U.N. confirms North Korea nuclear shutdown

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday it had verified that North Korea had closed all five of its major nuclear facilities, a milestone in efforts to get the country to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

U.N. confirms North Korea nuclear shutdown
The announcement came as negotiators at six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program gathered in Beijing where the United States held out hope of agreeing to a disarmament schedule over the next two days.

"Yes, we now verify that all the five nuclear facilities have been shut down," Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters in the Malaysian capital, referring to the Yongbyon reactor complex.

The reactor produces material that can be turned into weapons-grade plutonium and in February North Korea agreed to close it in return for 50,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil, which began moving there from South Korea last week.

North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia will now start to explore how to permanently scrap Yongbyon and terminate North Korea's nuclear weapons potential.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said there was much work to be done at Wednesday's talks but held out hope of agreeing to a disarmament timetable.

In a meeting on Tuesday with North Korea's chief negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, Hill pressed the idea of a timetable that would conclude the second phase of disarmament by the end of the year.

That would involve North Korea's declaration of all its nuclear activities and permanently disabling Yongbyon.

"We all know that we've got a long road ahead of us with many steps," Hill told reporters. "Maybe we could try to agree on getting these next phase things done in calendar year 07."
There had been no agreement on plans for that phase yet, he said, but North Korea and the United States seemed to be in the same "general vicinity".

South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Chun Yung-woo, added his voice to calls for an end-of-year target for finishing the second stage of the North's disarmament.

"South Korea's goal is to disable (the North's nuclear program) by the end of the year," Chun told reporters on Wednesday, according to Yonhap news agency.

The third phase would require North Korea handing over fissile nuclear materials and other atomic arms infrastructure.

Japanese envoy Kenichiro Sasae said the onus was on North Korea. "The starting point is to what extent North Korea will respond positively to implement the next steps. First of all, we will listen to North Korea about their ideas and then we will consider how we should respond," Sasae told reporters.

After throwing out IAEA inspectors in late 2002, North Korea quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 2005, Pyongyang declared it had nuclear arms, and last October it alarmed the world with its first test detonation.

North Korea's official Workers' Party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, meanwhile said the United States must remove "all nuclear war equipment" from South Korea, illustrating the North's long-held suspicions of U.S. hostile intent.

The United States denies keeping nuclear weapons in the South.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Temmuz 2007, 12:24