N Korea reactor may close in weeks

UN nuclear watchdog to visit Pyongyang next to discuss shutdown.

    Chun Yung-Woo, right, and Christopher Hill expect
    the shutdown to begin in weeks [AFP]

    Frozen funds

    North Korea nuclear deal

    On February 13, 2007, at six-nation talks in Beijing, North Korea agreed to:

     

    Start shut down of main Yongbyon nuclera reactor facility within 60 days of deal

     

    Allow UN nuclear inspectors entry for all monitoring and verification

     

    Discuss list of all nuclear

    programmes and materials including plutonium extracted from fuel

    rods

     

    Declare all nuclear programmes and disarmament of all existing nuclear facilities

     

    Begin talks on normalising diplomatic ties with the US and Japan, and resume high-level talks with South Korea

     

    In return US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea promise

    initial shipment of 50,000 tonnes heavy fuel oil within initial

    phase

     

    The five nations agreed to establish working groups for initial and full implementation of action plan

     

    Additional aid up to the equivalent of 1m tonnes of heavy fuel oil to be delivered to North Korea upon compliance

    Pyongyang announced on Saturday that it had invited the IAEA team after a dispute over millions of dollars of North Korean funds, which had been frozen in an account at Macau's Banco Delta Asia, was resolved.

    "In the next two or three weeks, I hope, the IAEA monitoring and verification team will visit North Korea and begin to shut down its nuclear reactor," Chun Yung-Woo, the South's chief nuclear negotiator, said.
      
    Christopher Hill, his US counterpart, said: "We are talking about weeks, not months."
      
    "Clearly, we have made a turn over the weekend. We are away from this banking issue and back on the denuclearisation issue. Let's see how quickly we can get this done," he said.

    Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a North Korean diplomat as saying that the reactor would be sealed in the second half of July.
      
    "According to our specialists, halting the reactor technically requires about a month. Hence we expect to seal it, in accordance with agreements achieved during six-party talks, in the second half of July 2007," the unidentified diplomat was quoted as saying.

    Yongbyon reactor

    Yongbyon is thought to be the North's only operating reactor and the source of its plutonium - including that used in last October's nuclear test.

    The reactor's closure will be the first step in the deal involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan. In return, South Korea is to provide Pyongyang with 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil.

    Under a second phase the North would disable all its nuclear programmes in return for 950,000 tons of oil or equivalent aid.

    The North had adamantly refused to start implementing the disarmament agreement until it received the money, which was frozen due to US allegations of money laundering and counterfeiting.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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