N. Korea Repeats Vow to Refuse Inspections of Key Nuclear Sites
The U.S.-brokered deal to bring North Korea back into the international nuclear fold was called into question Saturday when the North rejected the South’s demand to open all its nuclear sites to inspection.
“This is our unshakable will,” North Korea said in a report carried by its official Korean Central News Agency. But, the report said, “we are willing to involve ourselves in clearing up ‘nuclear suspicion’ in the future.”
The dispute is over two sites in Yongbyon that Western inspectors suspect are being used to build nuclear weapons. They say inspections of those sites are crucial to determine whether North Korea diverted plutonium from its nuclear power plants to make nuclear bombs.
But the North has refused to cooperate for the past 17 months, maintaining that the two sites are military installations and thus off limits to inspection.
South Korea has said that it will help its Communist rival build a modern nuclear reactor only if complete inspections ensure that the North has not developed any bombs.
Under a U.S.-North Korea deal reached Aug. 13 in Geneva, the North agreed to halt the construction of its outmoded graphite reactors in exchange for replacement modern light-water reactors. The modern reactors are considered safer and produce less plutonium.
The United States and North Korea also agreed in principle to establish diplomatic relations. The details of the deal still need to be ironed out.
South Korean Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hong Koo said the South’s offer to build a light-water reactor and to supply surplus electricity for the North depended on several conditions, including full inspections.
He said Washington ought to help pay for the billion-dollar reactor and suggested that Japan could contribute as well.
Seoul will urge Washington to set the preconditions in its talks with North Korea, Yonhap News Agency said, quoting unnamed South Korean officials.
The South wants the North to comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which demands that nuclear sites be open for international inspection; to safely store 8,000 plutonium-laden spent fuel rods, and to stop building two old-style nuclear reactors.
Later, South Korea will demand that modern reactors provided to the North be of South Korean design and manufacture, the officials were quoted as saying.
North Korea and the United States are scheduled to resume their talks in Geneva on Sept. 23.