IAEA’s North Korea Inspections Won’t Be Like Iraq, Agency Says With AM-US-Korea
TOKYO (AP) _ The world’s top-ranked nuclear inspection official arrived in North Korea on Monday to begin what was expected to be a time-consuming inquiry into whether the reclusive Communist state has a nuclear weapons program.
Hans Blix, director general of the International Atomic Energy Association, planned a five-day tour of the North’s nuclear sites.
His visit and a more formal inspection planned for mid-June, will be nothing like the exhaustive searches conducted in Iraq after the Gulf War, said spokesman David Kyd, in a telephone interview from IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
″In Iraq we had a special resolution from the United Nations″ to see all suspected nuclear sites, Kyd said.
″This is nothing like that. He will go wherever they invite him to go.″
Still, Kyd said, Blix might make a surprise request to see something not on his hosts’ agenda.
The IAEA’s agreement with North KIorea and other signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty permits it to check only nuclear material that the country has officially declared.
Critics long have complained this is a fundamental flaw, permitting rogue countries to hide whatever they please.
North Korea long has been suspected of building a nuclear weapons program and using it as a bargaining chip to gain concessions from its archrival, capitalist South Korea, as well as from Japan and the United States. The North says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Teams of 30 or more IAEA inspectors were sent to dismantle nuclear facilities around Iraq.
In North Korea, the agency plans to send one nuclear inspector with Blix and a small team in June, Kyd said.
He said the IAEA can hope only to ″get some sort of sense of the scope of North Korea’s program″ that would supplement intra-Korean inspections now being negotiated between Seoul and Pyongyang.
North Korea hinted on Monday of trouble ahead in those talks. It reiterated its demands for inspections of U.S. bases in South Korea to check for nuclear weapons.
IAEA officials say they learned from Iraq, which embarrassed the agency by concealing a huge nuclear fuel program prior to the war.
IAEA official Lothar Wedekind said that when the IAEA negotiated its comprehensive inspection agreement with North Korea in April, ″we were far more cautious about what types of facilities they might not have reported. That came out of the Iraq experience.″
Also, in February, the IAEA board approved tougher guidelines for nuclear surveillance.
Last week, the North gave the IAEA a list of its inspection-ready nuclear sites. It lists as a research laboratory a Yongbyon building that Western officials believe is used to process weapons-grade plutonium.