N. Korea disables U.N. equipment - and doesn't give a DAMN!!
N. Korea disables U.N. equipment
Pyongyang confirms impeding surveillance at nuclear reactor
MSNBC NEWS SERVICES
Dec. 22 — North Korea acknowledged disabling U.N. surveillance equipment at one of its reactors Sunday, prompting the U.N. nuclear agency to issue “deep regret” over the action and issue a new call for restraint.
SOUTH KOREA demanded that the North restore the equipment, which was placed on one of number of nuclear facilities that Pyongyang froze under a 1994 deal with Washington but that the North now says it intends to restart.
“North Korea must immediately restore the surveillance equipment,” Shim Yoon-jo, the director of North American affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said in Seoul on Sunday. “It has been our consistent position that we will not tolerate North Korea’s nuclear activities.”
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said he had urged the reclusive nation not to take further actions to restart its nuclear program.
ElBaradei said North Korea “cut most of the seals and impeded the functioning of surveillance equipment” at one of its 5-megawatt reactors at Nyongbyong on Saturday.
NORTH KOREA SHOWS DEFIANCE
The North Korean government confirmed the tampering Sunday in a statement issued through the official Korean Central News Agency.
“The IAEA has not shown any positive attitude, whiling away time after proposing what it called working negotiations,” the statement said. “This situation compelled the DPRK [North Korea] to immediately start the work of removing the seals and monitoring cameras from the frozen nuclear facilities for their normal operation to produce electricity.”
ElBaradei said the action “prevented an orderly transition from IAEA monitoring of the freeze of the reactor to a situation where we would be monitoring the facility during its operation.”
The U.N. agency said it “continues to maintain a permanent inspector presence in the DPRK and is monitoring the situation very closely.”
Analysis: U.S. may hit rough patch
In Tokyo, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman classified Pyongyang’s moves as “regrettable” and urged North Korea not to restart its nuclear program.
“That North Korea has taken this action is regrettable in light of its obligations according to the international agreement,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement. “It is a move that concerns us.”
“We urge North Korea to maintain its freeze on all its nuclear facilities and to take a positive approach to peacefully resolving the issue.”
In October, North Korea made the startling revelation that it has a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 agreement with Washington.
Experts say North Korea could quickly extract enough plutonium from its old facilities to make several nuclear weapons. North Korea denies this.
The IAEA has been monitoring the freeze of North Korea’s reactors and other nuclear operations at its Nyongbyong site since 1994, including keeping inspectors there continuously.
Under the agreement signed in Geneva, North Korea pledged to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for international aid to build two power-producing nuclear reactors.
At the time, North Korea showed IAEA inspectors only about 100 grams of weapons-grade plutonium, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said. Only new inspections will be able to ascertain whether the country has produced substantially more, he said.
The nuclear agency has held technical talks with the North Koreans twice a year over the past several years, but those meetings have not resulted in any serious consideration of inspections. North Korea withdrew from the IAEA in 1994.
Earlier this year, the IAEA’s general assembly adopted a resolution expressing “serious concern” over North Korea’s refusal to cooperate and verify that its nuclear energy program met international safety guidelines.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.