U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Urges North Korea To Implement Safeguards

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has adopted a resolution urging North Korea to "cooperate promptly" with the agency, implement IAEA safeguards and comply fully with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The IAEA, comprising experts in the nuclear field, is the United Nations' "watchdog" for nuclear issues.  Representatives of more than 100 member states met at the IAEA General Conference this week at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

The resolution stresses the General Conference's desire for a "peaceful resolution through dialogue" regarding the nuclear weapons programs operated by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the formal name for North Korea.

On September 18, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei addressed the DPRK safeguards in his statement to the General Conference.  He said that since the end of December 2002, when agency verification activities were terminated at North Korea's request, the agency has been unable to draw any conclusions regarding the DPRK's nuclear activities.

"The Agency stands ready to work with the DPRK - and with all others - towards a solution that addresses the needs of the international community to ensure that all nuclear activities in the DPRK are exclusively for peaceful purposes, while addressing the security and other concerns of the DPRK," ElBaradei said.

The DPRK has been a party to the NPT since 1985.  But Pyongyang never has allowed the IAEA to verify the correctness and completeness of its declaration of nuclear material subject to safeguards under the agreement.  IAEA inspectors were asked to leave the country in December 2002.

Efforts to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs have been ongoing.  In August 2003, representatives from North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States met in Beijing for the first round of what became known as the "Six-Party Talks."  Finally, after a number of intense meetings, North Korea signed a declaration of principles on September 19, 2005, in which it promised to end its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the NPT. (See related article.)

Pyongyang, however, has refused to return to the table to discuss implementation of the agreement. (See related article.)

At the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York, which began September 19, representatives of the United States, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea met to discuss North Korean recalcitrance.

Ambassador Christopher Hill, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and the top U.S. negotiator for the Six-Party Talks, told reporters September 21 that the talks were strictly informal.

Hill said that meeting, attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also included discussions of the need to develop stronger security mechanisms in Northeast Asia.

"All the participants, and starting with Secretary Rice, were at pains to make clear that we're not trying to substitute the Six-Party process," Hill emphasized to reporters.  "I would say all participants were very strong in their support of the Six-Party process."

For more information on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

For more on the IAEA resolution, see the agency's Web site.