Go to contents

North Korea Unilaterally Removed Seals on Nuclear Fuel Rod in Yongbyon

North Korea Unilaterally Removed Seals on Nuclear Fuel Rod in Yongbyon

Posted December. 22, 2002 22:40,   


It was confirmed on Saturday that North Korea impaired the inspection devices that the IAEA had installed and used to monitor the 5MW nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. This reaction came 8 days after the North Korean regime announced its plan to reactivate its nuclear reactors. The international community is voicing its concern over North`s action, and some countries like Japan and the United States have demanded North to immediately stop its action.

IAEA`s Secretary General announced in a press conference in Binn on Saturday (local time) that North Korea has broken the IAEA seals on a 5MW nuclear reactor, and nullified the surveillance cameras.

The secretary general expressed a deep regret over the actions North has recently taken, and demanded that Kim Jung Il regime should not take any further actions for reactivation purposes.

He criticized, "Despite our repeated requests, North Korea has hindered the operation of the inspection cameras and devices. Now we cannot conduct inspection, when North Korea reactivates the frozen nuclear reactors."

Accordingly, the IAEA sent an urgent letter to Lee Jae-sun, who is in charge of North Korea`s nuclear program, and urged, "North Korea should immediately allow IAEA inspectors to take necessary measures including proper sealing, and should not reactivate its nuclear facilities."

IAEA`s spokesperson stressed, "When North Korea signed up for the 1994 arms control accord in Geneva, it just disclosed 100g of the plutonium that could be converted into weapons. We need further investigation to determine whether or not North Korea has extracted a considerable amount of plutonium."

In response to IAEA`s statement, US Department of State immediately warned that North Korea should not reactivate the nuclear reactors. State Department spokesperson, in an interview with CNN, repeatedly emphasized, "If North Korea pushes ahead with its decision, it runs direct counter to the agreement it has made with the international community."

He said, however, "The United State is currently verifying what action North Korea has taken exactly. It does not seem at this point that North Korea has damaged the surveillance cameras and seals on the 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods being stored in water or installed at the processing facilities."

Japan also urged yesterday, "We express our regret over what North Korea has taken. It should immediately stop its attempt to reactivate the facilities." Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also demanded, "[The announced action of North] is against the international agreement and of great concern to us. Pyongyang should find peaceful ways to resolve the situation."

In the meanwhile, South Korean government, in response to North Korea`s unilateral action, strongly demanded yesterday that North Korea should restore inspection devices installed to monitor the 5MW nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

The government announced, "We express our deep regret over the action North Korea took this time. Our government will peacefully resolve the North Korea`s nuclear issue in close consultation with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, the EU and IAEA."

It is reported that South Korea, the United States and Japan have begun discussing countermeasures to North Korea`s removal of inspection equipment and other issues including the halted construction of the light-water reactor that had been maintained in accordance with the Geneva Agreement.

One senior South Korean official stressed, "We are considering all possible reactions we could take, including sending this issue to the UN Security Council, or convening an IAEA meeting. The bottom line is North Korea should freeze its nuclear weapons program."

According to a senior South Korean official, US Secretary of State Colin Powel called his South Korean counterpart, Choi Sung-hong, and said, "The United States and South Korea have to cooperate more closely with each other to deal with the recent development. We need cooperation of Russia and China, and persuade North Korea with their support."

Jei-Gyoon Park Young-Sik Kim phark@donga.com spear@donga.com