Seoul, Dec. 27 (Reuters): North Korea announced today it was expelling UN nuclear inspectors monitoring a reactor capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons and it was pressing ahead with the construction of nuclear facilities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had “serious non-proliferation concerns” after North Korea said it planned to restart a reactor whose use was frozen in 1994 after a crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear arms ambitions.
North Korea’s state news agency, which earlier accused the US of seeking to overthrow the isolated and impoverished communist state’s political system, said the IAEA inspectors were no longer needed.
“As our freeze on nuclear facilities has been lifted, the mission of IAEA inspectors, who have been in Yongbyon under the (1994) Agreed Framework between North Korea and the US, has naturally drawn to an end,” the North’s news agency said, quoting a letter to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
“In a situation where there is no longer justification for the inspectors to stay in our country, our government has decided to send them out,” it said.
The US today called on North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons programme and said Washington would not be blackmailed into negotiations by Pyongyang’s “threats or broken commitments”.
“We call on the DPRK (North Korea) to reverse its current course and to take all steps necessary to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency... to eliminate its nuclear weapons programme in a verifiable manner,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said. She denounced North Korea’s move to expel UN nuclear inspectors as “another violation of the IAEA safeguards agreement”.
The Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) also said North Korea would finish building power plants and a nuclear laboratory for the storage of fuel rods. “We will be completing construction on nuclear power plants and will start operating a radioactive chemical laboratory as part of preparation for the safe storage of used fuel rods that will be produced by the power plants when the plants begin operation.”