment of the 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to the North within two weeks," Unification Ministry spokesman Kang Dong-Suk told AFP.

The two Koreas also agreed that they will try to complete the delivery of the 50,000 tons of fuel within 20 days of the first shipment, he said.

The agreement came after North and South Korean officials met at Kaesong, North Korea's southernmost city near the inter-Korean border, on Friday and Saturday to discuss the energy aid for the impoverished North.

North Korea is to receive the 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing a key nuclear facility at Yongbyon, 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of Pyongyang.

The North can receive up to another 950,000 tons in heavy fuel oil or the equivalent in aid if it disables the Yongbyon facility and declares all of its nuclear programmes to the UN nuclear watchdog.

United Nations inspectors confirmed on Saturday after a "fruitful" visit to North Korea that the country intended to shut down the facility, although no time frame had yet been set.

earlier related report
South Korea resumes rice aid to North Korea
Seoul (AFP) June 30 - South Korea on Saturday resumed rice aid to North Korea, suspended for nearly a year, as the communist country moved towards the dismantling its nuclear programme.

A freight ship with 3,000 tons of rice was due to leave the southwestern port of Kunsan on Saturday for North Korea's western port of Nampo near Pyongyang, the unification ministry said.

"This is the first tranche of 400,000 tons of rice aid," a ministry official told journalists. The rice shipment, worth 152 million dollars, will be made over the next six months. South Korean inspectors will monitor the distribution of rice at 20 sites in North Korea, the ministry said.

Seoul suspended its regular rice aid after Pyongyang conducted missile tests last July. This was followed by a nuclear test in October. South Korea has linked aid resumption to progress on denuclearisation.

United Nations inspectors confirmed on Saturday after a "fruitful" visit to North Korea that the country intended to shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor, although no time frame had yet been set.

Meanwhile, North and South Korean officials on Saturday continued talks on energy aid for the impoverished North under February's nuclear disarmament deal.

The talks at Kaesong, North Korea's southernmost city near the inter-Korean border, focused on the shipment of heavy fuel oil to the North.

North Korea is to receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of Pyongyang.

The shipment will take at least three weeks to start, according to the unification ministry.

The North can receive up to another 950,000 tons in heavy fuel oil or the equivalent in aid if it disables the Yongbyon facility and declares all of its nuclear programmes to the UN nuclear watchdog.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Is North Korea At All Serious Over Nuke Deal
Seoul (UPI) June 28, 2007
The chief U.S. nuclear envoy is confident North Korea's nuclear reactor would be closed and "disabled" this year, but many analysts remain skeptical about whether the defiant country will give up nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has developed nuclear weapons as a key survival strategy in the face of threats from within and without, and it is unlikely to abandon the nuclear drive until it fully ensures its survival, analysts say, warning against overly optimistic views on the years-long nuclear standoff.







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