Monday, Sept 22, 2008
North Korea has removed seals from its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, closed down last year under denuclearization agreements, South Korean media reported Monday.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad El Baradei, was quoted as saying earlier in the day that Pyongyang had asked the UN nuclear watchdog to remove the seals and surveillance cameras from the nuclear facility 100 km north of the country’s capital.
North Korean Foreign Ministry official Hyon Hak-bong told reporters Friday that preparations were underway to restart the country’s nuclear reactor, due to the failure of the United States to fulfill its side of a denuclearization deal.
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Hyon’s statement came just before the start of talks with South Korea on the provision of energy aid to the impoverished North. South Korea says its neighbor has so far received around half of the 1 million metric tons of fuel aid it was promised in exchange for denuclearization under a 2007 six-nation deal.
Under the agreement reached between the two Koreas, Russia, the United States, China and Japan, North Korea agreed to disable the Yongbyon complex, which had produced weapons-grade plutonium. Deconstruction work began last November.
The United States had pledged in turn to remove North Korea from its blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism, which keeps the country in financial isolation. However, Washington has since said that this cannot be done until North Korea allows international inspectors to check North Korean facilities, a demand that met with an angry response from Pyongyang.
“The United States is gravely mistaken if it thinks it can make a house search [in North Korea] whenever it pleases just as it did in Iraq,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in the August 26 statement announcing the end of its work to disable the Yongbyon complex.
Hyon said the deconstruction process had been 90% complete, but that the country could restore the reactor.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap has cited diplomatic sources as saying the country began reassembling parts of the facility on September 3.
This article was posted: Monday, September 22, 2008 at 11:34 am