13 March 2007 The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency is holding talks this week with officials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on plans to rid it of nuclear weapons in what he calls “the first step in a long process” toward normalizing relations with a country that ordered UN inspectors out more than four years ago.
UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is scheduled to meet with the officials in Pyongyang, the DPRK capital, tomorrow and Thursday at the invitation from the DPRK after it committed in Six-Party talks in Beijing last month to eventually dismantle all nuclear weapon facilities and materials in return for energy and other aid.
“I would like to focus on how to bring the DPRK closer to the Agency,” Mr. ElBaradei said in Vienna on Sunday before leaving for Beijing on his way to the DPRK. “I would like also to discuss the broad framework for how to implement the Beijing Agreement among the Six-Party talks which foresees that the Agency will monitor and verify the freeze of the Yongbyon nuclear facility including the reprocessing facility.”
He is meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing both before and after the visit. China played a major role in the Six-Party talks which also brought together the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan, Russia and the United States. When he received the DPRK invitation last month, Mr. ElBaradei said he saw it as a step toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsular.
Ever since the DPRK ordered the IAEA inspectors out at the end of 2003 and formally withdrew from the NPT and its inspections and other safeguards of fuel diversion from energy generation to weapons production, top UN officials have repeatedly appealed to it to return to the fold.
In October, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the DPRK as well as individuals supporting its military programme and demanded that it cease its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction after it carried out a nuclear test.