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.
The inspectors were expelled in 2002 when North Korea restarted the Yongbyon reactor, which produces the raw material for bomb-making plutonium.
An IAEA team made a five-day visit to North Korea that started at the end of last month, which they described as "fruitful."
Last October the North tested its first atomic weapon.
After talks with President Roh Moo-Hyun, ElBaradei expressed hope that Pyongyang would scrap its atomic weapons programme and return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it quit in 2003.
"Now is a very crucial time for the IAEA, Korea and the entire world. North Korea has just returned to a verification process," ElBaradei said.
"I wish it would lead to North Korea's return to the NPT and complete scrapping of its nuclear weapons programme."
US chief negotiator Christopher Hill Wednesday in Washington said he hoped to see progress on peace in the Korean peninsula by the end of this year, along with moves to disable the North's nuclear facilities, the Kyodo news agency reported.
He also said he wants to see a six-party foreign ministers' meeting take place by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Sydney in early September, as the originally planned date around the ASEAN Regional Forum foreign ministers' talks in Manila in early August may prove too early.
The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, who have been meeting since 2003 to negotiate an end to the North's nuclear programmes, reached a deal in February.
Under the 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, was to be the first step. But progress was blocked by a financial dispute between the US and North Korea, which has now been resolved.
The pact calls for talks on establishing permanent peace on the peninsula, where the 1950-53 war ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
The US ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Vershbow, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying Washington is prepared to begin negotiations before the end of this year on a permanent peace if the North take steps towards complete denuclearisation.
However, he warned it would not settle for a partial solution that would leave North Korea "with even a small number of nuclear weapons."
The shutdown of Yongbyon would show the North takes its commitments seriously, Vershbow said in a lecture, adding this would also mean it should no longer produce "750 grams of plutonium" each month.
Last week the North said that to get negotiations moving it was considering closing Yongbyon as soon as the first oil shipment arrives. That 6,200-ton consignment was being loaded Wednesday and is expected to reach the North around Saturday.
"The arrival of the first shipment of heavy oil in the North, the visit by an IAEA delegation to the North and the shutdown and sealing (of the reactor) will take place about the same time," South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon told reporters.
The six nations will meet again next week. Hill is to travel to Japan and South Korea before then to coordinate positions.
Kyodo reported that said Hill was expecting talks on July 18 as China has reportedly proposed.
Song said next week's talks would cover the second stage of the February pact -- the listing of all nuclear programmes, the disablement of nuclear facilities, the provision of the remaining fuel and normalisation of ties.
Late Wednesday, Song spoke with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, who travelled to North Korea last week for a meeting with leader Kim Jong-Il, ahead of the expected resumption of the six-party talks, Yang's ministry said.
Song said in Seoul that the February deal requires the North to dismantle all its programmes, whether plutonium-based or uranium-based.
US accusations in 2002 that the North was running a secret highly enriched uranium (HEU) programme led to the collapse of a 1994 pact with Washington which had shut down Yongbyon.
Compensatory fuel shipments under that deal were delayed following the US claims. The North, which denied operating a HEU programme, unsealed Yongbyon after an eight-year shutdown.
earlier related report
Upon arriving in Seoul Wednesday, ElBaradei said the nine-member inspector team would travel to the North on July 14, in a formal invitation, to monitor the shutdown of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon, 56 miles north of Pyongyang,
"We will verify that they will shut (the nuclear reactor). Whether they shut it before or not, that is immaterial," he told reporters at a Seoul airport.
It's the first time in nearly five years that North Korea would receive IAEA inspectors, having expelled monitors in December 2002 after the United States accused Pyongyang of running a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of a 1994 accord.
Earlier this week the IAEA board granted ElBaradei 1.7 million euros ($2.3 million) in 2007 and 2.2 million euros in 2008 for "the monitoring and verification activities" in North Korea.
Under a landmark deal reached at six-nation talks in February, the North agreed to shut down Yongbyon's 5-megawatt graphite-moderated reactor and invite back U.N. nuclear inspectors, in return for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent assistance as an initial step toward denuclearization of North Korea.
But implementation of the deal was long delayed due to a banking row between the North and the United States over Pyongyang's overseas funds believed to come from illegal activities such as counterfeiting and drug trafficking. The months-long banking dispute was resolved last month after Russia's role in transferring $25 million to the North's accounts, reviving a long-stalled disarmament.
While meeting South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, ElBaradei called for concerted international efforts to make up for the lost time by speeding up the implementation of the Feb. 13 accord.
"Now is a very crucial time for the IAEA, Korea and the entire world. North Korea has just returned to a verification process," ElBaradei was quoted as saying by officials here.
"I wish it would lead to North Korea's return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and scrapping of its nuclear weapons," added ElBaradei, who is in Seoul for a three-day visit to mark the 50th anniversary of cooperation between South Korea and the IAEA.
But the IAEA chief acknowledged that the process is "very complicated and difficult" and "can't be resolved overnight." He said: "We need patience. The problem has to be resolved through dialogue and engagement."
The arrival of U.N. nuclear inspectors in the North on Saturday is expected to coincide with the arrival of the first batch of heavy oil from South Korea, according to South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon. Seoul is shipping the first batch of fuel oil, amounting to 6,200 tons, more than one-tenth of the 50,000 tons promised as an initial measure.
In a news conference, Song said he expects North Korea to shut down its nuclear reactor shortly after the fuel shipment arrives in the North, citing Pyongyang's statement last week that it would start halting operations in its nuclear facility when it receives the first fuel shipment.
"The arrival of the first shipment of heavy oil in the North, the visit by an IAEA delegation to the North and the shutdown and sealing (of the reactor) will take place about the same time," Song told reporters.
He said next week's six-party talks will cover further disarmament steps under the Feb. 13 accord, which in a second phase calls for the North to declare all its nuclear weapons programs and facilities and "disable" existing nuclear facilities in exchange for an additional 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent.
In addition to the 5-megawatt reactor, the North has a "radiochemical laboratory," a facility where plutonium is extracted by reprocessing spent fuel rods removed from the reactor, a partially constructed 50-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon and a 200-megawatt reactor in Taechon, about 12 miles away.
Song said next week's six-nation talks will provide additional momentum to end the North's nuclear standoff. Nuclear negotiators plan to gather in Beijing on July 18 to open the next round of these talks.
The six-party talks involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States were last held in March. U.S. chief negotiator Christopher Hill is expected to visit South Korea and Japan for consultations before the next round kicks off.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Source: United Press International
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Korea After Unification
Sapporo, Japan (UPI) Jul 06, 2007
It may years away, but the unification of the two Koreas is bound to occur some day -- the most likely route through the collapse of the North. This could occur because "Dear Leader" proves to be a threat to too many in the Communist leadership, who agree to unification with the South in exchange for retaining some position of authority in the unified state. Or it could occur as a result of a succession struggle emerging as a result of the demise, incapacitation, or de-legitimation of the "Dear Leader."
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