Another Nuclear Crisis ....North Korea Reacted.....
North Korea Expels UN, to Re-Activate Nuclear Plant
Sept. 24 North Korea expelled United Nations atomic inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear plant and pledged to reintroduce nuclear material into the facility, which is capable of making plutonium for bombs.
``From here on, the IAEA inspectors will have no further access to the reprocessing plant,'' the International Atomic Energy Agency's top inspector, Olli Heinonen, said today in a statement issued in Vienna. ``They plan to introduce nuclear material to the reprocessing plant'' within a week.
Inspectors from the agency removed seals and surveillance equipment from the plant today, Heinonen said.
IAEA officials received a second blow when Iran said it will limit future assistance with a probe into alleged nuclear weapons studies. North Korea and Iran, along with Iraq, were the countries that President George W. Bush described in 2002 as an ``axis of evil.'' Investigations into the two countries are at the top of the non-proliferation agency's agenda.
``These actions will only serve to further isolate North Korea at a time when the other six-party talks members are working to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,'' U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said today in an e-mailed statement. ``We strongly urge the North to reconsider these steps and come back immediately into compliance with its obligations.''
Disarmament talks involving North Korea stalled last month when the government in Pyongyang stopped disabling Yongbyon to protest delays in being removed from a U.S. terrorism blacklist. Bush says North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, must allow international inspectors to verify the extent of its atomic program before the nation can be removed from the list.
South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia are trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons work.
Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, called North Korea's move ``unsettling'' in prepared remarks to the organization's 35-member board of governors in Vienna.
``The disabled facilities are being reconstituted but have not resumed operations,'' Schulte said. ``We are working in close consultation with our six-party partners to determine the best way forward.''
They reached an agreement in February 2007 when North Korea said it would disable its nuclear programs in return for normalized diplomatic ties with the U.S. and Japan and fuel aid. It agreed to disable the five-megawatt Yongbyon reactor, the source of the regime's weapons-grade plutonium, last October and blew up a cooling tower at the site in June.
``This is a return to the old times, and they are not going to continue with the disablement process,'' South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo said in an Aug. 22 interview with Bloomberg Television in New York. He urged China to play a more active role in the talks.
Intelligence reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, 67, suffered a stroke in the past month sparked concern about potential instability in the communist country. The regime has denied Kim is ill.
Reports of Kim's ill health are ``spread by those who wish the worst for our republic,'' Hyun Hak Bong, an envoy of North Korea's foreign ministry, told reporters Sept. 19.
Iran's cooperation with the IAEA over the alleged weapons studies ``has been too good, too transparent and too cooperative,'' Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the country's ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, told reporters today in the Austrian capital.
The government in Tehran says U.S. intelligence agencies forged documents outlining the weapons studies and that they don't merit a response. Soltanieh indicated that Iran will limit future cooperation on the issue, saying that the country will review the allegations when they have access to the original documents and ``inform the agency of its assessment and nothing more.''
Inspectors criticized Iran in a Sept. 15 report to the UN Security Council for not answering questions about the nature of its research.
The U.S. and several major allies accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as cover for development of a weapon. Iran insists that the program is intended to fuel power stations.