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Inspectors verify N. Korea nuclear shutdown; Chief of U.N. watchdog agency calls it ‘a good step in the right direction’

(AP) SEOUL, South Korea – United Nations inspectors have verified that North Korea has shut down its sole functioning nuclear reactor, the chief of the watchdog agency said Monday, confirming the isolated country had taken its first step in nearly five years to halt production of atomic weapons. South Korea sent more oil to the North on Monday to reward its compliance with an international disarmament agreement. “Our inspectors are there. They verified the shutting down of the reactor yesterday,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency. “The process has been going quite well and we have had good cooperation from North Korea. It’s a good step in the right direction,” ElBaradei said in Bangkok, where he was to attend an event sponsored by Thailand’s Ministry of Science. Oil aid
North Korea pledged in an international accord in February to shut the reactor at Yongbyon and dismantle its nuclear programs in return for 1 million tons of oil and political concessions. However, it stalled for several months because of a separate, but now-resolved dispute with the United States over frozen bank funds.
 The shutdown over the weekend, confirmed by a 10-member team of IAEA inspectors who arrived in North Korea on Saturday, was the first on-the-ground achievement toward scaling back Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions since the international standoff began in late 2002. The Yongbyon reactor, about 60 miles north of the capital, generates plutonium for atomic bombs; North Korea conducted its first nuclear test explosion in October. South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said a second shipment of oil departed Monday for the North on a ship. A first shipment that arrived Saturday — prompting the North to follow through on its pledge to shut the reactor — has been completely offloaded, Lee said at a meeting with U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill. The two shipments are part of 50,000 tons of oil that the North will receive for the reactor shutdown. Under a February agreement at international arms talks, North Korea will receive a total equivalent of 1 million tons of oil for dismantling its nuclear programs. A North Korean diplomat said Sunday that his country was willing to discuss disclosing the full extent of its nuclear programs as well as disabling them as long as the United States removed all sanctions against the impoverished country. ‘Everything is going to be possible’
Hill said Monday during his meeting with Lee that Washington moving to remove the North’s pariah status would depend on the North’s continued compliance with its disarmament promises.
 “With complete denuclearization, everything is going to be possible,” Hill said. Officials cautioned the road ahead would be difficult. “It’s a complicated process,” ElBaradei said. “Ultimately we will have to go and make sure the nuclear weapons arsenal of (North Korea) are dismantled. It is a very positive step we are taking this week. But we have a long ways to go.” The North’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that further progress on disarmament would depend “on what practical measures the U.S. and Japan, in particular, will take to roll back their hostile policies toward” North Korea. North Korea wants normal relations with both countries. The ministry noted that North Korea acted to shut down its nuclear reactor even before receiving all 50,000 tons of oil, adding that was “a manifestation of its good faith toward the agreement,” according to a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. Pyongyang: Inspectors activities still restricted
Still, North Korea emphasized Sunday that it did not view the oil as aid and that the U.N. inspectors’ activities were restricted in scope.
 “The provision of substitute energy including heavy oil is by no means ’aid’ in the form of charity but compensation for the (North’s) suspension of its nuclear facilities and the activities of the IAEA in (Yongbyon) are not ’inspection’ but limited to verification and monitoring,” the ministry said. North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and restarted its reactor in early 2003 after Washington accused it of running a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of an earlier disarmament deal and halted oil deliveries. The North is required to declare all its nuclear programs and materials but has never publicly admitted running a uranium enrichment program, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons. North Korea is set to participate in a renewed session of six-party disarmament talks this week in Beijing along with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. Hill, a U.S. assistant secretary of state, has said the negotiations would focus on a “work plan and a timeframe” for how disarmament would proceed, adding he planned to meet his North Korean counterpart Tuesday ahead of the formal start of talks.

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July 17, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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