North Korea raises stakes by expelling nuclear inspectors (INDEPENDENT UK) By Phil Reeves, Asia Correspondent 12/28/02)
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Washington faced a deepening dilemma last night after North Korea
declared it would expel United Nations nuclear non-proliferation
And Pyongyang raised the stakes still further by saying it would
finish building its "nuclear power plants" and reactivate a
North Korea has two incomplete reactors , with an estimated capacity
of 50MW and 200MW, which, according to at least one US estimate,
could produce enough plutonium for nearly 30 atomic bombs a year.
There was an angry reaction from the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) over the expulsion of its inspectors, which would
deprive the agency of its last means of ensuring that North Korea´s
nuclear programme was not being used to create weapons.
Earlier this week, as part of a series of moves calculated to provoke
Washington in the midst of the Iraq crisis, North Korea moved
hundreds of fuel rods to a storage room near an atomic research
reactor, which it says it will fire up within two months.
The CIA believes the 5MW reactor can produce enough weapons-grade
plutonium to make one nuclear bomb a year; it is also concerned about
8,000 spent fuel rods which the North Koreans have in storage –
enough to make plutonium for five nuclear weapons.
The Americans believe that the North Koreans may already have several
warheads. They see that as worrying, but they are also deeply
concerned about weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of
Earlier, North Korean officials broke hundreds of IAEA anti-tamper
seals and taped over surveillance cameras at several plants,
including the atomic reactor, at Yongbyon.
Yesterday, the US called on North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons
programme. Washington said it would not be blackmailed into
negotiations by Pyongyang´s "threats or broken commitments". A White
House spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, said: "We call on the DPRK [North
Korea] to reverse its current course and to take all steps necessary
to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency ... to
eliminate its nuclear weapons programme in a verifiable manner."
The Foreign Office denounced the expulsions as "very worrying,
dangerous and unacceptable".
So far, President George Bush has refused to make any concessions.
That position was reiterated by the Foreign Office. China and Russia –
both seen by the US as "soft" on the North Koreans – called for a
dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.
The Russians showed signs of trying to manoeuvre themselves into the
mediator´s chair. Their Atomic Energy Minister, Alexander Rumyantsev,
blamed the crisis on a US-led decision to cut supplies of fuel oil to
North Korea. The fuel deliveries were cut after US intelligence
established that the North Koreans had an active and secret uranium-
enriching programme in violation of a 1994 accord. (© 2002
Independent Digital (UK) Ltd 12/28/02)
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