North Korea nuke pa­pers ‘ap­pear to be com­plete,’ U.S. en­voy says

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Ni­cholas Kralev

A U.S. en­voy who brought back thou­sands of nu­clear records from North Korea said May 13 that the set “ap­pears to be com­plete” and that Py­ongyang promised to “co­op­er­ate fully” on ver­i­fy­ing the doc­u­ments’ con­tent.

Sung Kim, di­rec­tor of the State De­part­ment’s Korea desk, told re­porters that it would take at least sev­eral weeks for an in­ter­a­gency team of ex­perts to trans­late the 18,822 pages from Korean and re­view them in de­tail.

“They ap­pear to be a com­plete set,” based on an ini­tial as­sess­ment, said Mr. Kim, who just re­turned from North Korea with the doc­u­ments.

The records are from the North’s 5-megawatt plu­to­nium rec­tor at Yong­byon, whose planned han­dover to the United States was first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Times three weeks ago. The records date to 1986 and are ex­pected to re­veal how much plu­to­nium has been pro­duced.

Plu­to­nium is the most com­mon in­gre­di­ent of an atomic bomb. Wash­ing­ton, which es­ti­mates that the North has be­tween 65 and 110 pounds, is seek­ing its dis­po­si­tion.

“The North Kore­ans ac­knowl­edged the re­quire­ment for ver­ifi- cation and in­deed agreed to co­op­er­ate fully with ver­i­fi­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties,” Mr. Kim said.

It was not clear, how­ever, what ac­cess the United States will have to sites in North Korea re­lated to plu­to­nium ac­tiv­i­ties. The North con­ducted its first nu­clear test in Oc­to­ber 2006 but, by many ac- counts, it was only a mar­ginal suc­cess.

The records are meant to ac­com­pany an over­due dec­la­ra­tion of North Korea’s nu­clear pro­grams, which the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­sisted must be “com­plete and cor­rect.”

The de­lay in pro­vid­ing the North’s dec­la­ra­tion, which was due on Dec. 31 un­der a six-party deal reached last year, was caused by Py­ongyang’s re­fusal to in­clude two sen­si­tive as­pects of its nu­clear ef­forts: ura­ni­u­men­rich­ment and pro­lif­er­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

U.S. of­fi­cials now say that those two is­sues will be dealt with in a sep­a­rate doc­u­ment. They say the United States will write the doc­u­ment in­stead of the North Kore­ans, who will sim­ply “ac­knowl­edge” the U.S. con­cerns.

The Yong­byon re­ac­tor also must be dis­abled and even­tu­ally dis­man­tled.

“Eight out of 11 agreed dis­able­ment ac­tiv­i­ties at the three core fa­cil­i­ties have been com­pleted,” the State De­part­ment said.

“U.S. ex­perts cur­rently are over­see­ing the dis­charge of the spent fuel rods from the re­ac­tor. As of mid-May, more than one- third of the spent fuel rods have been dis­charged suc­cess­fully,” it said.

Mr. Kim sug­gested that the North is de­lib­er­ately slow­ing the dis­charg­ing process down to make sure it gets heavy fuel oil and other eco­nomic ben­e­fits promised by United States and other na­tions.

The White House, mean­while, said it is con­sid­er­ing ways to send food aid to North Korea. The food sit­u­a­tion there wors­ened this year af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing flood last sum­mer. South Korea’s new con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment stopped send­ing aid.

“The pres­i­dent thinks that the [North Korean] gov­ern­ment is cer­tainly divert­ing food to the mil­i­tary and not giv­ing it to the peo­ple,” press sec­re­tary Dana Perino said.

“But out­side of pol­i­tics, the pres­i­dent’s heart hurts when he knows that peo­ple are starv­ing, and es­pe­cially for chil­dren, who are maybe try­ing to go to school.”

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