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N. Korea refuses entry of nuclear agency inspectors

Publication Date : 18-04-2012


North Korea has defiantly said it will not allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to monitor its uranium enrichment activities in response to the United States' statement that it will call off food aid to the country, diplomatic sources said Monday.

Following the North Korean announcement, it is likely that the bilateral agreement reached between Pyongyang and Washington in February will be scrapped.

The agreement had called for IAEA officials to monitor the suspension of uranium enrichment activities at the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and the cancellation of nuclear tests and missile launches in exchange for US food aid, according to the sources.

The United States on Friday called off plans to send food aid to North Korea after the reclusive country launched a long-range ballistic missile earlier that day. Pyongyang soon responded that it would reject inspections by IAEA officials, the sources said.

North Korean media had emphasised the country would observe the bilateral accord even after it launched what it claimed was a rocket carrying a satellite. Pyongyang is therefore expected to claim Washington was the first to abandon the agreement, citing the United States' intention to withhold food aid.

Even if North Korea went ahead with the planned rocket launch, the United States had intended to give credit to the country if it allowed IAEA inspectors to monitor the suspension of its uranium enrichment activities. As a result, Washington asked the IAEA not to respond to Pyongyang's invitation until the rocket had been launched.

North Korea's rejection of IAEA inspectors will likely make it more difficult for the country to suspend its uranium enrichment activities--an issue the United States has focused on, the sources said.

Abandoning the bilateral agreement also means that North Korea will no longer be bound to its promises, making it more likely the country will pursue a third nuclear test, according to the sources.

The UN Security Council is expected to adopt a statement condemning North Korea's missile launch as early as Monday. It is believed Pyongyang will use this as an excuse to justify a nuclear test by claiming it needs to protect itself from international pressure.

The United States has stressed that North Korea was the first to abandon the agreement by launching the rocket. It will suspend talks with Pyongyang for the time being and discuss with its allies how to strengthen sanctions against the country in the event of a nuclear test, according to the sources.



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