Tags: 'Understanding' | Reached | North | Korea | Reactor | Shutdown

'Understanding' Reached on North Korea Reactor Shutdown

Friday, 29 June 2007 12:00 AM

TOKYO -- U.N. nuclear watchdog officials reached an "understanding" with North Korea on verification of the shutdown and sealing of the North's Yongbyon reactor, Kyodo news agency said on Friday.

The head of the U.N. delegation said he was "satisfied" with a tour of a North Korean reactor complex that the secretive state has promised to scrap under an aid-for-disarmament deal, Kyodo said.

The reactor at Yongbyon was still operating, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear Safeguards Director Olli Heinonen was also quoted as saying on his return to Pyongyang.

The visit to the Yongbyon reactor, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, is the first by IAEA officials since Pyongyang kicked out the Vienna-based agency's inspectors in December 2002.

The communist state subsequently opted out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, announced that it had atomic bombs and, last year, carried out its first nuclear test.

"We are satisfied," Heinonen said, adding that the IAEA team was able to see all of the sites it had wanted to, including a plutonium reprocessing plant where weapons-grade material can be extracted from spent fuel rods.

After talks later on Friday, Heinonen said his group had reached an understanding with North Korea on shutting down and sealing the reactor, but that the question of when the shutdown would begin was up to the six countries involved in talks on Pyongyang's nuclear arms program.

The sprawling Yongbyon complex of more than 100 buildings also includes a five-megawatt reactor and is at the heart of North Korea's nuclear program, which dates back to at least the 1980s.

In South Korea, Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying: "The IAEA could announce the date (for Yongbyon's shutdown) as early as this week."

A diplomat close to the IAEA had said earlier that if the team finalized terms for an inspection mission, the agency's 35-nation board of governors would meet -- probably on July 9 -- to ratify the deal.

Kyodo said "five places" would be subject to inspections.

The disarmament deal, under which Pyongyang would receive energy aid, security guarantees and better diplomatic standing in return for scrapping its nuclear arms programs, was stalled for weeks by a dispute over some $25 million in North Korean funds frozen in a Macau bank at Washington's behest.

Following the release of the funds, North Korea agreed this week to implement the deal it struck with South Korea, China, the United States, Russia and Japan in February.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, in Washington for talks with U.S. officials, has hinted at a possible early resumption of the six-way nuclear disarmament talks involving North Korea and those five countries.

"It would be effective to hold the talks at an appropriately linked time with the shutdown," Song told South Korean reporters, Yonhap said.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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TOKYO -- U.N. nuclear watchdog officials reached an "understanding" with North Korea on verification of the shutdown and sealing of the North's Yongbyon reactor, Kyodo news agency said on Friday. The head of the U.N. delegation said he was "satisfied" with a tour of a...
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2007-00-29
Friday, 29 June 2007 12:00 AM
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