Seoul/Vienna, Jan. 6 (Reuters): The UN’s nuclear watchdog gave North Korea one last chance today to readmit inspectors expelled a week ago, as the reclusive Communist state defiantly accused the US of plotting atomic war.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution making clear that if North Korea failed to cooperate it would report it to the UN Security Council for breaching nuclear safeguards.
The IAEA board set no deadline at its emergency meeting in Vienna for North Korea to comply and defuse a crisis over its suspected atomic weapons programme. But agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, saying Pyongyang had “one more chance”, said: “It’s clearly a matter of weeks.”
ElBaradei said North Korea, which vowed the “destruction” of the US if Washington attacked, would be reported to the Security Council if it failed to cooperate.
The toughly worded resolution said the IAEA “calls upon the DPRK (North Korea) to cooperate urgently and fully with the agency by allowing the re-establishment of the required containment and surveillance measures at its nuclear facilities and...the return of IAEA inspectors”.
“Unless the DPRK takes all necessary steps to allow the agency to implement all the required safeguard measures, the DPRK will be in further non-compliance with its safeguards agreement,” it said.
If North Korea is reported to the Security Council, the body has the power to authorise military action.
But Washington — in contrast with its stance over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction — has been at pains to emphasise it sought a diplomatic solution in the crisis with Pyongyang. Voicing defiance before the IAEA decision, North Korea denounced Washington’s missile defence system and threatened the US with destruction if it launched a nuclear attack over Pyongyang’s suspected atomic weapons programme.
North Korea said it had “increased its self-defensive military capability” to cope with the “US intensified policy to invade and stifle it with nukes”. “If the US unleashes a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, it will not escape its destruction,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said.