Disabling of North Korean nuclear weapons facilities set to start

05 November 2007

Work on disabling North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities was expected to begin today. A team of US technicians, headed by Sung Kim of the US State Department's Office of Korean Affairs, arrived in Yongbyon yesterday and was expected to start work today disabling the plutonium-producing reactor there.

In February, the Six Parties - China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and the USA - negotiated the closure of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. As part of the deal, North Korea agreed to shut down the Yongbyon reactor in July and promised to disable it by the end of 2007 in exchange for aid and political concessions. In addition, the country promised to fully disclose all its nuclear activities by the end of the year.

Christopher Hill, US assistant secretary of state, speaking in Tokyo, said, "They will begin the process of dismantling the DPRK plutonium production facilities in Yongbyon." He added, "It's a very big day because it's the first time it [North Korea] is actually going to start dismantling its nuclear program."

Yongbyon is the site of a 25 MW gas-cooled graphite-moderated nuclear reactor as well as reprocessing facilities, which have been used for plutonium production.

Last week, South Korean foreign minister Song Min-soon said the team would carry out about ten measures to disable the Yongbyon facilities. To disable the program, the facilities must be stripped sufficiently that it would take at least a year for North Korea to start them up again, Hill said.

Hill noted, "By the end of the year, on the road to denuclearization, we hope to have arrived at an important milestone, where there is a complete disablement of the Yongbyon facilities, a full list of additional facilities for disablement, and that uranium enrichment is also resolved to mutual satisfaction."

He said that UN sanctions imposed on North Korea following its first nuclear weapons test in October 2006 would only be removed once Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear weapons program. Hill also said that North Korea would only be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism once it proves it is not involved in such activity.

Further information

WNA's Iran, North Korea & Iraq - Implications for Safeguards information paper

 Agreement on disabling of North Korean nuclear facilities
WNN: Team invited to North Korean sites
WNN: North Korea to declare and disable nuclear programs
WNN: North Korea's Yongbyon reactor shut down
WNN: UN inspectors visit North Korea