UN nuclear inspectors say North Korea is cooperating

August 1, 2007 - 0:0

BEIJING (AFP) -- North Korea has cooperated fully with UN inspectors after shutting down its main nuclear reactor site, the head of the monitoring team said Tuesday after their first two-week mission ended.

""I should say that in doing our activities we had complete cooperation from DPRK (North Korean) authorities,"" Adel Tolba, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team, told reporters after arriving in Beijing.
""And because of that we think that what we needed to perform was performed.""
Tolba said his team had inspected the closure of North Korea's main plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which was shut down on July 14 in the first step of a landmark disarmament accord.
Tolba's team arrived on the same day, beginning the first United Nations monitoring mission of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs since IAEA inspectors were kicked out of the country in 2002.
The closure of Yongbyon and return of IAEA inspectors were the first steps in the February six-nation accord under which North Korea agreed to eventually scrap all its nuclear programs in exchange for aid, diplomatic concessions and security guarantees.
During their two weeks there, the inspectors also monitored four other nuclear facilities near Yongbyon that were shut down.
Tolba declined to say anything more about the mission, other than that all five facilities were inspected and that the IAEA headquarters in Vienna would give a fuller account of the team's activities.
A second team of UN inspectors arrived in North Korea on Saturday to take over from Tolba's delegation.
North Korea confirmed that it would abide by the February agreement this month during a fresh round of the six-party talks -- grouping the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia -- in Beijing.
Despite the forward momentum on the nuclear impasse, observers warned that tensions could erupt again, and that there was nothing irreversible about what North Korea had done so far.
""The crisis is never over. It's only probably postponed,"" said Ralph Cossa, president of Honolulu-based think tank Pacific Forum CSIS. ""Tomorrow they could throw the IAEA back out and start things up again.""
Under the next phase of the disarmament accord, working group meetings will be held next month to negotiate and set a deadline for North Korea to declare and disable all its nuclear programs.
No one is exactly sure how much plutonium, which is used to make nuclear bombs, was produced before Yongbyon was shut down, while the United States also believes North Korea is running a secret highly enriched uranium project.
The ""next crisis in waiting"" could be about agreeing on the true extent of North Korea's nuclear program, according to Cossa.
The six-party talks began in 2003 to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions but the reclusive regime conducted its first atomic test in October last year.
Pyongyang returned to the negotiating table only after heavy international pressure, including from close ally China. The United Nations also placed economic sanctions on North Korea for conducting the blast.
However the atomic test appeared to also place North Korea in a stronger position when negotiating a disarmament deal.
Under the February accord, the other five nations agreed to give energy-starved North Korea one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent type of aid in return for completely ending its nuclear weapons programmes.
As a reward for closing Yongbyon and the other four facilities, South Korea has over the past fortnight delivered an initial 50,000 tons of fuel oil