17 October 2002 Reacting with "deep concern" to new charges by the United States about plans by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today said it would pursue answers to outstanding questions.
"We are urgently seeking information from the DPRK in response to this report, as well as information from the US that will allow us to follow up on this very serious allegation," IAEA Director-General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei said in a statement released in Vienna, where the Agency is headquartered.
In 1993, IAEA inspectors uncovered evidence indicating non-compliance by the DPRK with its safeguards agreement pursuant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and ever since the Agency has been strongly urging the country to fulfil its obligations. After the IAEA declared the DPRK in non-compliance in 1994, Pyongyang withdrew its membership from the Agency, but its obligations under the safeguards agreement remain in force and binding.
Under that agreement with the IAEA, the DPRK is obliged to give Agency inspectors the freedom to check that all its nuclear activities have been duly declared and that none has been misused for the production or development of nuclear weapons. Since 1993, however, the IAEA says its inspectors operating in the country have not been permitted to conduct important activities that would allow them to draw conclusions about the nuclear programme.
Under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, the existence of any nuclear facility should be declared by the DPRK and placed under IAEA safeguards.