The resumption of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s monitoring of Pyongyang’s nuclear activities is one of the topics to be discussed at the meeting of representatives of the US and North Korea in Vienna on Wednesday. It will be held within the framework of the session of the Agency’s Council of Managers.
North Korea has agreed to suspend the work of the uranium concentration plant in Yonben and allow IAEA inspectors to verify this. This agreement was reached at the first talks between the US and North Korea after the inauguration of the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The talks were held in Beijing at the end of February. Now both parties are to carry out their commitments, Director of Korean programmes of the Institute of Economics at the Russian Academy of Sciences Georgy Toloraya said. North Koreans are to allow the entrance of IAEA inspectors and are to set a moratorium on nuclear tests and launching long-range missiles; Americans are to provide the promised humanitarian aid and to start to normalize relations with North Korea.
“We hope that this will pave the way for six-party talks, with Russia’s participation, on the nuclear problem and security on the Korean Peninsula. Undoubtedly, the return of IAEA inspectors and cooperation with the Agency are preliminary steps in this direction. Last year the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that the return of IAEA inspectors to the nuclear plant in Yonben was one of the conditions for the improvement of the situation around North Korea.”
Recall that Pyongyang dismantled the equipment in that nuclear centre, meeting its international obligations to curtail its nuclear programme. Later, when the six-party talks were frozen, North Korea surprisingly quickly restored that facility. It was visited by Director Emeritus of the Los Alamos Laboratory (the US) Siegfried Hecker in November 2010. At that time he testified that the plant was producing low-concentration uranium for a light-water reactor which was then being built in North Korea. This is the opinion of Director of the Centre of Korean Research of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Zhebin.
"North Korean nuclear activities have always raised suspicions of the international community. I hope that the inspectors’ visit will help to dispel these suspicions, which will be in North Korea’s interests. The monitoring of the nuclear facility will set up conditions for better cooperation of North Korea and the IAEA both in the fields of control and development of nuclear power. We should not forget that the Non-Proliferation Treaty allows any country to develop peaceful atomic energy if it is controlled by the IAEA. The inspectors’ return is the right step.”
Speaking frankly, the IAEA has not yet received the respective proposal from the North Korean government, the Agency’s General Director Yukiya Amano declared on Tuesday. However, he confirmed that the IAEA was preparing for its imminent return to North Korea from which its experts were evicted in April 2009. The forming and preparation of the mission will take several weeks.
Incidentally, according to the agreements between the US and North Korea, if the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear problem are resumed, one of the priority topics will be supplying Pyongyang with light-water reactors.