Tags: Report: | North | Korea | Shut | Reactor | July

Report: North Korea to Shut Reactor in July

Monday, 18 June 2007 12:00 AM

SEOUL -- North Korea plans to seal its nuclear reactor, the source of weapons-grade plutonium, in the second half of July, Russia's Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing an unidentified North Korean diplomatic source.

Despite more than two months of delay in beginning the dismantlement of the North's atomic program, it would still be possible to complete the nuclear disarmament of the communist state by the end of the year, the chief U.S. nuclear envoy said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said on Monday a senior delegation would visit the North next week to agree on details for a return of its inspectors to monitor Pyongyang's promised nuclear shutdown.

"To stop the reactor, it will take about a month according to our specialists," the North Korean source was quoted as saying by Interfax.

"So we are counting on sealing it in the second half of July, in accordance with the agreements reached at the six-party talks," the source said. That Beijing forum brings together the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

The Interfax report comes as North Korea said at the weekend it had invited IAEA inspectors into the country as part of the six-party deal reached in February to shut down the Soviet-era Yongbyon reactor in exchange for aid.

The diplomatic source said the IAEA delegation would be present at the first stage of stopping the reactor.

"We plan to invite the experts of the IAEA a second time, when the reactor is fully sealed in order to convince them of that," the North Korean source was quoted as saying.

U.S. and South Korean officials were encouraged by the developments and saw a good chance for progress in implementing the February deal.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill said he expected closure of the Yongbyon reactor to happen in a matter of weeks and a complete disablement of the North's nuclear programs by the end of the year.

"Yes, within this year, yes," Hill told reporters after meeting South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Chun Yung-woo, when asked if the goal of disabling the North's nuclear activities was still possible by the end of the year.

The diplomatic source quoted by Interfax said North Korea, which is officially called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, thought it "appropriate" for six-party talks to resume after the Yongbyon reactor was sealed.

"The stopping of the reactor will mean the implementation by the DPRK of its obligations on the start of the denuclearization of the peninsula," the source said.

Pyongyang's move followed the release last week of millions of dollars in North Korean funds frozen in Macau at Washington's request for almost two years for suspected links to alleged dollar counterfeiting and other illicit activity by the North.

Pyongyang's insistence on release of the funds had stalled international efforts to begin implementing the February 13 accord.

North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear weapons test last October, could receive massive energy aid and improved diplomatic standing if it scraps its atomic arms ambitions and defuses one of the region's most pressing security concerns.

South Korea has already contacted at least two refiners to supply North Korea with 50,000 metric tons of oil pledged to Pyongyang if it began shutting the Yongbyon plant, some 100 km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, industry sources said in Seoul on Monday.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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SEOUL -- North Korea plans to seal its nuclear reactor, the source of weapons-grade plutonium, in the second half of July, Russia's Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing an unidentified North Korean diplomatic source. Despite more than two months of delay in...
Report:,North,Korea,Shut,Reactor,July
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2007-00-18
Monday, 18 June 2007 12:00 AM
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